Letter to the Editor: Why I Believe We Should Not Form a “Union”

To the Editor:

I am a doctoral student at the Graduate School of Education. I sincerely thank the student organizers of HGSU for their conscientious activism, which is extremely important to our community. However I oppose unionization, because in the big picture it will harm our university and the goals we’re all trying to achieve. My interests are not different from the University’s. I came here to learn in a dynamic and innovative environment, and to contribute to positive change—not to earn elevated wages as a TF.

I believe the idea that we would somehow benefit from a union is naive. What the administration and students both need is the flexibility and freedom to choose how to allocate our time and resources to best achieve our goals. A labor relations model would achieve just the opposite. It would introduce rigidity, distort incentives, and obstruct positive change.

A “union” would in fact be nothing of the sort, as it would pit students and administration against each other. Moreover, it would pit us students against ourselves, as our diverse preferences and viewpoints would be steamrolled into a single, monopolistic position by “majority” vote (a haunting prospect after last week’s presidential election). We will lose the freedom to make our own choices as free agents.

I also do not see why we need monopolistic collective bargaining in the first place. We are not a vulnerable group, and Harvard is not an exploitative employer. We already have better, more flexible structures available for communicating our needs as a group.

Even if we classify ourselves as “workers”, the most important thing for workers is to be embedded in an environment in which we can grow. Our relationship with the University is already structured this way. If we form a union, we will change a relationship of mutual support and growth into one of rigid rules and adversarial negotiation. This would be harmful for everyone involved (except the United Auto Workers). Please consider voting “no” when voting tomorrow and Thursday.

Andrew S. Conning is a doctoral student at the Graduate School of Education.