Smaller Programs Will Lack a Voice in a Pan-Graduates School Union

Brief Overview

  • No mechanism for schools to “opt-out” of GET-UP’s representation
  • GET-UP’s constitution has no mechanism to ensure smaller schools have a voice in the union’s leadership or that their concerns will be heard

In-depth Overview

If there is a union election and a majority of students from a large program vote “yes” then all students will be forced to unionize. Smaller schools that feel a union is not in their interest will not be able to vote themselves out. Similarly, if the vote fails because a large school voted “no”, smaller schools that wanted a union will have no recourse. A model similar to Yale’s microunion structure would help address these concerns, but GET-UP is attempting to unionize all of Penn’s graduate students under one union.

Analysis of GET-UP’s constitution reveals that the union structure is highly undemocratic and has the potential to be controlled by a select few individuals. There is no mechanism that prevents large schools/programs from dominating leadership positions (see Section B: The Standing Committees and Article V: Elections), and smaller schools could simply be left out of any leadership role, including the contract negotiating committee. There is a significant range of PhD enrollment between all of Penn’s schools, which means the larger schools could dominate the union.

PhD Enrollment Across Programs

SAS-1356

Annenberg-81

Design-43

Education-105

SP2-27

BGS-752

SEAS/Engineering-476

Nursing-65

Wharton-195

Quorum (a certain percentage of the body that is required to vote) is only required for “substantial” decisions, with little-to-no explanation on how to determine what is substantial (Section B: Decision Making). Without quorum, many decisions could be determined by a small group of voters, potentially from just 1-2 schools. GET-UP would make our graduate groups less democratic, as power would not be equally shared among graduate programs.

Ratification of any union contract with Penn will also be determined by a majority vote and there is no guarantee the issues/concerns of each school or program will be protected or even addressed. While GET-UP hopes to address the issues relevant to all students, each program has unique concerns that simply cannot be handled in a “one size fits all” model. Any union, including GET-UP is limited in both its resources and time, some issues will be prioritized over others and it is completely possible for the needs and/or concerns of a smaller school to be overridden. A pan-graduate school union might help some students, but it cannot serve the best interest of all.