Here are some updates from Day 5 of our hearings at the NLRB. You can get a sense of what Penn’s witnesses are saying by following @GETUPgrads and #UPennHearing, but here’s what we heard, and what we felt, while we were in the room today.
For the most part, today’s testimony from Joseph Turow, Associate Dean of Annenberg, and Nora Lewis, Vice Dean for Professional and Liberal Education, reinforced two things that we already knew. First, it reinforced that Penn’s lawyers are quite intent on stalling as much as they can. The day’s proceedings concluded 2.5 hours early. This drags out the proceedings, by forcing more and more days of testimony. This comes at the precise moment that President Trump put forward his nominees to the NLRB. This is what we have feared all along, and what Penn has been counting on as well. Trump’s nominees stand to undermine the gains that graduate workers at private universities across the country have made in the last year.
Second, it became clear that without graduate workers, Penn could maintain neither its large class sizes, nor the intimate educational environment from which our students currently benefit. This is obviously only possible because of all the work that graduate student workers do in recitation sections and office hours. Associate Dean Turow even said that he would “grade exams himself if he had smaller classes.” Instead, grads are doing that work. We’re the people that the undergrads reach out to in order to get help on assignments and to clarify the material. They come to our office hours because they know us and feel comfortable with us, and respect the work that we do.
To us, GET-UP is about unifying graduate students across Penn in an effort to compel the university to value the contributions we make to the academic development of thousands of undergraduates. For us, it is about creating unity, which is especially important in the current political climate. The window is closing on our right to unionize, as Trump’s appointees speed towards confirmation. If Penn really valued its graduate workers, as it claims to, then it would stop stalling and let us make this decision democratically and for ourselves.
If you agree with us, please join us and many others in pledging to vote YES in our upcoming election. It’s an important show of strength to Penn that we want to exercise our rights, while we still have the time!
Mia Schatz and Danielle Hanley