On Monday, Executive Vice President Ed Healton and I announced via email that we reached agreement with a group of graduate students, GAGE, and their partner union, the American Federation of Teachers, to hold an election determining whether those eligible want to be represented by the union.
This is a union election unlike any that has occurred at Georgetown, in that it is taking place outside the purview of the National Labor Relations Board. It is not an election that has been directed by the NLRB, but one that the University and GAGE/AFT have mutually agreed will occur.
As a Jesuit university, we excel at intergroup dialogue. We engage in dialogue across religions, races, ethnicities, political ideologies, and groups differing on countless other issues. Hence, the email we sent asks that all members of the community learn about the issues relating to graduate student unionization.
We have provided FAQ’s, with answers to common questions. We will update these over time, in order to stay current with issues as they arise. We have also provided guidance to faculty and staff on how best to engage in respectful dialogue on the issues.
We want all community members to discuss the consequences of graduate student unionization. We are not just permitting such talk, we are encouraging it. Over the many years of Georgetown’s existence, we have learned that we collectively become better when we understand each other’s viewpoint better. When we engage in dialogue, our community grows stronger.
Hence, we urge faculty to express their views consistent with the guidelines referenced above and listen to the views of their faculty colleagues and those of students. We encourage graduate students to express their views and listen to the views of fellow students and those of faculty. Dialogue involves both listening and talking.
We can imagine many different ways to foster real dialogue:
- The unit chair/director can take advantage of existing informal settings, to permit faculty and students to interact and discuss the issues
- Individual students can seek out discussions with faculty
- Students can meet with faculty over lunches
- Labs with several research assistants could use their routine group meetings to discuss the issues
- Deans could use their open office hours to meet with graduate students and faculty about the issues
In short, we think there are many different ways that Georgetown could take this moment as an opportunity to understand different perspectives more fully. When we do that, everyone involved will make better judgments, and we can build a better institution.
As a Jesuit institution, we excel at inter-group dialogue. It would be a shame to miss the opportunity to foster that at this moment. So, to my colleagues, both graduate students and faculty, I urge you to review the FAQ’s and guidelines and talk to each other.