As current president (in 2017/18) of the American Comparative Literature Association I am pleased to add a strong note of personal support for ACLA's recently circulated statement of strong support for fair and equitable labor practices in the employment of graduate student teaching assistants.
Professor of French and Comparative Literature
Chair, Department of Comparative Literature
New York University
ORIGINAL MESSAGE FROM THE ACLA:
The Executive Committee of the ACLA stands in solidarity with Comparative Literature’s graduate students in their efforts to have their labor formally and fairly recognized by the universities employing them.
In accordance with ACLA’s Constitution – Article II.1 of which states that “the aim of the Association is the support and strengthening of comparative literature studies” and Article II.2b of which lists “[aiding] individual members in their studies in comparative literature” among ACLA’s objectives – we recognize graduate students in their roles as workers, and reaffirm their labor as central to the vitality and future of Comparative Literature.
The field of Comparative Literature relies on the employment of graduate students in myriad roles, including teachers and teaching assistants, graders, research assistants, and event organizers. The ACLA Executive Committee supports the formal recognition of such labor in order to ensure: institutionally safeguarded paths to collective bargaining for fair and equitable working conditions; mutual trust between graduate students and their employers; and the representation of graduate students’ voices in administrative decision-making processes.
The future of Comparative Literature rests, in large part, on ensuring graduate students’ economic security and on supporting their positions as both academics and workers in our field. We urge universities to engage with graduate student workers' collective bargaining groups in good faith, and ask that Comparative Literature and related departments stand with the graduate students they educate and employ.