[The following letter was sent to Vanderbilt University graduate workers on 10 October 2016.]
Fellow Vanderbilt Graduate Workers:
We, the undersigned, have pledged to build a better Vanderbilt. We have pledged to build a union.
Following August 23’s ruling by the National Labor Relations Board, graduate students at private universities across the United States have earned the right to collectively bargain with their respective administrations. Graduate students across the country have joined together to organize with the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). Now is our time to organize.
In the days since the ruling, Vanderbilt University has again begun a new school year. As in years past, new students shuffle to and from discussion section to lab to lecture. In class, they meet their first graduate TAs and instructors who provide them with a well-rounded educational experience. In addition to educating undergraduate students, graduate research assistants help make possible innovations and breakthroughs that will one day benefit us all. All of these graduate student-employees help establish Vanderbilt University—the institution in its entirety with its sterling reputation—as a leading center in teaching and research.
As graduate student-employees of Vanderbilt University, we are committed to providing the university, faculty, and undergraduate students with the best possible teaching and research services we can. In order to secure this commitment, we believe in the importance of an independent graduate student-employee organization. Such an organization will allow graduate student-employees to freely discuss and deliberate over essential needs such as healthcare, diversity, workspace, and overall well-being. If and when issues arise regarding the satisfaction of these needs, an independent graduate student-employee organization will facilitate the communication of these issues to administration, and ensure effective, transparent cooperation on their resolution. In this way, graduate student-employees and the administration can work together to ensure that the university is able to provide a positive working environment for all staff and students, regardless of race, gender, ability, or sexual orientation.
Vanderbilt offers a rich environment in which to work and study. We’re all fortunate to be here, and so it’s important not to see unionization as merely an expression of our grievances, but rather as an investment in our collective future. Graduate students depend on Vanderbilt for health insurance, ability to pay rent in an increasingly expensive housing market, and the quality of our day-to-day working lives. Without a union, working conditions can change rapidly, for better or for worse, with little to no input from graduate students themselves. And, without a union, we have little recourse in situations where our individual needs and the interests of the administration conflict. We Vanderbilt graduate students need a union to safeguard and advance our interests as well as ensure Vanderbilt’s continued status as one of the premier institutions to pursue an advanced degree.
We are excited to announce our support for organizing a union at Vanderbilt University. We encourage you to consider our pledge and help us realize our hopes of creating a better future for us, our students, and the entire Vanderbilt community. Will you join us?
Anna Jacobs, Sociology, 4th year
Emma Banks, Anthropology, 5th Year
Brandy Daniels, Religion, PhD Candidate
J.W. Hubbard, History, 5th Year
Allison Norlander, Molecular Physiology & Biophysics, PhD Candidate
Thomas R. Moore, Sociology, 3rd Year
Daniel J. Miller, Psychology, PhD Candidate
Zoe G. LeBlanc, History, PhD Candidate
Sebastian A. Ramirez, Philosophy, 2nd Year
Thushara Gunda, Environmental Engineering, PhD Candidate
Jesse McCarthy, History, 3rd Year
Tyson Rietz, Biochemistry, 2nd Year
Jesse Montgomery, English, 3rd Year
Amy Shaw, Environmental Engineering, PhD Student
Henry Gorman, History, 4th Year
Juliet Larkin-Gilmore, History, 4th Year
Mary Bridges, History, PhD Candidate
Anthony C. Siracusa, Ph.D Candidate
Kelly Swope, Philosophy, 2nd Year
Sabeen Ahmed, Philosophy, 2nd Year
Fiacha D. Heneghan, Philosophy, 2nd Year
Chelsey Dyer, Anthropology, 2nd Year
Rachel McKane, Sociology, 3rd Year
Peter Vielehr, Sociology, PhD Candidate
Lacee Satcher, Sociology, 2nd Year
Fernanda Bretones Lane, History, 4th Year
Megan Robinson, Sociology, 3rd Year
Lauren Brenzel, Sociology, 2nd Year
Ethan Gibbons, Sociology, 1st Year
Paulo G. Martinez, Interdisciplinary, 4th year
Thomas Holaday, Philosophy, PhD Candidate
Max Baumkel, English, 3rd Year
Elizabeth Kathryn Barna, Sociology, 3rd Year
Amanda Buckman, Sociology, 2nd Year
Edward Dawson, German, 5th Year
Amy McKiernan, Philosophy, PhD Candidate
Alexandra (Sasha) Alekseyeva, Philosophy, 5th Year
Amanda Lehr, English, PhD Candidate
Roxane Pajoul, 5th Year, French
Sarah Nelson, History, 5th Year
Charlie Geyer, Spanish & Portuguese, 3rd Year