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Stanford files amicus brief against graduate student unionization

Stanford has joined eight peer institutions, including Harvard and MIT, in signing an amicus brief opposing the unionization of graduate students. The brief was filed Monday for a case pending before the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), the federal body charged with determining whether groups of individuals are eligible for qualifying a union. The case in question is between Columbia University and a group of graduate students who teach at that school and seek to create a union.

“Stanford considers graduate students to be students, not employees. Academic decisions with respect to graduate students should be made by the University and not by outside parties, including unions,” wrote Stanford spokeswoman Lisa Lapin in a statement to the Daily.

The brief Stanford signed argues that a 2004 decision defining Brown University graduate students as students and not workers should serve as the binding precedent in the current case. The brief further argues that collective bargaining would intrude upon the academic freedom of the private universities affected by the decision. According to the brief, teaching is an important part of the educational content of a Ph.D. program, and the quantity of teaching done is not related to the financial aid packages offered to graduate students.

The brief also argues that collective bargaining would worsen relations between students and the administration. “Both collective bargaining and arbitration are, by their very nature, adversarial. They clearly have the potential to transform the collaborative model of graduate education to one of conflict and tension,” the brief said.

 

Contact Caleb Smith at caleb17 ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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