Dialogue with IGWC-UE

March 28, 2022

Dear Provost Shrivastav and President Whitten,

We write as faculty members who are concerned about the academic experiences of all our students, the quality of our scholarly relationships, and Indiana University’s standing as an R-1 institution. The academic success of our students and the advancement of IU’s research mission crucially depend on graduate student labor. Appreciating the emphasis that you have placed on the undergraduate experience, we would note that it is inextricably tied to the welfare of our Associate Instructors who teach many of the university’s classes and Faculty Assistants who provide services in instructional programs. Graduate students, in addition, contribute significantly to the advancement of IU’s research mission by their work in our labs and as our research assistants. Many programs and departments rely on Graduate Assistants for administrative support. Associate Instructors, Faculty Assistants, Research Assistants, and Graduate Assistants quite simply constitute an essential part of the teaching, research, and administrative infrastructure of the university without which we cannot function. The quality of their working relationships underlies the quality of their academic relationships as our students and as future teachers—and both are critical to Indiana University’s future success.

For the past several years, graduate student workers have attempted to redress their grievances over stipends and fees. In fall 2021, the Indiana Graduate Workers Coalition requested that the administration recognize their right to collective bargaining and their affiliation with the United Electrical Workers. The request was denied by the Interim Provost. Since February 2022, relations between the IGWC and administration have deteriorated further, and there seems to be a real possibility that graduate student workers will go on strike. We hope that the administration shares our alarm at the financial hardship and emotional stress that low stipends and fees cause in our graduate student workers. In addition, we would note the obvious: a strike could have harmful and far-ranging consequences, including, among others, disruptions to graduation and negative publicity, which has an adverse impact on student recruitment efforts and fall enrollments.

For the well-being of our student employees, our undergraduates’ academic experience, our professional relationships, and the university about which we care deeply, we urge you to please take the graduate students’ grievances seriously, affirm their contributions to our university, and talk with them. They have repeatedly emphasized their hope for a dialogue. A good faith effort to engage with their legitimate concerns would involve meeting with their chosen representatives, which would go a long way to shifting the conversation in a more productive direction. They are an important part of our university, they care about it as much as we do. It is so very important that they can freely voice their concerns in an atmosphere of honest communication and mutual recognition and respect.

Sincerely,  

Purnima Bose, Chair, Department of International Studies; Professor, Departments of English & International Studies

Caroline Chick Jarrold, Chair and Class of 1948 Herman B. Wells Professor, Department of Chemistry

Jeffrey C. Isaac, James H. Rudy Professor, Department of Political Science 

Scott Michaels, Chair and Professor, Department of Biology

William Scheurman, James H. Rudy Professor, Departments of Political Science & International Studies

Patricia Clare Ingham, Director, Institute for Advanced Studies; Martha Biggerstaff Jones Professor British Literature, Department of English

Rebecca Lave, Chair and Professor, Department of Geography

Benjamin Robinson, Chair and Associate Professor, Department of Germanic Studies

David V. Baxter, Chair and Professor, Department of Physics

Kevin Pilgrim, Chair and Professor, Department of Mathematics

 

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