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<nettime> Organizing graduate students across the Net
Chris Robe on 14 Aug 2000 13:32:50 -0000


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<nettime> Organizing graduate students across the Net


There has been much focus as of lately of organizing graduate students
into unions.  With the advent of the various unionization at the UCs in
California and NYU's attempt to receive official recognition of their
unionization, more and more graduate students have been speaking about
unionization at their schools.  I am currently a graduate student in
English and completely support unionization efforts.  One of the most
compelling reasons for graduate student unionization is that we, the
various graduate students across the United States, (this is a Western
biased post) are in one of the best socio-economic positions to make labor
demands.  Why?  Even though we make minimal salaries at best, the
university (or college) has an official contract with us. The academic
apparatus has invested itself in our educations (most of us getting free
tuition and token salaries for offering our teaching skills in the
classroom and for our research, and for our institutions' names to be
printed in conjunction with every paper we publish and presentation we
give at conferences).  Unfortunately, for many of us after graduation, we
will be forced into the flexible world of adjunct teaching, where
contracts are unheard of and job security is a myth.  By unionizing at the
grad. level, we are sending a strong message to future employers that we
will not be exploited (intellectually and financially) as our colleagues
have been in the past.  Although we realize that the institution can
become repressive (to use an Althusseran term) on graduate students if
there is a zealot group of anti-unionists at any given academic
institution (e.g., one needs only to recall Yale), we feel that academic
institutions have more difficulty expelling graduate students for
unionizing than adjunct faculty; mainly because graduate students have
tangible proof of their competency (e.g., classroom grades-- which are
ridiculous indicators anyway of proficiency, but we will use them when our
career is at stake; faculty recommendations; student evaluations in the
classroom; conference presentations; published material). 

This post, however, is not primarily concerned with defending graduate
student unionization.  Instead, I want to address how graduate students
should take advantage of cyberspace.  Most, if not all, (Western) graduate
students are given an e-mail account and disk space to create a web-page. 
Although graduate students have been utilizing e-mail in prolific droves,
web space has not been used to its full potential.  Rather than using web
space as an electronic resume file, or a public scrapbook of interests,
why not utilize that very space for politically committed projects?  If
all graduate students utilized their web spaces to contest and approve of
their universities decisions, future graduate students would not need to
rely on the bogus propaganda reports of US NEW AND WORLD REPORT's special
college issue or the non-political BARRON'S, etc. resource guides. 

The cliché is still appropriate: act locally, but think globally. 
Graduate students should use their web space to unite interests on their
campus and community (those who have access to computers and the internet;
I realize the significant classist/racist/sexist context of Net access. 
We, the graduate students, should use our web pages as if they were
independent 'zines for organizing, protest, and education.  Since the
university is supplying graduate students with these cyber-avenues of
publication and protest, we should all try to utilize them. 

Enclosed is my web page:  www.lehigh.edu/~crr2/crr2.html.  It is not
perfect, but it is a beginning.  I would appreciate anyone's comments or
suggestions on how to improve it.  So far, here at Lehigh University, the
page has gained some attention from various graduate students about the
Free University: some who believe in it, some who believe that my tone
should not be so confrontational, some who don't want it at all.  But,
what my web page is doing, in ways that were not available prior to it, is
creating a discussion about different issues that have been effaced at
both a local and national level. 

As a graduate student, I feel that I must take advantage of the "free" 
technology that the university I am working and studying at provides.  It
would be foolish to let the powers-that-be persist in their quest for
making education an adjunct to profit without offering a critique. 

I hope that this e-mail might create a discussion about how graduate
students across the world are using technology in order to further
education and research. 

chris robe'





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