At the conclusion of a year of lengthy discussion about graduate student unionization, leaders of the Graduate Student Council said they hope to keep an “open forum” for all perspectives as debate over unionization continues into the fall.
GSC president Darcy L. Frear—who was re-elected as president last month—emphasized that the Council represents “all grad students.”
“Unionization is a big topic of conversation, so we will continue that, and we will continue to open it for anyone who wants to talk about it, for or against.” Frear noted that she is not personally involved with the Harvard Graduate Students Union-United Auto Workers, the organization of students hoping to create a union.
This academic year has been marked by an evolving relationship between the union effort, which went public last spring, and the Council. A November resolution passed by the Council said the union effort is “complementary to the role of the Graduate Student Council,” and that the GSC would stand in support of the students behind the movement. However, the Council has refrained from outright endorsing the effort itself.
Over the next few months, the union effort gained majority support among graduate students employed by Harvard.
In late February, Harvard joined top peer institutions in filing an amicus brief to the National Labor Relations Board, which will soon decide a case that may mandate that private universities recognize democratically elected graduate student unions. The brief asserted that the presence of a graduate student union could change the academic relationship between students and faculty and infringe upon the academic freedom of professors.
In response, GSC vice president John Gee spoke out to condemn the brief and proposed a resolution for the Council to do the same. That resolution passed last month 34 to 6, and called Harvard’s action an interference “with the democratic rights of graduate student workers.”
Several initiatives Frear and other Council members outlined for the next year fall in line with the union effort’s goals.
The GSC president said she wants to see expanded dental coverage added to the existing Ph.D. student health plan, which is a key part of the HGSU-UAW platform.
Graduate student Rosanna Picascia, a member of the Committee on Graduate Student Family Life, also spoke about an idea to create a Harvard-affiliated childcare center at Wednesday’s Council meeting. Childcare is another point of concern for the union effort.
Picascia said student parents are concerned about the high cost of childcare at the existing six independently-run centers, which she said are geared toward the children of faculty members and cost around $2,800 a month.
The group will meet with members of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences administration next month. Picascia said the committee is also looking to MIT, which she said had a pilot childcare program a few years ago.
“We’re trying to look at the conclusions of that and see whether or not something like that is actually doable at Harvard,” she said.
—Staff writer Leah S. Yared can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @Leah_Yared.
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