To: Brown Faculty, Staff and Graduate Students
From: President Christina Paxson, Provost Richard Locke and Dean of the Graduate School Andrew G. Campbell
Re: This Week's NLRB Ruling
Date: August 26, 2016
Dear Brown Faculty, Staff and Graduate Students,
The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ruled Tuesday that graduate students at private colleges and universities who serve as teaching or research assistants are employees with the right to decide whether or not to unionize.
Prior to this decision, the University urged the NLRB to consider Brown graduate students as students, first and foremost, reflecting our strong belief that teaching and research are integral to a graduate education – preparing students for leading positions in academia, industry and the public sector.
Although the NLRB acknowledged that research and teaching are components of graduate education, it decided that students are also "statutory employees" who may choose to unionize. The University will comply with the NLRB's recent decision and support discussions among graduate students as they explore whether or not unionization is right for them.
Regardless of whether or not graduate students at Brown decide to unionize, the University's dedication to providing all of our students with exceptional research opportunities and teaching experiences will continue, as will our commitment to the well-being of graduate students. Currently, decisions about graduate stipends, assistantships and benefits are supported through Brown's shared governance system, where graduate students play an integral role. Ongoing engagement through this governance structure has led to increased stipends and benefits in recent years, including most recently providing doctoral students with guaranteed dental care, sixth-year funding when needed, and enhanced parental relief.
We expect that the spirit of cooperation and collegiality that has informed previous discussions of graduate student concerns will continue. It is important that the upcoming discussions and debates about the pros and cons of unionization are open and honest, and that students have access to the information they need to make good choices.
It is essential that these discussions are free of any form of intimidation by any party.
The website established this summer continues to serve as a resource for reference materials and responses to frequently asked questions as these discussions move forward. We look forward to constructive and balanced dialogue on the topic of graduate education and graduate student unionization in the coming weeks and months.
President Christina Paxson
Provost Richard Locke
Dean of the Graduate School Andrew G. Campbell