Campus Law Myth Busted: Graduate Student Senate is not and never was unionizing By Sarah Horne Posted on October 4, 2017 4 min read 0 1 957 President Duane Nellis speaks at the first Graduate Student Senate meeting of the year. File photo by Connor Perrett The Graduate Student Senate will not be unionizing. In fact, doing so is illegal under Ohio law. Ohio University’s Graduate Student Senate will not be attempting to form a union, despite recent reports that it wants to unionize, President Maria Modayil said. According to Chapter 41 section 17 of Ohio Revised Code, GSS is not allowed to unionize, because the graduate students are unpaid and not employees of the university. Additionally, GSS identifies as an advocacy body for graduate students, not as an activist group, and therefore cannot unionize. In the state of Ohio, no graduate student senate can unionize. “Per Ohio law our primary function is seen as teaching, learning and research, and not being seen as employees,” Modayil said. The term “unionization” arose when certain members of GSS wanted to raise awareness for particular benefits that are often given to groups that do form an official union. Members of GSS used unionizing as a hypothetical in order to compare benefits at Ohio U to other universities, Modayil said, though actually unionizing was never a possibility. The graduate students had a protest at Baker on Sept. 28 in order to ask for better benefits. The proposed benefits concerned health insurance, the reduction and subsidization of fees, increased support for international students and granting parental leave for new parents. Graduate students hold a variety of jobs at Ohio U, from being teaching assistants to working in the division of student affairs to working in housing and residence life. “I feel we have to be constantly in conversation and engaging in conversation about some of these topics (that pertain to graduate students),” Modayil said. Some of GSS’s members use their membership in the Graduate Employees Organization to continue the conversation. GEO is an activist group for graduate students and connects them across different universities. “Some of these conversations take three or four years to come to fulfillment, so it’s all about how much we can push the dice a little more than the past administration,” Modayil said. While part of the GEO, graduate students get involved in committees and then bring their knowledge from GEO to the senate. This is all part of their way of learning how to better GSS at Ohio U and continue improving the conditions for graduate students, Modayil said.