Letter to the Editor
If higher education truly wishes to help solve the world’s complex problems, it is essential that all voices get a seat at the table, including those of graduate student workers. At Washington University, we need to do more to ensure graduate student workers don’t have to choose between academic success and personal well-being. We are “privileged to be here,” we graduate student workers are so often told, and we shouldn’t question issues of compensation if we are truly passionate about the work we do. But as long as Washington University insists that we are students only, graduate student workers receive none of the protections afforded to employees under the law, even while we are compelled to remain in this tenuous position in order to complete our degrees.
While Wash. U. is ostensibly committed to its role as a beacon of higher learning in the St. Louis community, it is in fact run as a business—and an incredibly lucrative one, at that. But good businesses invest in their employees. By promoting the well-being of the whole employee, Wash. U. stands to benefit from higher graduation rates, better job placement, better academic and teaching work and a healthier spirit of collaboration between students and their faculty advisors.
I believe a graduate student worker union will offer those protections where the administration has failed to do so, resulting in better conditions for workers and increased productivity across the University. In turn, these conditions will strengthen the University’s ability to perform meaningful work in the broader St. Louis community.