Where’s the truth in graduate student unionization?

Chris Kauffman

Of all groups on campus, I expect graduate students to know that one learns by listening, not by screaming. That is why I was embarrassed as a graduate student during MondayâÄôs University-sponsored question and answer session about graduate student unionization.
After 15 minutes of students shouting and harassing three University representatives in a packed auditorium, 80 percent of attendees walked out in what was clearly a union-organized âÄúletâÄôs give the administration the birdâÄù display.
The UniversityâÄôs position is clear: Another union would make balancing their books harder so they oppose it. The University has certainly biased the information they distribute by leaving out facts on union capabilities.
However, the first union-led information session I attended was equally as biased: 30 minutes of recruiting based on the assumption we were all on board. Stunts like walking out of meetings with Univeristy representatives do not raise my confidence in the unionâÄôs ability to negotiate for my interests. IâÄôd advise union representatives to field more calm, informational sessions like the second meeting I attended organized by the computer science department.
I make about $22,000 per year, and union dues have been cited to me as 1.15 percent of my gross, around $250 annually.
Ultimately I have to decide whether I think the union can provide me with protections I want for that price. I still donâÄôt know, but I am ready and willing to hear union advocates and University representatives make their cases. My decision is now significantly harder as, based on what IâÄôve seen, I no longer expect either partyâÄôs information to be objective.
Chris Kauffman, graduate student