Distributed May 31, 2001
For Immediate Release
News Service Contact: Mark Nickel



United Auto Workers petition

University urges grad students to preserve collegial mentoring relationship
In a recent letter e-mailed to faculty and graduate students, Provost Kathryn Spoehr and Dean of the Graduate School Peder Estrup discussed a petition filed by the United Auto Workers. The UAW is seeking the exclusive right to represent teaching assistants at Brown.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — In a recent letter to faculty and graduate students, Provost Kathryn Spoehr and Dean of the Graduate School Peder Estrup discussed a petition filed by the United Auto Workers, seeking the exclusive right to represent teaching assistants at the University. Spoehr and Estrup urged graduate students “to consider how best to preserve the strong and effective mentoring relationship that has characterized Brown throughout its history.”

The letter was e-mailed Thursday, May 31, and will also be printed and mailed. The text of that letter follows.


May 29, 2001

Dear Brown Faculty and Graduate Students:

Earlier this month, the United Auto Workers petitioned the National Labor Relations Board in Boston for the exclusive right to represent graduate and undergraduate teaching assistants and certain graduate students who are teaching fellows, research assistants or proctors at Brown University. Their petition has set in motion an NLRB process which could lead to a vote on union representation as early as next fall by students who hold such positions.

Although it is still too early in the process to know where this will lead, we wanted to share with you some of the questions and issues that the University will soon be called upon to address.

Many of these issues lie close to the core of our institution. As a major international research university, Brown’s fundamental mission is to discover new knowledge and to pass on that knowledge to new generations of students. Our Graduate School has the additional task of ensuring that the men and women who will become the nation’s faculty have mastered the skills and techniques – even the art – of discovering and disseminating knowledge.

We believe that graduate education is a holistic process and that it takes place in a variety of settings – in laboratories, in the field, in classrooms, in libraries, and online. It relies on a very special nurturing and collegial relationship between faculty and students in an environment where students and faculty collaborate freely as junior and senior colleagues. As the University community begins its discussion about the merits of the United Auto Workers petition, we urge all members of our community to consider how best to preserve the strong and effective mentoring relationship that has characterized Brown throughout its history.

On May 24 in Boston, Brown participated in a conference with the regional office of the NLRB to discuss issues raised by the petition. These issues will be addressed in detail in NLRB hearings starting June 5, 2001. Those hearings will be part of a non-adversarial fact-gathering process designed to determine whether the group described in the United Auto Workers petition constitutes an appropriate bargaining unit of employees.

We want you to know that the University will cooperate fully with the NLRB proceedings and will provide whatever detailed information is required regarding various teaching and Graduate School programs and their participants. The University also will be called upon, from time to time, to state its position on various legal issues, and we will do so.

We also want you to know that we are committed to keeping our graduate students and the rest of the campus community informed of our positions as the NLRB process moves forward. It is our intention to provide information through a Web site and to communicate directly with you as necessary. We will also do our best to respond to any questions you may have. Please send them by campus mail to either the Provost (Box 1862 or e-mail to Provost@brown.edu) or the Dean of the Graduate School and Research (Box 1867 or e-mail to Graduate_Dean @brown.edu).

We are proud of our faculty’s commitment to teaching and of the collegial relationship between our graduate students and our faculty. Those are qualities that define the Brown experience, and we are committed to preserving them. We urge you to involve yourself fully in discussions that may be prompted by the NLRB proceedings.

Sincerely,


Kathryn Spoehr
Executive Vice President and Provost

Peder Estrup
Dean of the Graduate School and Research

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