April 14, 2019

Dear Graduate Students:

On Wednesday, April 10, I hosted a town hall to explore what union representation by the United Steelworkers could mean for graduate students at Pitt.

I respect the passionate opinions and viewpoints I heard, and I also understand that many among you still have questions about how a union would operate, who and what a collective bargaining agreement would cover, and how stipends and hours could be affected. I urge you to learn all you can.

As you may know, I also pursued my graduate studies here at Pitt—I earned two master’s degrees and my doctorate from Pitt. So for me, it’s personal. I am committed to doing everything I can to make sure every student has the best experience possible.

And I believe that the best way to do that is through direct dialogue—rather than a third-party stepping in—especially when the United Steelworkers has no experience representing any graduate students in the United States.

Pitt has also demonstrated its commitment to graduate education over the years through graduate aid packages that include stipends that are more than competitive when compared with other major research universities—increasing 13.2 percent over the last five years, faster than the rate of inflation (7.4 percent) in that same period. In addition, students with academic appointments receive a benefits-rich health insurance package at no cost.

I also think it’s important to note that you have many chances to collaborate with the University to influence our policies and practices. In fact, your fellow graduate students are actively representing you in this manner. Just a few example of the bodies with graduate student representation are the:

  • University Council on Graduate Studies;
  • University Planning and Budget Committee;
  • University Research Council;
  • Senate Budget Policies Committee;
  • Senate Benefits and Welfare Committee; and the
  • Public Safety Committee.

And these positions/appointments are not just for show. Through your participation, graduate students have helped to shape important recent outcomes like:

  • Expanded Title IX services and staffing;
  • Expanded counseling services;
  • Expanded representation on Board of Trustees committees;
  • Creation of a Graduate Student Teaching Initiative at the University Center for Teaching and Learning;
  • A new University-wide graduate and professional student orientation;
  • Creation of parental accommodation guidelines;
  • A new school-based system of omsbudspeople for graduate students; and
  • Increased funding support for student-organized interdisciplinary workshops.

There will always be opportunities for more improvements to be made and your participation is valued and vital to the progress of the University.

And your vote in this week’s election is just as important.

Voting will take place 9 a.m.–5 p.m. at two locations:

  • April 15–16: Posvar Hall, Room 2501
  • April 17–18: O’Hara Student Center, Second Floor Ballroom

The election is your one chance to vote on whether the United Steelworkers should represent you. No matter where you stand on the issue, take the time to cast your secret ballot. As with most elections, the majority of those who actually vote determines the outcome. So, if 100 students vote, just 51 votes for the same outcome will determine the election—and the results will be binding for all 2,016 graduate students in the bargaining unit and for generations of graduate students to come.

Your vote matters. Make sure your voice is heard.

Hail to Pitt!

Ann E. Cudd
Provost and Senior Vice Chancellor