LOYOLA SUPPORT FOR GRADUATE ASSISTANTS
What services and financial support does the university provide to graduate assistants?
The University offers graduate assistants a competitive package of services, including competitive stipends that are benchmarked against other area universities, tuition reimbursement, health and dental benefits, travel awards, and professional development opportunities. For a review of services and support, please see here: https://luc.edu/loyolaforyou/ourcommitment/. While Loyola know these offerings are competitive, the University is committed to evaluating on an ongoing basis the support provided to graduate assistants and to making improvements where warranted. In fact, this ongoing evaluation is what led to the enhanced financial programs that the University launched within the previous academic year.
Will stipends be increased annually?
We are committed to regularly undertaking market-based reviews to ensure that stipends and our other academic-based awards for graduate assistants are in keeping with our social justice values.
Are grant-funded graduate students receiving a stipend increase?
Grant-funded graduate assistants at the Lakeside campuses receive the same stipend increases as those extended to graduate assistants with stipends funded by the University. The University will supplement grant funding to ensure that all graduate assistants receive a base stipend of $24,000 for a 12-month appointment and $18,000 for a 9-month appointment. Additionally, grant-funded graduate assistants will receive the same experience-based stipend increases as those provided to graduate students whose stipend is funded by the University. The Health Sciences Division, based on student feedback, benchmarked its financial and other support awards for graduate assistants as part of its ongoing commitment to a fair and just academic environment in keeping with its Jesuit, Catholic mission.
What prompted Loyola to implement stipend increases?
We continually review our offerings of support to graduate assistants to ensure that they are competitive with comparable institutions and consistent with our Jesuit, Catholic mission, social justice values, transformative education, and our focus on student experience and satisfaction in all that we do. The stipend increase and other enhancements are the result of a multi-year review that included the solicitation of direct feedback from graduate assistants as well as a market comparison of our graduate assistant support and input received from Dr. Rooney’s listening sessions and conversations throughout academic year 2016–17.
Aside from the new base stipend, what other enhanced support for graduate assistants is expected to roll out academic year 2018-19?
Beginning in 2018-19, The Graduate School increased its maximum travel award to $500. Also in 2018, the University updated the job descriptions for graduate assistants to develop common expectations in teaching and research roles, added a dental component to its student health plan, and eliminated the restriction on off-campus employment. This year Loyola will also be expanding ways to broaden the scope of orientation for international students and to provide regular forums to address the unique issues that arise when transitioning to graduate studies in the United States. The University will additionally continue efforts to increase diversity within both student and faculty ranks, as well as keep open channels of communication with GSAC and the Graduate Council while creating new opportunities for graduate assistants to voice their perspectives with senior administrative leaders.
What is the basis for receiving an assistantship award?
Graduate assistant awards are granted based on a student’s academic profile and potential for successful graduate studies and are renewed based on a student’s academic progress and their performance in a graduate assistant role.
What is the university's position regarding graduate assistants seeking off-campus employment?
In response to feedback by graduate assistants, the University no longer restricts off-campus employment for graduate assistants. On-campus assistantships may not exceed 19.5 hours.
What opportunities do graduate assistants have to contribute their ideas and perspectives to senior administration and to generally have a voice at Loyola?
Graduate assistants can participate in shared governance through the University Senate, Graduate Student Advisory Council and Graduate, Professional and Adult Council, as well as through advisory groups within graduate programs. The University will additionally continue with listening sessions and other informal channels through which graduate assistants can share their perspectives with senior administration and faculty.
Graduate assistant unionization
Why has Loyola refused to bargain with the graduate assistants?
We believe graduate students who are engaged in teaching and research as part of their academic program are fundamentally students and, therefore, do not qualify as “employees” within the meaning of the National Labor Relations Act. Their primary role is academic. Graduate assistants are neither hired nor employed by the University. Rather, they are selected as students on the basis of their academic achievements. Their acceptance into our graduate programs and the degree awarded to them at the end of their graduate education are based on academic standards and not on labor or employment standards.
Consistent with our position, which is shared broadly within the higher education community, we are challenging graduate assistants’ eligibility for representation. Click here for more details about our philosophy on the role of graduate assistants.
Is Loyola negotiating with unionized non-tenure track faculty?
Yes. Negotiations with unionized part-time and full-time non-tenure track faculty in the College of Arts and Sciences and the English Language Learning Program are ongoing. These faculty members differ from graduate assistants in that they are employees of the University.
Is there a historical legal precedent that supports Loyola's position that graduate assistants are students and not employees?
Yes. In its 2004 decision involving Brown University, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) held that students who provide services that further their university’s educational programs are primarily students and therefore not employees within the meaning of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA).
However, in the case involving a petition filed by the United Auto Workers seeking to represent graduate students at Columbia University, the NLRB in 2016 reversed itself and held that graduate students at private universities who provide services to their institutions are employees under the NLRA and thus may unionize under, and otherwise have the protections of, the NLRA.
How is Loyola's position on graduate assistant unionization consistent with Catholic social teaching?
Catholic Social Teaching recognizes the rights of workers and others to organize to protect their interests. It does not teach that unions are the only, or even preferred, way to protect those interests. Catholic Social Teaching requires that organizations, including colleges and universities, find some method to achieve its social ends and protect the common good. It is just and acceptable to recognize the important relationship with our graduate assistants, address their needs, and give them a voice, but it need not be through a union. It should also be noted that Catholic Social Teaching requires that the University and its constituent members be guided toward the common good and not just the members’ own economic interests. Through an academic relationship with our graduate assistants, we seek to demonstrate our social justice mission by continuing to make improvements to our graduate assistants’ stipends, scholarships, and other forms of support to ensure they remain competitive with comparable institutions.
Is Loyola's position anti-union?
No. To be clear, we are not anti-union. We are pro-social justice, and we greatly respect the voice of Loyola employees and students. Our recognition of and ongoing negotiations with unionized part-time and full-time non-tenure track faculty in the College of Arts and Sciences and the English Language Learning Program, as well as our longstanding relationship with maintenance employee unions, demonstrates our respect for the decision by those groups of employees to be represented by a union. However, we do not consider graduate assistants to be employees within the meaning of the National Labor Relations Act as they are admitted via an academic program and are neither hired nor employed by Loyola. We respect our graduate assistants and continue to seek their input through well-established shared governance bodies—including University Senate, Graduate Student Advisory Council and Graduate, Professional and Adult Council—as well as through advisory groups within graduate programs. Finally, we are committed to evaluating the support we provide on an ongoing basis and making improvements when warranted, as evidenced by the recently awarded stipend increases.