Statement on decision of independent arbitrator on graduate student election result

Cornell University is pleased with the decision released Wednesday by independent Arbitrator Howard Edelman to uphold the March 2017 graduate student election, directing that its result be certified.

More than 80 percent of eligible Cornell graduate assistants participated in that election supervised by the American Arbitration Association, with the majority voting against unionization. A handful of ballots remained uncounted pending the outcome of this decision, and we are confident their inclusion now will reaffirm the original result.

In directing that the results be certified, Arbitrator Edelman dismissed two of three concerns raised by Cornell Graduate Students United, agreeing that two emails sent by the administration on March 27 were consistent with standards established under the National Labor Relations Act. On a third concern raised related to a response to a student question in a regular “Ask a Dean” newsletter, the arbitrator determined that the communication did not improperly affect the election, but did find that any communication related to possible loss of graduate assistantships, even if in response to a direct student question, was not proper at that time. Edelman instructed the University to confer with the CGSU and come to an agreement on a posting regarding that single violation, and we will be doing so in the days ahead.

Prior to the election, Cornell worked with the unions seeking to represent our graduate assistants to establish a set of campaign and election guidelines, and we are proud of our efforts to honor that commitment. We understand that this issue has created divisions within our graduate student community, whose daily contributions to Cornell’s teaching, research and engagement mission cannot be overstated, and agree with the arbitrator that it is time to certify the results of the election so we can move forward together and continue our collective work to strengthen graduate education at Cornell.

Joel M. Malina
Vice President for University Relations