New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

RAs rally outside Bobst to call for university recognition

The rally comes nearly a week after the recently announced union, Student Workers At NYU, delivered a letter addressed to President Linda Mills demanding official recognition.
Lianna O’Grady
(Lianna O’Grady for WSN)

Around 20 NYU students representing the recently announced RA union Student Workers At NYU rallied in front of Bobst Library on Monday afternoon, demanding university recognition. The rally comes after the group asked NYU president Linda Mills to respond to its demand for recognition by today, April 23, in a letter delivered to her office last week. 

“We cannot let the administration of this university dictate the rules of our job without consulting the people who actually do the job,” CAS senior and former RA Nora Dillon said in a speech. “My time as an RA made me realize that RAs have one of the most vital jobs at NYU creating community — a job that requires them to be clocked in 24 hours a day, seven days a week — and for too long that labor has not been recognized.”

Dillon added that the group hopes to formalize their demands once they begin negotiations with the university. The union members are seeking to establish a set stipend per semester with NYU as well as clarity on their responsibilities.

“We don’t come in with explicit demands because they are supposed to be democratically decided on among a constituent of workers, our entire base, and those things evolve over time — especially as we’re going to have turnover in new RAs assuming these roles next year,” said Tandon senior Ricardo Sheler, a member of the organizing committee who began working with the union in November 2022.

Each year, over 250 students are chosen to work as RAs in one of NYU’s 23 residence halls. Instead of receiving wages for their work, the university provides a grant that covers the cost of each RA’s housing and meal plan. RAs are responsible for tasks such as organizing building events, resolving conflicts between residents and taking note of policy violations. 

Outside of Bobst, the group held signs, gave speeches and chanted, “dignity, respect, Linda cut the checks” and “get up, get down, New York is a union town.”

Last week, the group gathered inside of Bobst to deliver a letter calling for university recognition addressed to Mills and the board of trustees. The group gave the administration until April 23 to respond to the letter, but Sheler said the university has not yet communicated with the group.

“I’ve worked in Rubin and Mercer, and just seeing the intense discrepancies between those two buildings about how communication is given from full time staff to RAs, and how RAs are expected to turn on a dime and create a community out of nothing with no pay — it’s unfair,” Dillon said. “A union will help us so much with the collective bargaining power.”

The formation of SWAN comes amid a wave of unionization efforts from undergraduate students across the nation, with around 20,000 students casting ballots and voting in union elections in higher education institutions in 2023. 

Columbia University recognized its RA union, the Columbia University Resident Advisor Collective, in May 2023 and agreed to incorporate a system where the student workers are paid a set stipend per semester. In March 2023, Fordham University’s RA union was also recognized by the university after the administration initially refused to recognize the group, prompting a vote within the National Labor Relations Board.

After the rally, many of the RAs walked to the Stern School of Business to join Monday’s pro-Palestinian encampment in front of Gould Plaza, where the New York City Police Department arrested dozens of students and faculty

“Today is real active day on campus for student organizing, and we’re here in solidarity with all the student organizers on campus, supporting each other in ways in which we’re all struggling and oppressed under our administrative structures,” Sheler told WSN. “We’re all unheard and we’re all subjected to this undemocratic use of our tuition dollars and the value that we provide to the institution.”

A university spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Contact Bruna Horvath at [email protected].

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About the Contributor
Bruna Horvath
Bruna Horvath, News Editor
Bruna Horvath is a sophomore studying journalism and English at CAS. When she’s not a News Editor, she’s a "Gone Girl" enthusiast, a Goodreads lover, and a Barnes & Noble frequenter. You can usually find her ordering an iced mocha, telling people her name is “Bruna” not “Bruno,” or on Instagram @brunaahorvath.

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