Several questions about student union design

Date: March 2017


Dear Dean,

I want to emphasize some deficiencies in the student union design with my questions integrated. 

  1. The representation of union organizers tells us a lot: as far as I know, the active leaders in CGSU are predominantly white, who will NOT understand sufficiently on concerns from international non-white students. I emailed the CGSU before, and they only reply to my email two weeks later. I wonder whether they care about what graduate students care adequately?!
  2. I am sincerely surprised why CGSU organizers have so much time calling and knocking the doors of graduate students, instead if conducting research… Then why should I pay the union fee to support people who don’t work as hard but ask for a transfer? Why should I chip in to pay for lawyers helping the union? Their communication is horrible: they won’t want to leave your home unless you say you are gonna vote “yes”… Totally crazy.  
  3. The current “tax” system is poorly designed: why you tax people purely based on income but not adjust for identity? International students have less tax benefit in this country but need to pay expensive flight tickets. Why do you want to redistribute hard-earned stipends mandatorily? From what I know, student unions in a few other institutions rarely charge student fees for the mandatory membership, and many of us are unwilling to pay for things that are not going to benefit us.
  4. Are there any legal rules stating that no one can drop the union once it’s formed? Legal standards are made by people and are subject to changes. 

Anti-Union Student


Dear Anti-Union Student,

Thank you for your Ask a Dean question. 

I understand your interest in knowing more about the knowledge and understanding of the CGSU leadership, especially related to the concerns of international non-white students. I would encourage you to contact them directly for more information, but it seems you have tried that and have not received timely responses that you found helpful. 

Regarding your concern about coping with unwanted home visits from CGSU/AFT/NYSUT, my guess is that home visits should stop shortly, given the election is March 27 and 28.  

You also expressed concern about mandatory union fees. You can find more information about union dues on the Union Representation FAQ, based on information CGSU/AFT/NYSUT provided directly to us and asked us to post earlier. 

Regarding legal rules, procedures to remove a union are complex, requiring a decertification vote similar to the election procedure used to certify a union. Until a union is decertified, it would continue to be the exclusive representative of all Ithaca and Geneva campus-based Graduate School students on assistantships.

Consider encouraging all of your eligible voter graduate student colleagues to vote in the election on March 27 and 28. Every vote matters.

Warm regards,


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