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Statement on NLRB Ruling

Modified: September 1, 2016

Dear Members of the Graduate Community, 

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ruled, on August 23, 2016, that graduate students at private universities are statutory employees within the meaning of the National Labor Relations Act. Northwestern has issued a press release acknowledging this ruling. We anticipate that this ruling will continue to fuel discussion across campuses, and that Northwestern’s graduate student community will have many questions.

At Northwestern, we are committed to the ongoing intellectual and personal growth of all of our students, including our graduate students. Graduate students are important and valuable members of the University community, contributing to Northwestern’s success through their research, training, teaching, and academic accomplishments. Northwestern has always regarded its Ph.D students as students, first and foremost, and the classification of these students as employees would significantly change the relationship between doctoral students, their faculty mentors, and the University.

Northwestern has been steadfast in our commitment to provide the resources necessary for our graduate students to succeed and thrive throughout their studies. The University offers a variety of resources to support, mentor, and train graduate students, and consistently seeks opportunities to strengthen and expand these options. In May 2015, Northwestern announced that it was investing more than $6 million in additional funds to increase graduate stipends to $29,000 a year for the 2015-16 year, a 26 percent increase. The stipends were increased again this year to $29,880. In addition, Northwestern provides guaranteed funding for five years and a high availability of sixth-year support for Ph.D. students in The Graduate School, as well as first-rate health care coverage. As a result of its significant emphasis on graduate education, the University attracts some of the best graduate students in the world and prepares them to be future scholars and thought leaders.

We encourage all graduate students to both express their opinions on this topic, and to thoughtfully consider all options prior to taking any action. The implications of unionization could create an environment that inhibits both the success of our graduate students, and of our University more broadly. We will, as always, continue to engage with you in a meaningful way as we move forward. We have created a dedicated website to serve as a key resource for information, related communication, and reference materials—such as a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) document.  We are working to schedule a series of forums for the graduate community to discuss the NLRB’s ruling and to respond to questions you may have. Please watch for announcements to follow as we come closer to the start of the fall quarter.


Dwight A. McBride
Associate Provost & Dean of The Graduate School

From the Dean