February 15, 2018

The Administration's Opposition to Unionization Threatens UChicago's Reputation

Editor's Note: The following is an updated version of an original e-mail sent by Professor Yali Amit to University Provost Daniel Diermeier and Executive Vice Provost David Nirenberg, following news that Graduate Students United (GSU) has withdrawn its petition before the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).


Your campaign against graduate student unionization has significantly damaged the integrity of the University of Chicago both morally and intellectually. To mention a few examples: the various testimonies of deans at the NLRB hearing, the one-sided, biased e-mails from Dean Michele Rasmussen during the hearing, the propaganda web page you posted claiming to provide "facts" about unionization, the calls to students to go vote in the elections and your subsequent refusal to recognize the results of the vote, the President's claims that the U of C strongly supports free speech while refusing to recognize a democratically elected union or even have an open debate about unionization, and finally the latest e-mail from the Provost announcing the withdrawal of the petition to represent graduate students by the AAUP and the AFT with no explanation and no context.

Well, the context is quite clear, according to Graduate Students United’s website. We learn that this surprising move stems from fears, at the national level, that your actions in cooperation with the sinister anti-union agenda of the Trump administration will cause long standing damage to the graduate student unionization movement. It would behoove you to provide this explanation alongside your e-mail so that the University community is fully informed about what is going on.

Personally I find this chapter in the University's history profoundly distressing. In your desperate attempts to prevent unionization, you have chosen to ally the University with the most anti-intellectual, anti-science, anti-democratic, anti-education administration in modern U.S. history. You have chosen to fight unionization with tools that are antithetical to the core ideals of an intellectual and academic institution and have caused serious damage to the reputation of the University.

—Yali Amit, Professor, Departments of Statistics and Computer Science