GSEU Campus Updates
Stony Brook Worker Editorial
Stony Brook is just one of sixty-four institutions in the SUNY system–the largest state university system in the United States. We spoke to graduate worker representatives from GSEU chapters at SUNY Buffalo, SUNY Albany, and SUNY Binghamton to learn about recent and current campaigns, difficulties, and victories.
SUNY GSEU Organizers
SUNY Buffalo GSEU
Fall 2022, the University at Buffalo GSEU continued to fight for a stipend floor of $22k and no broad-based fees in the $22k in ‘22 campaign. While graduate workers were quite pleased with last year’s success in the abolition of fees, this change did not affect all graduate workers equally, since it excluded Master’s students and graduate workers not working academic departments. With the continuation of the $22k in ‘22 campaign, we emphasized that every graduate worker deserves a livable wage that is not reduced by broad-based fees. At the beginning of December, and only 24 hours after GSEU members read a statement at the UB Council meeting about their campaign, the university raised the stipend floor to $23,000.
To support this campaign, members attended the State of the University event, where we handed out pamphlets detailing graduate workers’ state of the union, specifically calling for fair workloads, increased stipend floors, and an end to broad-based fees. Notably, President Tripathi’s speech at the State of the University extolled the virtues of only the most academically successful graduate students while refusing to address our roles and difficulties as workers.
President Tripathi also mentioned the opening of the new One World Cafe multiple times while failing to mention that the cafe’s construction went $23 million dollars over budget. Graduate workers protested the opening of the cafe in March to call attention to this misallocation of Funds.
While we have tried to meet the deans of the colleges at UB to discuss the kinds of support they would need from the university to better support their graduate workers, we have found these efforts blocked at every turn. Although several deans initially agreed to meet with us, they quickly rescinded their offers. Each dean then emailed us to inform us they would not meet, referring us to Employee Relations instead. Regardless, we have continued to request meetings via an email-writing campaign that members of the GSEU participated in. Luckily, our campaign has been receiving increased public attention, particularly from the Buffalo News, who will soon be publishing a story about the campaign.
SUNY Binghamton GSEU
This semester, Binghamton GSEU started its Living Wage Campaign! Their campaign has received wide support,. We held a postcard writing event to the board of trustees, plan a protest for the first week of the semester, and will circulate our petition. GSEU at BU has been working on cases involving discrimination, overworked and pay discrepancies.
On October 15, GSEU UAlbany former organizer Rachel Rampil, UUP ally David Banks, ACCFL president Ibrahím Pedriñán, and other community allies and alums showed up for the Fees protest at the Homecoming Pregame event outside the football stadium at UAlbany.
SUNY Albany GSEU
At SUNY Albany, all graduate workers are still paying fees. Only doctorate graduate workers who work directly for their departments have received stipend increases and waived a small portion of the fees they must pay. We are disappointed with the University’s remorseless reaction in facing graduate workers’ minimal wages, not to mention the inflation they have had to bear. In Fall 2022, Albany GSEU hosted four fee protests, sought fee-elimination support from the University Life Council and the Graduate Student Association, and started distributing the fee petition. In 2023, while we will continue fighting for our members on fees and living wages, we look forward to the promising contract negotiation ahead of us. We aim to bring more rights and benefits to our members for the first four years.
Along with Albany GSEU’s persistent advocation fee abolishment was the University’s unlawful acts. One of Albany’s campus organizers, Amie Zimmerman, was physically attacked by Todd Foreman, the University’s VP for Finance and Administration Executive Council, during the outdoor Homecoming Weekend Protest on Oct. 15, 2022. Ironically, the University disciplined the same Organizer for violating community conduct by using a megaphone during the protest. Mr. Foreman’s physical attack was unjustifiable, and the discipline was considered a more retaliatory move from the university. Amie’s lawyer is currently suing a lawsuit for retaliatory battery with Mr. Foreman’s physical attack, and the recent discipline will be added as more retaliation.
We made solid progress by achieving partial fees scholarship and stipend increases for the doctorate departmental-line workers. However, we are far from being satisfied with the current result and are outraged with the University’s retaliatory reactions to our advocates. We hope 2023 will be a more rewarding year.