This summer, Albany has joined with GSEU campuses statewide to ensure worker safety during the pandemic and to protest racism on college campuses. Since the campus closed prior to Spring Break, Albany leadership have worked to field questions from graduate student employees regarding working safely from home, overwork issues, and visa/immigration issues related to employment.
In April, we released a petition demanding that campus administrators take the following actions to protect graduate student employees:
- Commit to no workforce reductions for graduate student employees
- Reimburse mandatory fees
- Extend time-to-degree and funding for all current PhD students for a full year
- Provide adequate PPE and safe working conditions for those students still expected to come to campus for work
In May, we conducted a survey of graduate student employees’ experiences during the pandemic and held a Reverse Town Hall in June to reinforce our demands. Albany campus administrators Carol Kim (Provost/ VP Academic Affairs) and Kevin Williams (Dean of the Graduate School) were in attendance at the event and heard testimonials from Albany grad students.
In response to the Black Lives Matter movement, Albany leadership committed to supporting structural changes to combat racism on campus. We have been in conversation with existing campus organizations, such as the RGSO Graduate Students of Color Organization (GSCO), and are committed to taking action to promote equity in higher education. We also signed onto a petition created by SUNY Black Faculty and Staff which outlines specific steps the university must take to work toward racial justice.
In July, we organized a Write-In/Call-In campaign to advocate for international students and demand greater action from campus administration to combat the Trump Administration requirement that international students take classes in-person, despite risks to their health. As a result of graduate student efforts, we received official responses from President Havidan Rodriguez and Dean Kevin Williams in support of our demands. The SUNY administration also released a statement that they would join the lawsuit against this new policy. This was a major victory for GSEU and for international students.
Although the pace of activism has increased, the GSEU will never give up on fighting for our members. We are committed to ensuring safe working conditions and an inclusive work environment for all employees at UAlbany. We will continue to advocate throughout the pandemic to protect the rights of graduate students.