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Graduate Student Organization recognizes grad student workers’ union at latest meeting

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Syracuse University’s Graduate Student Organization passed a resolution during its meeting on Wednesday to officially recognize Syracuse Graduate Employees United — which on Jan. 17 announced its campaign for union recognition by SU.

In a press release issued the day it announced its intention to unionize, SGEU cited low scholarships, heavy workloads, and a lack of health care and parental benefits as factors preventing a union for on-campus student workers required. During the GSO discussion of the resolution, graduate student staff shared their personal experiences in addressing the concerns raised by SGEU.

Some international students at the meeting expressed concern that their allotted $20,000 annual stipends are not enough to cover their living expenses, such as food, rent and transportation.

Aditya Srinivasan, a graduate student in the PhD program in social sciences at the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, said that just because graduate students can get by doesn’t mean changes aren’t needed.

“As an Indian international student earning far less than it takes to live in a place like Syracuse – which by the way is not expensive – I could no longer support a resolution like this because international students don’t care about these protections,” Srinivasan said .

Emma Culver, also a student at Maxwell School, said her busy schedule as a student and assistant fueled her support for the resolution.

“I had to take a second job,” Culver said. “Now I work about 30 hours a week on top of all my schoolwork and all my other needs just to be able to pay my rent.”

Some GSO senators pointed to the Hendricks Chapel Food Pantry as a resource for graduate students that could reduce the need for a union, but others disputed that the pantry’s supplies do not realistically address all problems or meet demand.

Senators also discussed ways to structure the resolution to ensure inclusive language, particularly with regard to language related to international and indigenous students.

The resolution was passed with a two-thirds majority.

Sadie Novak, a fourth-year graduate student at the College of Arts and Sciences, said while graduate students know they are signing up for a challenge, change is needed.

“We all know what we sign up for when we get to graduate school. We know it’s going to be difficult. We know that in our research and in our teaching we should be confronted with intellectual challenges very severely,” said Novak. “What we shouldn’t really be doing here in grad school is figuring out how to put food on the table, figuring out how to pay rent, worrying about going to the doctor when we’re sick and broken. “


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