The Way Forward For NYU Graduate Students

Above photo: New York University campus in Manhattan.

Break with the unions and turn to the working class!

Since July, the Graduate Student Organizing Committee (GSOC), which is affiliated with the United Auto Workers (UAW) union and has over 2,000 graduate workers as members at New York University, has been involved in contract negotiations with the university administration. The previous contract, negotiated by GSOC and the university in 2015, expired on Aug. 31. GSOC has agreed to a second extension of the contract, which includes a no-strike clause, until Oct. 13.

GSOC is affiliated with the UAW Local 2110, an amalgamated union that has repeatedly negotiated concessionary contracts for workers throughout New York City.

GSOC granted these extensions to the university even though NYU has done nothing but stonewall university workers’ demands for higher stipends and wages, financial compensation for hardships that have resulted from the COVID-19 pandemic, safe working conditions, proper health care coverage, and protection of international student workers. GSOC has also called for NYU to cut its ties with the New York Police Department (NYPD).

NYU only presented minor counterproposals in late September, including one on sending out appointment letters early (21 days before the job starts) and one on child care benefits, which has fallen far short of the needs of grad workers with children.

This was to be expected. NYU, one of the largest and most expensive private universities in the United States, embodies the broader subordination of academia to private profit and the interests of the corporate-financial oligarchy. For decades, the university has exhibited complete disregard for the well-being of students, staff and faculty, carrying out vicious attacks on workers, subordinating student mental health and food insecurity to profit interests and repeatedly demonstrating utter contempt for the most basic democratic rights.

The decision to reopen NYU on Sept. 2 under a so-called “hybrid model” against the advice of medical experts was likewise dictated by the interests of the millionaire administrators and collection of multi-millionaires and billionaires that make up the NYU Board of Trustees. It is endangering countless lives not just at NYU but throughout New York City.

Already, there are 248 total reported COVID-19 cases across all NYU campus locations in New York and an explosion of cases is inevitable as a second wave of the virus in New York City is triggered by Democratic Mayor Bill de Blasio and Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo’s push to fully reopen schools and businesses.

The International Youth and Students for Social Equality (IYSSE) at NYU fully support the struggle of graduate students for higher wages and stipends and better child care and health care benefits. We call upon graduate students to develop their struggle on the basis of the following demands:

  1. An end to all in-person classes! There can be no “safe reopening” under conditions of a raging pandemic. In a tragic proof of this fact, just a few days ago, Chad Dorrill, a 19-year-old student at Appalachian State University in North Carolina, died from neurological complications resulting from COVID-19, after taking classes under a hybrid model similar to the one being used at NYU.
  2. The university must meet all needs for technology by students and workers alike to enable remote learning. No student or worker must be allowed to suffer in their educational work from lack of technological equipment.
  3. Free tuition for all! Graduate student workers must receive a living wage and stipend. Education is a social right, not a privilege.
  4. Child care and health care for all university students and workers, including graduate workers, must be fully covered by the university. This includes additional needs and expenses from remote teaching and learning and COVID infections.
  5. Protect international students and immigrants! No to deportations and visa cancellations. Every worker and youth has the right to live, study and work wherever they choose, with full rights of citizenship.