Monday, November 29, 2021

Graduate students should unionize

I was a teaching assistant at MSU years ago, and I’m writing to explain why all eligible teaching assistants should vote “yes” for the Graduate Employees Union on Thursday.

I graduated from MSU at the top of my physics class and eventually went on to the University of Chicago, where I was also a teaching assistant.

Since then, I’ve taught at MSU, Lansing Community College and University of California-Santa Barbara. I have also worked in physics research and in business computer consulting. I currently teach and work at MSU as adjunct faculty in mathematics.

After working many jobs in a wide variety of settings, it is my experience that academia does not treat its apprentices very well compared to other crafts.

One may argue there are reasons for this. In any case, it isn’t the job of faculty or administration to look out for the well-being of graduate assistants as a group; therefore, assistants need to organize together among themselves, working with a representative, to make things better. The GEU, affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers, is the best representative available for the job.

Voting “yes” for the GEU simply says you want to be represented by the same group that successfully represents graduate assistants at other universities around the country, including the University of Michigan and University of Wisconsin. The GEU will pursue attainable improvements for graduate assistants, such as bringing tuition reimbursement in line with other institutions (MSU is way under parity) and providing reasonable health care.

Take it from someone who has been there and done that. You do not want to be leaving graduate school looking for one of the scarce academic or professional jobs with debt and health problems. Many of us never get the nice tenure-track jobs of decades past - they are simply not there for most of us. The uncertainty of your future is not worth accepting a poor life now.

Vote “yes” on Thursday.

Michael Masterson
mathematics adjunct
faculty member


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