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Graduate students rally in front of Allen Building after inconclusive unionization vote

<p>The Duke Graduate Student Union&nbsp;accused the University of "disenfranchising" voters in Friday's union election.&nbsp;</p>

The Duke Graduate Student Union accused the University of "disenfranchising" voters in Friday's union election. 

The Duke Graduate Student Union held a rally Wednesday afternoon in front of the Allen Building following the indeterminate results of Friday's vote on unionization. 

The majority of the votes counted were against unionization by a two-to-one margin, but 500 other ballots are still being challenged on the basis of eligibility. Michael Schoenfeld, vice president for public affairs and government relations, wrote in an email Friday that a number of ballots had been identified belonging to individuals not enrolled as students, not within the legally defined "bargaining unit" or otherwise ineligible. 

DGSU—which is not yet legally a union given the inconclusive results—announced the rally after accusing the University of "disenfranchising" voters. There were approximately 50 students in attendance. 

"Friday's results are officially inconclusive," said Claire Ravenscroft, a graduate student in English. "The fact is that Duke has impounded the votes of over 500 students, so definitely the primary issue we're focused on now is making sure those voices are heard."

However, Schoenfeld countered this account in an email Thursday evening. He wrote that about 300 ballots were impounded by the NLRB and that both the Service Employees International Union and Duke were responsible for various challenges. Kate Marusak, a graduate student who belongs to the group Students Against Duke Unionization, also wrote in an email that both Duke and SEIU had challenged ballots.

"303 of the challenged ballots were impounded by order of the NLRB in Washington, DC because the Regional Director failed to allow the University an opportunity to litigate the eligibility of Teaching and Research Assistants who are not serving this semester but held appointments in 2016," Schoenfeld wrote. "The remaining 200 challenges were asserted on various grounds against different voters by both SEIU and Duke."

The National Labor Relations Board will hold hearings to decide whether the impounded votes should be counted, but a date has not yet been set.

Ravenscroft said that DGSU has tried to unite different parts of the University under the umbrella of unionization.

"This has been an incredible exercise for me personally, getting to talk to so many graduate students from across the disciplines and across colleges about the issues that are really of concern to them at Duke and also the things they really love about Duke," Ravenscroft said. "And there has definitely been swelling momentum over the past few months, getting more people involved and more people onboard and bringing in as many perspectives and voices as we possibly can."

Sophomore Sydney Roberts, a DGSU supporter and member of The Chronicle's editorial board, attended the event and said the vote was part of a larger struggle. For example, Roberts added that the University was "aligning itself with Trump" by standing in the way of students being heard.

Roberts also encouraged undergraduate students to come out and show their support for graduate students at the University. 

"If the undergraduates feel disconnected from the staff that work in our dorms and dining halls, or the [teacher assistants] grading our essays and meeting with us in office hours, [the University] knows we won't back them up when they demand better working conditions," Roberts said. "So it's crucial that as undergraduates we are able to connect our struggles to those around us."

Editor's note: This article was corrected 10:00 P.M. Thursday to clarify Schoenfeld's earlier remarks and add a new quote from him. The Chronicle regrets the error. 


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