In a disappointing phone call on Thursday to determine the right of graduate assistants to organize, the Penn State administration announced its intent to argue that graduate employees are not employees.
The university plans to challenge the legal precedent classifying graduate assistants as employees and allowing them to unionize. By taking this to court, Penn State is making an aggressive and costly move to prevent graduate employees from having a voice.
We are dismayed that the administration does not respect our right to decide amongst ourselves by holding a vote on unionization. After a year of campaigning, we collected hundreds of graduate employee signatures declaring support for a vote on unionization.
Earlier this month, the Penn State community received emails from President Eric Barron and Graduate School Dean Regina Vasilatos-Younken. Both expressed an explicit desire to maintain open dialogue with graduate employees. Younken’s email stated that “your training emphasizes drawing conclusions based upon facts, and evidence-based decision-making.”
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We hope the administration will respect our ability to research, our intellectual labor and our right to a democratic process by ceasing to obstruct our path to a vote. Though we are frustrated that the administration continues to block our efforts to participate in decision-making and has chosen to disrespect the process and our legal rights, we will continue to foster solidarity amongst our fellow graduate employees.
As always, in keeping with our value of open dialogue, the Coalition of Graduate Employees remains willing to meet with Barron to discuss how we can proceed in an amicable manner.
Spencer Carran, State College
The writer is co-president of CGE.