University administrators have raised questions regarding the veracity of a claim made by graduate students seeking to unionize at Boston College, the latest in what administrators say is a series of false statements made to bolster support for unionization under the umbrella of the United Auto Workers.

Administrators cite a petition launched on October 31 by union supporters that claims that a group of BC graduate students was disciplined for “distributing leaflets” on the BC campus. Rather, administrators say, the students were found responsible for interfering with a public event and infringing on the rights of others to hear a presentation in Robsham Theater on September 27.

Dean of Students Thomas Mogan called the students in for a hearing after they disrupted an event for BC parents, who were on campus for Parents’ Weekend.

“Students cannot engage in conduct that disrupts the normal operation of an event and infringes upon individuals’ right to listen to remarks,” said Mogan. “Such behavior is in violation of the student code of conduct that pertains to all BC students.”

The union activists have been criticized by fellow graduate students for their decision to disrupt the parents’ event and to demonstrate before the Pops on the Heights concert, the University’s annual fundraiser for financial aid for needy students.

“I watched the video…where you interrupted President Leahy’s speech [in Robsham Theater],”
said BC grad student James Italia in a letter to the union. “This was the most egregious of your actions, as it was completely inappropriate. You say that student representatives frequently ask for our opinions, but I was never asked if it would be appropriate to interrupt a man when he was trying to do his job.

“Pops on The Heights is a fantastic BC tradition where a large amount of money is raised for undergraduate financial aid,” said Italia. “Even those who are supporters of the union suggest that picketing at Pops on the Heights is inappropriate. While you think you need to resort to drastic measures, actions like this only subvert your goals in the eyes of most benefactors.”

The petition’s assertion, administrators said, represents the latest example in an effort by union activists to win support for their cause through a campaign of misinformation.

In a letter to the BC community on September 25, Provost and Dean of Faculties David Quigley stated that several claims made by union activists and their supporters regarding stipends, healthcare benefits, and parental leave, were inaccurate and deserved to be challenged.

Contrary to union supporters’ claims that graduate student stipends are below the cost of living, Quigley wrote, “The University made investments this past spring to ensure that no doctoral stipend is lower than $20,000 for the 2018-2019 academic year, and these stipends will continue to increase in the future. When combined with other benefits and full tuition remission, the University’s combined financial investment in its funded doctoral students exceeds $40,000 annually for each entering first-year student.”

In response to the claim that most grad students have no healthcare, Quigley stated, “Funded doctoral students are eligible to participate in the Boston College student health plan, in which the University provides 100% of the premium.  By comparison, Boston College covers approximately 75% of employee premiums, meaning that employees pay, on average, 25% of their premiums.”

Lastly, to counter the claim that graduate students who are parents have no access to parental leave, Quigley responded, “Beginning with the Morrissey College of Arts and Sciences in January 2017, all eight of our schools and colleges have parental leave policies for funded doctoral students.”

Boston College administrators have said that they oppose graduate student unionization because it undermines the collegial, mentoring relationship among students and faculty that is the cornerstone of the graduate educational experience and a hallmark of the BC academic community. BC joins several peer institutions in this stance, including the University of Chicago, and Columbia and Yale universities.

--University Communications