Graduate Student Council Vice President Condemns Amicus Brief

The vice president of the Graduate Student Council condemned Harvard's filing of an amicus brief against graduate student unionization in a proposal presented at the group's monthly meeting Wednesday.

On Monday, Harvard joined other Ivy League schools, MIT, and Stanford in filing an amicus brief to the National Labor Relations Board calling for the body to uphold existing rulings that define the relationship between private universities and graduate students as strictly academic.

GSC Vice President John Gee prepared the resolution, which states, “The Graduate Student Council condemns Harvard’s actions in joining this amicus brief and opposing the right of graduate student workers to unionize or not unionize by a democratic process.”

Graduate Student Council Meeting
Last fall, the Graduate Student Council discussed whether to support unionization.

After introducing the amicus brief, GSC President Darcy Frear read a statement from Gee, who was unable to attend the meeting. Gee’s statement made clear his opinion of the brief itself.

“It’s condescending to graduate students and faculty alike. It implies doctoral students don’t need to make a living for the six or more years of their degree,” Frear read from the statement.


His statement reiterated the Council’s position that it supports members of Harvard’s unionization effort. In November, a resolution passed 38 to 4 in support of student union organizers, but not the movement itself.

The November resolution passed because the Council advocates for a process for graduate students to decide on unionization without interference from the University, according to Gee.

“[Harvard] let us know it doesn’t think we should be able to decide this issue for ourselves, and that it shouldn’t have to respect our collective voice unless it wants to,” Frear read from Gee’s statement. “Harvard let us know it is not going to remain neutral, but will take sides between graduate students, fighting those who want a union and supporting those who don’t. I think it is vitally important that we let Harvard know that’s not acceptable.”

The brief emphasized the threat a graduate student union could pose to academic freedom, and how such a move could transform the relationship between graduate students and universities to one based on labor, not education. Harvard administrators, including University President Drew G. Faust, have made clear their opposition to graduate student unionization on these grounds.

Although some students raised questions about the brief, the conversation and debate over the resolution is scheduled for the April 6 meeting because of GSC protocol.

Graduate student Erin M. Hutchinson said she thinks she will vote in favor of the resolution at the next meeting.

“It’s not about the GSC supporting unionization or not; it’s about whether Harvard should let us have a democratic choice,” Hutchinson said. “It seems pretty reasonable. It’s something I think that people can support, even in theory if they’re against unionization.”

—Staff writer Leah S. Yared can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @Leah_Yared.


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