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Penn Faculty Support Grad Student Unions

Penn Faculty Support Grad Student Unions

Well, 53 of them at least.

After GET-UP–a Pennsylvania student group advocating for a grad student union–made their campaign public a couple weeks ago, a group of professors circulated a letter of support, getting 53 signatures in total.

Grad student unions have popped up over the past few months after the National Labor Relations Board ruled that grad students are employees, and as such have the right to unionize. Universities aren’t typically happy about these movements, but that’s because they’re the bosses.

Faculty endorsement is, if not necessarily influential, then definitely pretty cool. The relationship between tenured professors and their less job-secure colleagues isn’t the most ethical one: grad students and adjuncts do most of the teaching, letting tenured professors focus on prestige-building publications. That the end goal of many exploited academics is to exploit academics in turn makes the whole system feel like a bizarre pyramid scheme. Unions for grad students could be a welcome step towards academia that doesn’t run on poverty wages and crushing debt.

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About Stewart Finnegan

In a perfect world, I’d be a professor who teaches poetry using episodes of mediocre sci-fi procedurals, but for now, I’m just a tutor who watches a lot of TV. I got my BA from Kalamazoo College in English with a focus on creative writing, and someday soon I’d like to go back to academia.

Most of my formal teaching training was as a creative writing TA, but I’ve used those skills professionally more to tutor math and write data entry training materials. And though I’d like to focus my work on what I’m really passionate about (which is Netflix binges and outdated video games, mostly), it’s the craft of teaching and writing that keeps me coming back. That’s why I’m excited to be a part of High Faluter: I’m finding that academia doesn’t just stay in academia. And if I can bring crappy midbrow entertainment into academia too, well, all the better. You can find me on Twitter: @StewartFinnegan


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