For graduate workers like Tim and Valeria in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese, progress on their scholarly work was nearly impossible, required to work as the instructor of record for two classes per semester, double the amount of teaching that other departments required. By organizing together, the students of the Department of Spanish and Portuguese spoke with a united voice and demanded working conditions that compared to those of their peers in other departments. And it worked.
Graduate workers play vital roles in the operation and success of Georgetown University. But if we are not careful in managing the two facets of our roles at Georgetown—student and employee—then the quality of our work, both as academics and as employees, becomes threatened. What is expected of us as employees—expectations which are often poorly stated or poorly enforced—can interfere with those expected of us as academics.
For these reasons, GAGE is committed to fighting for positive changes in the working conditions of graduate employees in at least the three following areas:
First, GAGE believes that there are ways in which the experience of graduate workers as a whole can be improved, including the provision of adequate training for the various roles that graduate workers will fill; the guaranteed availability of office space on campus; and at least one year free from teaching responsibilities for doctoral programs. We believe the graduate school administration understands the necessity of each of these initiatives, but has not made the implementation of this policy a priority across departments and disciplines.
Second, GAGE acknowledges that the needs of graduate works will vary greatly depending upon their program, as well as upon their particular positions within those departments. As such, GAGE calls for each department’s faculty and students to produce a concrete list of 'Best Practices and Policies,’ describing the expectations, responsibilities, and limitations that structure graduate work, to be updated regularly. Such clearly defined expectations and codification of unwritten policies would benefit both faculty and graduate employees and would facilitate training for future students.
Third, GAGE believes that graduate workers should be able to hold their various departmental and administrative supervisors accountable for living up to the standards expressed in the above. For this reason, GAGE will fight to establish a robust and effective grievance process, a mechanism that will allow graduate workers to lodge complaints when appropriate, and to have those claims not only heard, but attended to and taken care of in a timely manner.
Interventions along these lines will not only improve the reputation of Georgetown University, but, more importantly, will enable graduate workers to realize their full academic, professional, and personal potentials.