Statement on the Labor Action of Graduate Students

The AAUP has a long record of advocating for student, as well as faculty, rights. These include the right to exercise academic freedom in the pursuit of teaching and research and the right to fair labor conditions in the work performed by graduate students for the university. In addition, as we know, the training of graduate students is a matter of fundamental importance to the academic profession. Doctoral-granting institutions have a particular obligation to safeguard the pre-professional careers of students. The survival of the profession is already threatened by the steady erosion of the tenure-track as its standard. The culture of academe cannot be further diminished by undermining the survival of those who are its future. That is why it is necessary to fully support our graduate students during the global pandemic.

While we recognize that the university is facing a financial crunch, many members of the NYU community—staff, faculty, and students—are under severe financial pressure as partners and other members of their households are losing employment, and as costs of living increases are far outstripping freezes to salaries and stipends.
Many students who rely on casual employment to fund their studies have been hit hard. Moreover, international graduate students who are core to NYU’s Global Network University are especially vulnerable both financially and in terms of maintaining their immigration status.  In times like these, a university can and should show that it is a caring institution that prioritizes the well-being of all of its members. 

Most recently, AAUP have advocated for extensions of the tenure clock, extensions of contracts for all fulltime faculty, extensions of student fellowships, and extra attention to the needs of international and undocumented students So far, the NYU administration has granted only the first of these. We urge the administration to move rapidly on the others.

Given the urgency of their situation—graduate students are facing a summer without financial security– and the lack of an adequate response from administrators, graduate students are taking extraordinary action with the planned sick-out on May 6, 7, and 8. In keeping with longstanding AAUP principles, we support the decision of the student coalition of students calling for this sick-out. We also fully support the demands they have put forward, as follows:

Extend all university graduate student funding packages and time-to-degree deadlines by one year. Provide tuition waivers for all master’s students who opt-in to degree extensions. Waive maintenance of matriculation and health care fees for all graduate students. Provide three-month emergency summer funding proportionate to the AY fellowship amount. 

NYU cannot ignore the basic needs of students while relying on their labor to fulfil the university’s academic obligations. They already receive less than the living wage in New York City; now they are facing ongoing and indefinite material insecurities that threaten their fledgling careers and will have long term consequences for their capacity to remain in graduate school. We urge the administration to meet their needs and demands.

The Executive Committee of the NYU Chapter of the AAUP

Rebecca Karl, President

Paula Chakravartty Vice-President

Andrew Ross, Secretary

Fred Moten , Member-at-large

Vasuki Nesiah, Member-at-large

Mohamad Bazzi, Member-at-large

Marie Monaco, Immediate past President