Is the union allowed to use my name and image without my permission?

Date: March 2017


Hello Deans,

It has come to my attention that CGSU has posted a photo of a banner in multiple places (website, Facebook, etc) in which member names can be seen. Many students have expressed concern that by releasing these names, CGSU violated their own constitution by not having permission from all of the students involved. Will the union committee board be looking into this matter?

A concerned graduate student


Dear Concerned Graduate Student,

Thank you for your Ask a Dean question. 

I understand concerns you and other students have regarding the public posting of photos and names by CGSU/AFT/NYSUT, including website, Facebook, and the recent ad in the Cornell Daily Sun. We have received reports from other students, as well, that they have not given explicit permission for CGSU/AFT/NYSUT to use their names or images publicly.

In some cases, students have said that the only way that CGSU/AFT/NYSUT would have their names could be from filling out information cards the union sent around, not from signing any kind of written endorsement of CGSU/AFT/NYSUT.

Similar to the petition that CGSU advertised as having >1,200 signatures, but really only had about 700 eligible voter signatures, the recent CGSU ad in the Cornell Daily Sun includes names of people who are not eligible voters, so it is difficult to interpret what the ad signifies. 

If any of the students who are concerned about their names or images being used without permission are members of CGSU, they could contact CGSU and complain that the CGSU constitution has been violated. Article VI, Section C of the CGSU constitution says that “No information, general or Union related, will be divulged by CGSU about any member to any non-member without that member’s prior permission.”

Ironically, however, under these circumstances it’s not clear that the CGSU constitution provides any protections to students who at some point gave their names to CGSU but decided not to join, or joined but later withdrew their membership. For students who are not members of CGSU but CGSU has their names, the CGSU constitution appears to be silent on CGSU’s ability to divulge information about non-members without that non-member’s prior permission.

Even though non-members’ information is not protected through the CGSU constitution from being used by CGSU without permission, it would still be reasonable for such individuals to contact CGSU and request that their name or image be removed if they do not want their name or image to be associated with CGSU.

Thanks again for sharing your concerns.

Warm regards,


Barbara A. Knuth
Senior Vice Provost and Dean of the Graduate School