September 25, 2018
Dear fellow members of the Boston College community,
It’s been over a year since I wrote to you in the days leading up to the National Labor Relations Board-overseen graduate student election in September 2017. At the time, I voiced concern about the potential consequences of the unionization of graduate teaching and research assistants. Our position remains that graduate student unionization in any form undermines the collegial, mentoring relationship among students and faculty that is a cornerstone of this academic community. Boston College continues to uphold this fundamentally educational relationship, which we believe is in the mutual best interest of students and faculty.
In the aftermath of a close election that favored union supporters, Boston College maintained its Request for Review with the NLRB in Washington, DC. The United Auto Workers, however, withdrew their petition before the Board in February 2018, thereby nullifying the results of the September 2017 election. In the six-plus months since the UAW decision to withdraw, we have seen other peer universities—including Chicago, Columbia, and Yale—join with Boston College in maintaining that graduate student unionization is a serious threat to our shared academic values and to our ability to advance our distinctive institutional missions.
Recent days have brought renewed calls by some graduate students for the University to recognize their right to establish a union and to enter into collective bargaining. Several claims made by union activists and their supporters deserve to be challenged:
“Their stipends are lower than the cost of living”: The University made investments this past spring to ensure that no doctoral stipend is lower than $20,000 for the 2018-2019 academic year, and these stipends will continue to increase in the future. When combined with other benefits and full tuition remission, the University’s combined financial investment in its funded doctoral students exceeds $40,000 annually for each entering first-year student.
“Most have no healthcare”: Funded doctoral students are eligible to participate in the Boston College student health plan, in which the University provides 100% of the premium. By comparison, Boston College covers approximately 75% of employee premiums, meaning that employees pay, on average, 25% of their premiums.
“When sexual assault and harassment occur in the workplace the grievance procedure is unclear and inconsistent”: The University provides graduate students with clear avenues for reporting sexual misconduct through both the University’s Discriminatory Harassment Policy (for complaints against faculty and staff) and the Student Sexual Misconduct Policy (for complaints against other students). All members of the University community are made aware of these policies annually through the University’s Notice and Disclosures email.
“Those who are parents have no parental leave policies”: Beginning with the Morrissey College of Arts and Sciences in January 2017, all eight of our schools and colleges now have parental leave policies for funded doctoral students.
Looking ahead, we commit to investing in focused excellence in graduate and professional education as part of our strategic plan, Ever to Excel: Advancing Boston College’s Mission. Doctoral students and their faculty have long made significant contributions to the University’s mission while enhancing our reputation nationally and around the world. We remain committed to quality graduate education and furthering Boston College’s mission, and we remain convinced that advances can best be made through ongoing, open dialogue, independent of a graduate student union.