On Thursday afternoon, protesters with GSOC, NYU’s Graduate Student Organizing Committee, took to the 10th floor of Elmer Holmes Bobst Library, demanding paid family leave for graduate student and adjunct workers.
Currently, NYU’s paid family leave policy does not apply to graduate workers or adjunct faculty, forcing some of those at the protest in the position of using their five granted sick days as leave for maternity or family emergency.
“As an institution of high learning, what I would like them to know is that that choice has ramifications to their educators,” Adjunct Professor Jessie Austrian said. “What it says to me as an educator is that they don’t value my life in addition to my work.”
Determined to speak to President Andrew Hamilton, the group of protesters — with signs, banners and a large letter of their demands — organized outside Bobst, then took the elevators to the 10th floor. When they tried to take the stairs to the university’s administration offices on the higher floors, they were stopped by Public Safety officers.
After a few minutes of back and forth, two administration members — Deputy Chief of Staff Tracey Gardner and Senior Vice President for University Relations Lynne Brown — came downstairs from their offices to address the group.
Several protesters discussed their desires for paid family leave with Brown and Gardner, pointing out specific points of NYU’s policy they regarded as unfair.
“I don’t know if either of you have kids, but I imagine it takes more than five days [of sick leave] to recover,” one protester said.
Brown and Gardner admitted they were unfamiliar with the specifics of NYU’s policies.
“We will make sure we get educated on the subject,” Gardner said to the group.
Steinhardt doctoral candidate Diana Kamin brought her 14-month-old daughter Adelaide to the protest. The young mother became emotional discussing the implications of NYU’s policy on her life.
“Being a mom to a daughter, it’s really about the broader issues and a very direct awareness of how policies around paid family leave affect women’s ability to work,” Kamin said. “I’m honestly just thinking about her and her future. It comes down to what kind of work we value and how we support particularly the work of raising children.”
For the past few months, GSOC has been awaiting NYU’s response on its request for paid family leave for graduate workers. According to GSOC member and Graduate School of Arts and Science doctoral candidate Bhumika Chauhan, human resources just responded to queries they made in December on Wednesday.
“Now they’re saying this constitutes mid-contract bargaining because we already negotiated a contract in 2015 and the next negotiation is in 2020,” Chauhan said. “So they’re basically saying that between now and then to put our families on pause.”
After walking down 10 flights of stairs in Bobst singing “Solidarity Forever” and chanting in support of the union, the GSOC protesters joined the larger group forming in Washington Square Park for the International Women’s Day Strike.
“I think we’re just so inspired by International Women’s Strike and the multifaceted coalitions that are part of the day really representing labor, people of color, families,” GSAS graduate student Eliza Brown said. “We really wanted GSOC to be a part of that.”
GSOC members also argued that NYU’s commitment to being a progressive university should extend to women’s rights and family rights as well.
“Paid family leave would be one step closer to making a gender-equal university,” Chauhan said.
Email Sakshi Venkatraman at [email protected]