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Graduate Students at Harvard Launching Strike

Graduate Students at Harvard Launching Strike

“student-workers will not hold review sessions and will not grade exams”

This was always the goal of introducing unions into higher education.

WBUR reports:

Harvard Grad Students Are Set To Strike Tuesday. Here’s Why

Harvard University and more than 4,000 graduate student workers failed to reach agreement on a labor contract during negotiations Monday, setting the stage for an indefinite strike to begin Tuesday at 10:30 a.m.

The strike could complicate the completion of academic work done at the semester’s end, from grant applications to pre-exam reviews, final grading and more.

“Research assistants won’t do their research,” said Rachel Sandalow-Ash, a member of the bargaining committee for the Harvard Graduate Student Union (HGSU). “On the teaching side, student-workers will not hold review sessions and will not grade exams.”

In a statement, university spokesman Jonathan Swain called the strike “unwarranted,” saying it “will neither clarify our respective positions nor will it resolve areas of disagreement.”

HGSU members plan to picket outside academic buildings, asking other members of academic staff — including tenured and adjunct faculty — not to take on work formally assigned to graduate students.

After years of organizing, HGSU formed in April of 2018. The union covers the work of graduate students — and a smaller cohort of undergraduates — who together perform thousands of hours of research, teaching and administrative duties at Harvard each week.


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Having been there and done that, I would urge the GSAS students not to strike. Yes, they are paid poorly (I got $2400 living expenses per year), but their tuition and fees are waived, and they receive an amazing opportunity in return for their work. It would be especially stupid for research assistants to stop doing their research, since they do their research is for themselves, to complete their theses. To stop would be a like a child holding his breath until he turns blue.

When I was there, we were urged to strike because Nixon had just invaded Cambodia. So a bunch of undergrad students stopped going to classes as a “student strike.” I didn’t see Nixon shaking in his boots because a bunch of privileged college students stopped going to classes. Most of us grad students just kept doing our research and writing our theses. The few who went “on strike” just got their degrees later than they would have otherwise.

    mochajava76 in reply to OldProf2. | December 5, 2019 at 3:56 pm

    While i mostly agree with you, Harvard has a $40 BILLION endowment.
    So they can clearly afford to both up the pay and throw in a company car (except that would make Greta cry)
    As a progressive institution, they should reap what they sow.
    As the article states, “This was always the goal of introducing unions into higher education”

    The argument that Harvard paid Liz Warren $400K+ to teach one class is questioned by some, so we can put that aside. But profs are very well paid. . Liz’s husband also made over $400K for teaching in 2018.

    If your argument is that this might have consequences for other universities that cannot afford to pay graduate researchers, I also agree, but don’t see that as a strong argument.
    As a research university, all professors are paid to teach and conduct research. Harvard profs are paid $50K more than profs at other Ivy League schools.

    Public sentiment is that a college education costs too much.
    Public sentiment is also that people deserve just compensation.
    So Harvard is stuck between rock and a hard place.
    I’m hoping for massive protests

If they go on strike then they should be fired and kicked out of the university.