Saturday, November 12, 2005

labor disputes

Day 76
12 November 2005

I note with interest a article indicating that the graduate instructors at NYU are on strike. (link expires 12/10/05) Apparently the instructors belong to a union, which NYU had previously recognized, but now declines to recognize, stating that the grad students are not actually employees, but rather are participating in assistantships as part of their financial aid package. The article reports that out of approximately 2700 classes at NYU, 165 are taught by grad students. While on strike, the grad instructors will not be teaching, grading, advising students, or doing research.

I am given to understand that grad instructors are frequently overworked/undercompensated, and are often seen by universities as cheap labor to be exploited as thoroughly as possible. I'm not saying this is right; I'm just saying that in many places it seems to be the status quo. So, did this situation come as a surprise to the NYU students? I mean, did they suddenly get half-way through grad school and one day realize, "Hey, we're being exploited as cheap labor!" I guess I'm just kind of wondering what their expectations were, especially since the article says that their "assistantships" are part of a $50,000 financial aid package that includes free tuition. Admittedly, I have no idea what their actual working conditions are like, but ... fifty thousand dollars worth of financial aid? And they're on strike?

The article also quotes the striking instructors as chanting, "What do we want? Contracts! When do we want it? Now!"

I hope they're not teaching English.

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