As the higher-ed bubble bursts, the biggest losers are graduate students, who train for years for a profession with rapidly dwindling employment prospects. As enrollments decrease, tenure-track jobs vanish, and universities hire more administrators than faculty, these students want to protect their investment in higher-ed. So many push for unionization.
Grad students achieved a significant victory yesterday, when the NYU administration recognized NYU and NYU-Poly’s graduate student union. NYU withdrew recognition of the union in 2005 on the grounds that the union was meddling in academic affairs by trying to negotiate teaching assignments and student evaluations. The union, now represented by the United Auto Workers, has agreed that “that academic decisions are not subject to bargaining.” in return, NYU has agreed not to actively campaign against the union. NYU’s calm negotiations stand in sharp contrast to last month’s labor unrest at University of California, where graduate students, along with other UC employees, engaged in a 24-hour strike to protest staffing shortages and the UC system’s requiring employees to increase personal contributions to their benefit plans.
NYU’s success will likely galvanize graduate students across the country. However, any improvement in student fortunes can only forestall their true adversary: the shrinking job market.