Support the Union

Dissenting Opinion

[The following, written by Daniel A. Swanson and Dwight L. Cramer, represents the opinion of a minority of The Crimson Staff.]

THE GRADUATE STUDENT and Teaching fellow Union merits unqualified undergraduate support.

The Union rightfully is concerned about the financial plight of graduate students. But its concern extends beyond its own pocketbook: prominent among its seven demands is a proposal that would greatly expand student participation in University decision-making.

The Union is demanding that educational councils be established in each department. The councils, which would consist of at least 50 per cent graduate and undergraduate students, would have the final word over educational policy in that department. This demand, like other Union proposals, needs clarification, but the possibilities it raises seem limitless. Concentration requirements and teaching techniques, for example, at present dictated from above, would be democratically decided by those whose lives they affect.

The Union's concern for the rest of the community is also evident in its demand that its financial gains not come at the expense of undergraduates or non-professional University employees. The relief of graduate student penury should not be purchased at the price of more tuition increases for undergraduates or pay cuts for Building and Grounds workers.


The Union is also demanding that any revised aid plan not reduce the size of the University's teaching staff or increase the teaching loads of current staff members. Undergraduates, who if they are taught at all here are taught at all here are taught by graduate students, should applaud this proposal. Harried, overworked teaching fellows have a difficult time at present without having section sizes enlarged.

The remainder of the Union's demands focus on what initially appear to be financial minutiae irrelevant to undergraduates. But just as the Union has eschewed selfishness, so should undergraduates consider and support these demands on their merits.

The Union is calling for a revised aid program that would supplant the Kraus plan, which was rammed down graduate student throats in January. The Union's plan would fund graduate students up to their full need, unlike the Kraus plan, which guarantees funding to within $1000 of calculated need.

The $1000 gap in the Kraus plan is supposed to be traversed by "merit-based grants," Harvard's euphemism for monetary bait to lure "bright" students away from other graduate schools. Grants based on merit, awarded by departmental Faculty, inflict an inherent bias on our liberal academic community--a "bright" student might turn out to be one who parrots his academic sponsor's line. The College long ago eliminated this auctioning for students: the GSAS should follow suit.

The Union is also taking issue with the criteria by which the GSAS intends to calculate student need. It is demanding that parental or spouse income be allowed up to $5000 of protected assets.

Graduate students are clearly not headed for lives of luxury. College or secondary school teaching are hardly occupations that bring astronomical salaries. By protecting $5000 of their assets and their spouse's income, graduate students are not attempting to guard a growing nest egg, but merely to erect a financial wall against the vagaries of a glutted occupational market.

Parental income is a slightly different question. The graduate students persuasively argue that they are adults and should no longer be considered dependent on their parents. Some observers have cited grad students who are allegedly the scions of millionaires and said they are attempting to cadge a free ride at Harvard's expense. This argument smacks of welfare Cadillacism. To insure that the purported chiselers are pilloried, these observers would extract more payments from hard--pressed middle and lower income parents-whose children predominate in the GSAS--and who have already helped fund their children's undergraduate studies. Graduate students are not future robber barons, but are simply trying to assure themselves of a decent living while they are in school. Undergraduates should support them.

The Union's final demand is that it be officially recognized by the Administration as the sole bargaining agent for graduate students. Union organizing efforts thus far give every indication of equalling last Spring's record when the Union enrolled 1300 students--a clear majority of the GSAS population--by the end of the year. We should expect that if Union organizers continue to broadcast and clarify the organization's message, the Union will expand to a similar level this year. As such, it would be the only organized force in the GSAS, represent a clear majority of students, and, barring the totally unforseen growth of another organization, should be accepted as the bargaining agent for GSAS students. Because the Union is characterized by internal democracy, recognition would not hand power to an elite within the organization, but would insure that Union positions were treated with respect by the Administration.

Undergraduates should support Union demands, applaud membership growth in the organization, and respect Union actions-such as strikes. Support for the Union means not only backing the just demands of graduate students, but advancing causes that are of direct importance to undergraduates.