by Thomas Ronan
November 16, 2018
The Boston College’s Graduate Student Union (BCGEU-UAW) recently released an online petition in response to the Office of the Dean of Students punishing 16 graduate students for their involvement in on-campus protests.
As The Gavel previously reported, on Sept. 28 approximately 35 graduate students representing BCGEU-UAW picketed outside the Pops on the Heights concert. Earlier that day, union members had planted themselves throughout the audience at one of Father Leahy’s speeches. Three students near the front of the audience stood up and shouted, “Jesuit values are worker values. Bargain now with the graduate employees union” and were promptly asked to leave.
Of the 16 graduate students facing disciplinary action, 13 were due to involvement at the Picket at the Pops protest. The last three were students that the Boston College administration believed stood up during Leahy’s presentation.
The Gavel spoke with three graduate students representing the Union to get a better understanding of the scope of the punishments. According to the Union, the 13 students disciplined over the Pops protest received “administrative warnings” and were required to attend one of two hearings with Dean Tom Mogan.
In these hearings, the Union maintains that Dean Mogan “took up the majority of the time by trying to reiterate the fact that we are students” and interrupted those who disagreed. “It was clear that this was not an actual attempt to get our version of events to hear what we had to say, it was mostly an attempt to lecture us on our proper place [in the university].”
Although the administration reiterates that graduate students are not workers and thus are subject solely to the university’s student code of conduct, BCGEU-UAW continues to affirm that graduate student workers should also be considered employees. “We have dual roles at the university,” the Union explained. “HR seems to acknowledge that by providing us with W-2 forms.”
The Union maintains that the university has no right to discipline the graduate student workers—as they participated in the picket as workers, not students. Therefore, the student code of conduct does not apply to their picket.
One point of contention with the administration is that the student code of conduct requires registering protests with the Office of the Dean of Students two days in advance. As workers are legally allowed to picket under NLRB regulations, BCGEU-UAW did not register the protest in advance.
The Union also said they received verbal consent from Boston College administration to stand in a specific area off to the side of Conte and only handed out fliers within that zone.
As only 13 out of the approximately 35 graduate students present at the protest were disciplined, it is unclear as to how the administration determined the students selected. The Office of the Dean of Students explained that it used video and photo evidence as well as memory of the events to determine which students to discipline. The 13 disciplined students are composed of a mix of students who did and did not hand out fliers.
The three members of the Union interviewed by The Gavel believe the administration targeted people based on their union involvement: “There were dozens and dozens of people at this picket but only 16 were called in for discipline. What this looks like is that the dean is trying to to target people based on their perceived status within the union, so they are trying to preemptively silence people by generating fear.”
The other three graduate students disciplined for standing up at Father Leahy’s presentation received individual hearings and stricter punishments. However, the Union maintains that one of those students was falsely accused by the administration.
“They basically falsely identified one of the people involved in that action and gave them a high level of university probation,” explained one of the students, “despite the fact that many people corroborated that person’s account that they were not one of the people who stood up.”
In addition, the union claims that there is video evidence that supports this claim.
Ultimately, BCGEU-UAW hopes its petition, titled “Boston College: Stop Punishing Grad Workers and Bargain Now,” will lead to the university recognizing that the larger BC community disagrees with the administration’s refusal to bargain with the union and its punishing of the 16 graduate student workers. The union also hopes the petition will help Boston College come to realize that unionization would benefit the community as a whole, not just graduate students.
The petition comes at a time when the Union has exhausted the majority of their avenues for seeking an audience with the administration, including what is laid out by Boston College as the official way to discuss with the university. “We want to emphasize that these demonstrations came after an entire year of trying to speak to the university within the means they have set up.”
Members of the Boston College community can show their support for the Boston College Graduate Student Union by signing the petition here or by reaching out to the union email address at firstname.lastname@example.org.