One regular reader says that grad students should unionize because they are abused. I responded, so are rookie cops and fraternity pledges. He came back: yes, but unlike grad students, they have futures. Another reader offers this:
The Yale grad students unionizing has been going on since I went to grad school there from 1989-1991. I had one good friend who was very involved in GESO (the grad student union being set up as a sort of parallel but independant student government) and a girlfriend who was very involved in the student senate. Believe me I heard ALL the arguments back then. I saw only one argument that had any merit whatsoever. While the grad student stipend was supposed to pay your tuition and a small salary in return for 20 hours a week of research or teaching, in practice most professors, especially in the sciences expected AT LEAST 40 hours a week of research work. It meant you pretty much had to pick a disertation topic that was part of a professor’s research and become his personal researcher to be able to get a tuition waiver, a small salary, and still be able to finish your disertation in anything like a timely manner. Of course Yale didn’t help by requiring all grad students to pay 4 full years of tuition wether they were taking classes or not, meaning that even after they started their disertation, students needed a professor to fund them for at least two years. That said, they all had a pretty cushy life and didn’t realize it. I had already worked for three years before grad school and was simply amazed to see how easy grad school life was in general. My feeling was always they needed another cause, and decided they would be a great cause.