If the new rule proposed by the National Labor Relations Board passes a final vote, graduate students, who teach the majority of university classes, would lose their status as employees and their right to join a union (“Graduate Students to Lose Unionization Rights Under NLRB Rule,” The Wall Street Journal, Sep. 21). I understand the argument for this change, but I submit that it is anachronistic.
Yes, graduate students gain invaluable experience as they perform their duties. But that doesn’t mean they should be exploited. And they most certainly are. Tenured professors, who are listed in catalogs as teaching a class, are totally relieved of this duty. Since universities are permitted to continue to engage in false advertising without a penalty, the least they can do is to treat graduate students as employees, with the right to unionize.
As things stand, graduate students are essentially indentured servants, who are taken advantage of by professors. They are afraid to complain out of fear that doing so will undermine their future. So much depends on their getting favorable recommendations from their professors. Reports of unwanted sexual advances by male professors toward their female graduate assistants show the power imbalance at work. It’s time to get real about what goes on in higher education.
(To post a comment, click on the title of this blog.)