The Indiana Graduate Workers Coalition (IGWC) formally expressed a lack of confidence in Pamela Whitten as IU’s President in a membership vote Feb. 5 following a general meeting.
The vote of no confidence was prompted by Whitten's failure to address a demand from the IGWC, backed by 1,300 graduate employees, calling for union recognition, election rights and a livable wage. The letter sent Jan. 16 gave Whitten’s office a deadline of Jan. 29 to respond to the demand. There has been no response from the administration to the letter.
After a 98% vote in favor of no confidence by the members, IGWC signed a formal resolution with three facets.
First, according to the resolution, the members believe Whitten’s administration violated the right to fair representation, having failed to respond to the submission of 1,300 union cards by IGWC demanding a union election. Despite most Student Academic Appointees (SAAs) at IU expressing interest in collective bargaining, the administration has not met with the chosen representatives of most graduate employees.
Second, they argue Whitten’s administration is in violation of the shared governance principle, which advocates for the inclusion of faculty, students and staff in the decision-making processes of academic institutions, as graduate student workers at IU still lack an effective institutional mechanism to voice concerns over wages, benefits and working conditions, according to the resolution. They referenced the May 2022 vote of the full IU Bloomington faculty, which called for the IU Administration to recognize IGWC.
Finally, the union wrote in the resolution they believe the administration has actively undermined the educational mission and campus climate of IU, notably through alleged violations of academic freedom.
IU recently suspended then-PSC faculty advisor Abdulkader Sinno, a political science and Middle Eastern studies professor Dec. 15. The administration alleged that Sinno violated university policy when he incorrectly filled out a room reservation for a PSC event, and after IU denied the reservation, the group proceeded to hold the event. At a Bloomington Faculty Council meeting Jan. 16, some faculty countered that the university violated its own disciplinary policy when it suspended Sinno.
On Dec. 20, five days after Sinno’s suspension, Sidney and Lois Eskenazi Museum of Art Director David Brenneman informed Palestinian artist and IU alumna Samia Halaby that a long-scheduled retrospective exhibit of her art would be cancelled over unspecified “security threats.” That decision was met with national attention in outlets including The New York Times and Artforum.
IGWC also believes the administration is refusing to engage in dialogue, resulting in a tense campus atmosphere and strained mentor-mentee relationships, according to the resolution.
David Andrew Garner, a PhD student in comparative literature in charge of communications and media for IGWC, stated that the organization is planning to initiate a strike assessment resolution. He said this means they intend to engage in discussions with their graduate workers to determine preferences on the organization’s next steps.
He said they will consider various collective actions, including the possibility of strikes or rallies, and emphasized regardless of the decision they may reach, they will face it collectively and devise a response over the coming weeks.
“We highly encourage all organizations on campus — be it undergraduate or graduate — to join us and write their own votes of no confidence,” Garner said. “There are a lot of people unhappy with President Whitten, and we just hope that others speak out with us.”
An IU spokesperson declined to provide an official statement on that matter but noted Dean Daleke’s message prior to IGWC’s Jan. 16 demonstration, which contains an approval of slightly increased wages at $23,000 for SAA’s.