Almanac Between Issues February 26, 2004
Letter from President Judith Rodin and Provost Robert Barchi to the Penn Community
February 26, 2004
Beginning today, a group of graduate students is planning a two-day strike on the Penn campus. While we respect the right of these students to voice their opinion, we also must uphold our obligation to preserve the integrity and viability of Penn as one of the leading institutions of higher learning in the United States and the world. Let us be very clear: the University of Pennsylvania does not oppose unionization. Many of Penn's employee groups are represented by unions, with whom we have enjoyed professional, collegial and productive relationships. We value our union employees, and are committed to building on our positive relationships with them.
We are equally committed to upholding the principle that our graduate students are students--who are at Penn to receive education and training to become the next generation of university scholars. We view their teaching and research, which are at the heart of the debate, as essential components of their Ph.D. education and requirements to earn their degrees.
Most Penn Ph.D. students receive fully paid tuition and fees ($30,000), fully paid health insurance ($2,000), and at least a $15,000 per year stipend (many students get more, some more than $20,000) for serving part-time as teaching or research assistants. The total value of the package is approximately $50,000 per year. With the input and cooperation of existing graduate student organizations, we have raised stipends substantially, paid literally millions of dollars in health premiums, developed training programs, and established the new graduate student center.
It is worth noting that only about 1,000 of our nearly 3,600 Ph.D. enrolled graduate students were even declared eligible to vote in the union election process last February; this gerrymandering was the union's choice, and was a basis for the University's appeal. In May 2003, the National Board agreed to review Penn's case, concluding that the University's appeal "raises substantial issues warranting review."
Given these facts, we are disheartened that some graduate students have chosen the picket line as the vehicle to bring their concerns to the fore. Nonetheless, the University is attempting to operate normally, with classes, recitations and other activities proceeding as scheduled. We ask for your patience during this time. Strike or no strike, we remain committed to providing superior undergraduate, graduate and professional education. That is our mission. We are disappointed that a small minority of our student body, with the help of outsiders, is attempting to shut down this campus and deny undergraduates access to the education they have earned and are paying for.
We ask that during the two-day strike you go about your business as usual. The picketers have agreed not to interfere with the free movement of people on our campus. In that same spirit of civility, we ask that you treat the picketers with respect, regardless of which position you hold.