Student Union Expansion

Dear Students, Faculty, and Staff,
On behalf of the Grinnell College Board of Trustees and administration, we are writing to inform you of the unanimous vote regarding potential expansion of the Union of Grinnell Student Dining Workers (UGSDW).
After careful and extensive review of input from students, faculty, staff, and alumni, the Board, in concert with the administration, concluded that while there are important issues to be addressed on campus, expanding the union is not the appropriate way to do so.
Principal among the reasons why the Board concluded it could not support expansion of the union were the following:
  • The Board takes seriously concerns raised by students and to the extent there are any gaps in meeting student financial needs, College leadership should and does take responsibility for addressing those needs.
  • With expansion to cover all student workers being the stated ultimate UGSDW goal, we believe the academic character of the College and health of student-faculty relationships would be materially harmed and complicated by expansion.
  • We believe union expansion would muddle the charge to Grinnell's Student Government Association to serve as elected representatives of the entire student body, and diminish the important shared leadership role SGA plays on campus.
We understand that some members of our community may have been hoping for a different outcome. And we understand why, after the administration expressed a willingness to consider a partial union expansion last spring, they may have believed more campus jobs would come to be represented by UGSDW. However, after getting more complete input from a broader cross-section of Grinnellians, and as the result of a thorough assessment of all the information gathered, the Board and administration ultimately concluded for many reasons - and especially for those outlined above - that it would not be appropriate to expand the union.
The guiding principles for our decision are our shared core values of excellence in education, a diverse community, and social responsibility. We believe that we can preserve Grinnell's collaborative environment, meet our students' demonstrated financial needs, and better achieve solutions for many of the concerns we heard without asking students to bargain their way to meeting their needs.
For example, in response to many of the concerns raised, we are standardizing HR policies across student employment opportunities, and examining the possibility of further increasing aid through student grants above and beyond the regular increases to financial aid that the College makes every year. Further, the administration and Board have committed to an annual increase in pay rates, consistent with the base pay increase for staff, for all non-union student work positions starting next fiscal year (FY21).
We are also working to improve awareness about resources available to students for help with any issues that they may face, as well as ways to pursue grant aid adjustments due to changed family financial circumstances. And because we heard from some student workers that they are not clear what recourses are available to address workplace concerns, a message from Vice President of Finance and Treasurer Keith Archer will be sent to all students next week to provide detailed steps to take if they need help with issues they face in their job.
While we have determined that expanding the union is not the way forward, we are proud to have supported the formation of the country's first independent union for undergraduate students at a private college, and we remain strong supporters of our student workers. We look forward to our continued partnership with the UGSDW.
For more information about the decision, please read the open letter from Michael Kahn '74, Trustees and Administration Union Expansion Working Group chair to Jacob Schneyer '21, recently-elected UGSDW president, which explains the decision in detail and outlines actions the College is taking to address many of the issues raised.
As was shared earlier this week, we also welcome students, faculty, and staff to participate in an open forum session with members of the Board at 2:15 p.m. today in the Rosenfield Center, JRC 101.
Sincerely yours,
David Maxwell '66, Chair, Board of Trustees
Raynard S. Kington, President

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