I. What our unionized peers have
a. Accountability regarding employment
b. Accessible employee records
c. Grievance procedures
II. What we want
b. Transparent disciplinary procedures
c. Clear grievance procedures
PGSU wants grads to have a say in decisions that affect the conditions of our work. But we can’t have a say if we are kept in the dark about when, why, and how those decisions are being made. Through the organizing process, it has become apparent to us just how much the workings of the university administration are opaque to graduate students when they should be transparent. Do you know how your annual stipend and AI compensation levels are determined? How about where you stand on the housing waitlist? As a stand alone focus and woven into the rest of the issues we’re fighting for, PGSU will work to make our employer more transparent on all fronts.
What our unionized peers have
Accountability regarding employment
Graduate workers at
Rutgers University created through their union contract a joint committee to review graduate education and make recommendations regarding ways to support research programs and the sustainable employment of teaching and research assistants [Appendix E].
Departments at New York University that regularly employ non-departmental graduate employees must post these employment opportunities university-wide to ensure all qualified students are given equal opportunity to apply [Article XVI].
Appointing units at the University of Michigan must maintain up to date information regarding application and selection procedures on their websites. Job postings for available postings must include description of duties, qualifications, application procedure and timeline, and non-discrimination statement [Article IX].
Accessible employee records
The contract negotiated by graduate workers at
New York University stipulates that graduate employees have “the same access to their records of employment as graduate employees as exists for student records under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act” [Article VII].
Graduate employees at Rutgers University have access to all the documents in their official personnel files and have the right to prepare a written response to any documents they believe reflect negatively on their abilities/performance [Article XVIII].
The University of Michigan must provide each semester a descriptive statistical report on currently appointed employees, including information on age, race, sex, citizenship status [Article VII, §A].
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New York University [Article XX],
Rutgers University [Article IX], and
University of Michigan [Article XIV] all have grievance procedures and protection against unjust termination built into their union contracts.
What we want
A union contract would promote transparency simply by laying out the terms of our working relationship with the university having to do with pay, benefits, and rights and responsibilities, clarifying and formalizing what is currently a murky and unaccountable set of decisions. But that’s not all! As our housing platform states, improved transparency in room draw would make the processes more fair for students. Transparency with regards to actions taken by the University in gender– and race-based discrimination complaints is necessary to ensure accountability. Reform is also needed in procedures regarding employment opportunities (AI and RA positions) and internal funding opportunities (such as the Honorific, Hyde, and Woodrow Wilson Fellowships), which are often obfuscated behind capricious sets of deadlines and requirements. Finally, PGSU will fight for increased representation of graduate students in decision making bodies to improve their responsiveness to our needs.
Transparent disciplinary procedures
PGSU stands for transparent disciplinary procedures and protection from arbitrary termination, a concern shared strongly with over 60 percent of students surveyed. While faculty and research and library staff at Princeton are governed by written rules for disciplinary action and termination, graduate students are explicitly not covered under this policy. Princeton’s Rights, Rules, Responsibilities
maintains that students may face penalties ranging from a warning to withholding of degree, suspension, expulsion, and censure, yet does not provide clear guidance on when such penalties are justifiable. Union contracts typically include “just cause” clauses to set standards for discipline and discharge, including transparent and reasonable rules and penalties, investigation with the burden of proof on the employer, and equal treatment.
Clear grievance procedures
We need a contract with a clear grievance procedure to ensure that all students are empowered to effectively resolve issues. PGSU advocates for a multi-stage grievance process. As is the case in NYU and Michigan’s contracts, the first step is discussing the grievance with an appropriate faculty member or administrator if that is an option; problems that can be dealt with informally at this level are never forcibly pushed up the ladder. But in cases where this is inadequate, we wish to be protected and informed to escalate a grievance. This entails first ensuring a guaranteed meeting with the Dean or Provost or a departmental or university hearing. Finally, in cases where internal procedures fail to satisfy the needs of the aggrieved, the complaint, we must have the right to timely arbitration by an impartial arbitrator.
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