Letters to the Editor, Opinions

Letter: Paxson establishes false dichotomy between unionization and collaboration

Monday, November 19, 2018

To the Editor:

Is there any evidence that unionization at other universities has corroded positive relationships between graduate students and administrators? If there is, President Paxson P’19 would do well to share it. It is hard to imagine that graduate students at, say, New York University, have seen their relationships with professors and administrators worsen now that they receive compensation for their teaching in addition to their stipends.

The president’s letter unwittingly indicates the need for unionization — for she shows herself to be (willfully?) unaware of the basic fact that graduate students are workers. They are students, of course, but they are also workers. That is just a fact about the structure of the University. It is a fact which remains true whether or not the University takes the honest step of recognizing it.

During mandatory meetings, Target employees watch anti-union videos; such videos argue not only that unions are inefficient, but also that they are superfluous and threaten to undermine the “community” of the (supposedly) happy and supportive workplace. Can we have any doubt as to Target’s real interest in preventing unionization?

It is easy to see that the same moves are at play in Paxson’s letter. The letter implies, without ground, that there is a foundational opposition between, on the one hand, unionization, and on the other, true collaboration, mutual respect and progress. Honesty and nuance demand that we spurn this false dichotomy. It is no surprise that owners of corporations fail to do so. Still, it is a disappointment when the leaders of purportedly liberal academic institutions fail to, too.

Margaret Shea ’19