Students from the student caucus of the Columbia University Senate have scheduled two hearings to discuss the implications of the current drive to unionize teaching assistants at Columbia. The New York Regional Director of the National Labor Relations Board is expected to issue a ruling in the near future about whether teaching assistants should vote on whether the United Auto Workers (UAW) will represent them in collective bargaining.
The hearings will be held on Wed., Jan. 30, and Wed., Feb. 6, from 7:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., in Davis Auditorium, Schapiro Center for Engineering and Physical Science Research. Anyone with a CUID may attend.
A student caucus subcommittee representing a broad range of Columbia schools will conduct the hearings. Among the members will be Graduate School of Arts and Sciences student senators Roosevelt Montas (Humanities), Rohit Aggarwala (Social Sciences) and Marni Hall (GSAS/Natural Sciences). At each hearing, the group will hold separate discussions with two four-member panels, one supporting unionization and one opposed.
The panel supporting unionization of Columbia's student teaching assistants will include two students, a faculty member and a representative of the United Auto Workers union. The panel opposed to unionization will include two students, a faculty member and a University administrator, Henry Pinkham, dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Science.
The student caucus has not taken a position on unionization. "At Columbia, this issue has implications not only for the student instructors involved, but also for the students they teach, for the faculty they study with and for the University as a whole," said student caucus chair Roosevelt Montas, who will chair the meetings. "Our caucus, which represents students from all schools in the University, is conducting these hearings so as to generate honest and clear discussion about whether students should unionize or not."
The student caucus invites all members of the Columbia community to submit questions or comments in writing. The subcommittee will draw on these for its discussion with the two panels. Statements can be submitted to firstname.lastname@example.org until the day before the hearing.
"It may be that we are witnessing the emergence of a new model of graduate education, one organized around the employer-employee relation rather than around the master-apprentice relation. It is important that we try to understand the dynamics of this shift as well as its short-term and long-term implications," Montas said.
A written record of both hearings will be made available to the Columbia community.