In support of the IU administration, I am writing this letter to urge the graduate students to refrain from going on a strike. I further encourage the students to think carefully about the following reasons.
First, although technically graduate students can be categorized as employees, per a 2016 decision by the National Labor Relations Board, student academic appointees are students first. SAAs’ work is limited to 20 hours per week, so this does not convert them to the status of the members of faculty, whose primary responsibility is instruction. Thus, the argument that they are exempt from the core student fees because they are part-time employees does not make much sense.
Second, going on strike and stopping work are not the way to get concerns resolved. There are student government mechanisms, for instance, by which concerns can be raised and resolved. In fact, as former provost Lauren Robel explained in her letter in spring 2021, IU-Bloomington not only has raised minimum stipends but also plans to raise them even further. These mechanisms have historically been effective.
Finally, the strike jeopardizes certain populations of their own. Specifically, it disproportionately affects low-income undergraduates who depend on Federal Pell Grants. If graduate students withhold final grades as part of the strike, Federal Pell Grant recipients' eligibility could be adversely affected. Benjamin Robinson, associate professor and Germanic studies chair, has stated that the IU administration can solve this problem. But he fails to articulate how the administration can solve the issue. If part of the grant eligibility requirements is submission of final grades, and there are no grades, how is the administration to solve this?
While I sincerely hope that all student concerns get resolved, going on strike is not the way to go.
- Gray Jeong, J.D. Candidate, Maurer School of Law