A debate on the grad student strike over at NYU

At Democracy Now!, Mike Palm, chairperson of the Graduate Student Organizing Committee at New York University, and Paul Boghossian, a professor of Philosophy at New York University, debate the NYU grad student strike and the pro’s and con’s of grad student unionization.  (You can listen to the debate as well, there.  Also see Asad’s earlier post on the strike here.)

JUAN GONZALEZ: When you say the grading, when are grades due and what is the role of your union members in that?

MICHAEL PALM: Union members in our union are teaching assistants and also research assistants and some graduate assistants who do administrative type work, but the vast majority are teaching assistants who teach smaller sections for larger lecture classes and do the bulk of the grading in those classes.

AMY GOODMAN: What are your demands?

MICHAEL PALM: Our demand is singular and quite simple, that N.Y.U. sit at the bargaining table with us and negotiate a second contract.

AMY GOODMAN: Paul Boghossian, you’re speaking for the N.Y.U. administration. What is your response to that demand?

PAUL BOGHOSSIAN: Well, the basic — the basic thought behind refusing to continue recognizing graduate student union is that we don’t believe that students are employees, and we think that the only people who are really entitled to be represented by a collective bargaining unit and a labor union are people who are primarily employees. Our basic impulse is not to want to lock into place a relationship to our graduate students, whom we treat as developing colleagues, that considers them to be laborers, and we don’t want to institutionalize that relationship.

AMY GOODMAN: Michael, your response?

MICHAEL PALM: There’s no question that we are students. We are enrolled as graduate students at N.Y.U., we take classes, we take exams, we write dissertations. There is also no question that we work at N.Y.U., grading papers, working in the offices, working in the labs is work, and there is also no question that our first contract has made us better teachers, researchers and assistants at N.Y.U.