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










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.