For some time now, I have been observing the efforts of the Graduate Student Union and the SEIU on campus without concern. I had approached them, grabbed a flyer, had a few conversations with some of the SEIU employees (that’s right, employees—most of the people behind those tables are not actually Duke students; I was surprised about that too), and I went to the website. I did not like what I saw and brushed it off.
We have it good here. Our stipends more than cover Durham’s cheap living expenses, our insurance is provided, we have incredible facilities right here at our finger tips…and Duke is covering our >$50,000 tuition each year. Then there’s that incredibly prestigious degree we get if we pass that defense. Who would complain about a deal like that? And who would get a third party involved in negotiations with an already very responsive administration? In my mind, there was nothing to fear.
But I was wrong and it’s past time to take action. In a university where I previously felt I had a voice I’m now struggling to be heard. I (and my colleagues) have had to rehang flyers publicizing our opposition to the union that were strangely removed and replaced with ads for the union rally—not pointing fingers, just stating a painful observation. The administration has proven reluctant to communicate with us or even forward our letters to their students for fear of repercussions (that’s why we were hanging the flyers…). I suddenly feel I don’t have a voice.
Is this what our future at Duke looks like?
To my fellow graduate students, I’m not going to tell you how to vote. Instead, I am going to implore all of you—whether you’ve made up your mind or not—to please do your research. Don’t just accept propaganda being handed to you. Look at both sides. Understand what the SEIU’s methods are. Understand the decision will be made for you if you do not vote. Understand that you cannot “opt-out” if a union is formed. And understand that being a PhD student—and I emphasize the word “student” here—at Duke is a privilege and not a right.
If you’re interested in hearing more from me and my colleagues, please join us for a discussion elaborating on the potential negative impact of the union today, Nov. 14 at noon in Hudson 161. Look for us on Facebook. Tell your friends that we exist. Check back with The Chronicle later for updates on our mission. But most importantly, do some of your own research on how this union can hurt you. I think you’ll be surprised.
- Kate Marusak, PhD student in the Department of Mechanical Engineering & Materials Science
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