We have still received NO RESPONSE from the administration since sending in the below petition to them on January 19th. We’ve had our supporters and members call Provost Susan R. Wente to remind them of the petition. The undergraduate Vanderbilt student Government passed a resolution in support of our petition. The Vanderbilt AAUP chapter, the Grad Student Associations for Biomedical Engineering, History, and Anthropology, and Dores Divest have endorsed our petition. The Hustler has written about our petition. We’ve had our supporters out on a busy Nashville street corner raising awareness of our petition and unionization to the public. And, most importantly, nearly 200 graduate workers have signed this petition. We’re uniting the campus around common-sense, democratically produced demands that will increase the safety and well-being of our graduate workers. In other words, we’re doing the job of the administration for them. Everyone, it seems, is talking about our petition except for the administration.

While we have yet to win any official concessions, we recognize that this consensus we’re building about what fair and safe working conditions look like is also a victory in it’s own way for graduate workers. In addition, we’ve learned so much from this petition campaign as organizers and activists, and we’ve grown our overall unionization efforts as a result!

We have had some informal talks with the leaders of the Graduate Student Council, and we are hopeful that our concerns being raised by them in meetings with the administration will result in some action on our demands. In addition, we plan to attend the listening sessions of the Deans and administration to continue to raise our concerns. We will update you all as this situation develops. However, the bigger picture is this: the administration is making it increasingly obvious that they won’t negotiate with VGWU unless they have to, regardless of the support from graduate workers, the campus community, and the broader Nashville area we have spent time building. Due to the lack of response from the administration, we’re recognizing that the official unionization campaign is what we should turn our energies to as the Coordinating Committee. Official recognition will give us the formal, legal power–power that our petition campaign has made it even more clear that we need–to negotiate with the administration over our working conditions. While we will not be dropping our petition campaign in its entirety, we will not be making it as much of a priority as it has been these past few months. With our newly ratified Constitution and democratic, rank-and-file organizing processes, we think that we are on a solid path to win legal recognition as our official union. We know that this campaign for union recognition will be incredibly demanding, but we are both ready and eager to start that next phase of democratic workplace organizing. We want to thank you all for your amazing support and hard work to get these demands this far. Let’s keep pushing the administration to act, and let’s put more energy into growing our overall unionization campaign!



  • Graduate workers deserve to be able to see and review the plans and data regarding COVID-19 protections for the semester. In order to make Real Choices concerning our safety, we need and deserve consistent answers to questions such as: 
    • 1) What positivity rate of COVID cases will result in a campus shut down? 
    • 2) What are the quarantine procedures if someone in my workplace tests positive? 
    • 3) How are other departments and colleges responding to the pandemic? 
    • 4) Where and in what departments/worksites are COVID-19 cases being confirmed? 
  • We deserve transparency about the state of the university’s budget and a voice in how this budget is planned and used. We are tired of the university crying poor when it comes to worker and student needs, then turning around and spending $100 million to poach faculty from other universities. 
  • We further demand transparency and advance notice of travel policies and their changes as pertaining to international graduate workers who may wish to travel for holiday seasons and in-between semesters. Unclear policies and expectations of quarantine which have been communicated without enough advance notice have caused undue stress to our graduate workers. 


  • We demand that our student healthcare will cover vaccinations for COVID-19 for us and our dependents at no additional out-of-pocket cost.
  • We demand that testing for COVID-19 remains free for all for the remainder of the 2020-2021 Academic Calendar Year.
  • We demand that in-network costs for COVID-19 remain 100% covered through the end of the 2020-2021 Academic Calendar Year, as they were during the Fall semester. 
  • We demand that the University Administration freezes healthcare premiums at their current rate through at least the 2021-2022 Academic Year. This will allow graduate workers and their dependents the financial security and predictability that they need to focus on their job duties.
  • We demand transparency around the plans for healthcare costs should the Affordable Care Act be struck down.

Real Choices for Graduate Workers

  • We demand real choices for graduate workers concerning their working and learning conditions. Lab conditions or physical worksite conditions are not the same as classroom conditions, and graduate workers may feel comfortable doing one but not the other. They deserve to be able to make their own choices about what on-campus conditions and risks they feel comfortable with, and they can only make these choices if they have current information about COVID positivity rates in their worksites, departments, cohorts, employers/supervisors, and colleges. 
  • We demand program flexibility across the board. The pandemic has upended program plans and made it impossible for many graduates to complete their programs as originally scheduled. Graduates should be given real choices within their departments about what parts of their program to complete when, swapping teaching years for research years, for example.  
  • We demand that graduate workers are not punished for refusing unsafe working conditions. Those graduates who are immunocompromised should not lose out on funding or program progression because they are unable to complete field research in Metro Nashville Public Schools, for example. Their programs and graduate requirements should instead be adjusted to allow these graduates to complete their degrees in timelines that make sense for their individual healthcare decisions and considerations. 
  • We demand that coming to work on campus during a global pandemic and taking the risks associated with it should be a case of opting-in, not opting-out. The process to demonstrate the need to work remotely should be simple, clear, and short. Graduate workers know what risks they are comfortable with and what health or ability conditions they may have that impact these risks. They should be able to make these decisions for themselves in a simple and dignified manner, without needing to provide extensive documentation and justification as rationale. 

Funding Extensions and Technology Support

  • In line with the above, we demand that funding extensions be made available to all graduates. This will greatly increase program flexibility and allow graduates to have a real say in when and how they work.
  • We demand that any existing grant and funding opportunities be better advertised and that more graduate workers be made aware of them. These funds should be advertised and put out there as available until they have been used up. 
  • We demand that a one-time $500 subsidy be made available for the Spring Semester for each and every graduate who will need to purchase technology to work remotely. Webcams, computer upgrades, workspace furniture, internet upgrades, microphones, and other technology accommodations needed to perform job duties should not come at the expense of graduate workers themselves. While some departments have technology funding built into their graduate programs, many do not. Universal funding opportunities should be made available to level this field and allow all graduates to make choices about remote work without the fear of paying hundreds or thousands in out-of-pocket costs for the necessary technology upgrades. 
  • We demand that those international students working overseas be fully compensated for their work in the banking accounts of their choice and that they have the opportunity to conduct their work overseas. 

Mental Health Services–Upholding the Mental Health Bill of Rights

  • We demand that the administration adjust mental health policies to allow for clinicians and screeners to conduct telehealth/virtual mental health conferences with their patients even when those patients are out of state. This is in accordance with 5.D. of the Mental Health Bill of Rights, which guarantees that services shall not be terminated without due notice.
  • We demand that the administration invest more resources into mental health counseling services and qualified professionals to allow faster response times and less waiting before appointments. This is in accordance with 5.B. of the Mental Health Bill of Rights, which guarantees that services shall be given in a reasonable timeframe. 
  • We demand that changes to mental health provisions during the pandemic be made transparent in accordance with sections 7.D. and 7.B. of the Mental Health Bill of Rights, which guarantee that notifications about changes to mental health services shall be clear, presented in advance of these changes, and that feedback for these changes shall be gathered from the student body.
  • Furthermore, we believe that the increased security that will come from funding extensions, more awareness of funding opportunities, a $500 technology subsidy, increased transparency around COVID-19 conditions, and the increased say and power graduate workers have in making decisions about on or off-campus work will greatly improve graduate worker mental health. There is a well documented literature to support the idea that increased control in working conditions leads to improved mental health. 


New signatures will be added at the end of each day. Are you a graduate worker who wants to get involved in VGWU? Fill out our interest survey!


Ethan Joll, Biomedical Engineering
Nick Goodell, History
Maxwell Hamilton, IGP
Bunmi Adegbola, Graduate Department of Religion
Wendy B.
Alexandra Sanchez, History
Kelly Swope, Philosophy
Holly Longair, Philosophy
Derek Price, German, Russian, and East European Studies
Cait Kirby, Biological Sciences
Ethan Calof, English
Zoey Bryant, IGP program
Alex Korsunsky, Anthropology
Sebastian Ramirez, Philosophy
Carlissa Arrow, Mechanical Engineering
Benjamin Perlin, IGP
Meghan K. McGinley, French and Italian
Joseph Kuster, German, Russian, and Eastern European Studies
Carson Moore, Chemistry
Sara Jones, Teaching & Learning
Zach Glendening, HOD
Karin Gegenheimer, Leadership Policy & Organizations (Peabody College)
Terren Proctor, Anthropology
Nicole Rodgers, Chemical and Physical Biology Program
Kathryn Kapp, Chemistry
Xinyu Dong, Cell and Developmental biology
Nicole Kendrick
Natalie Wallace, Biological Sciences
Cameron Clark, English
Darren Tinker, Mech. Eng.
Dylan Political, Science
Patrick Reilly, History
Cassandra Awgulewitsch, Cell and Developmental Biology
Stephanie Pearlman, Biomedical Engineering
Megan Aumann, Neurology
Ross Koby, Chemistry
Jennifer Gutman, English
Erika Nelson, Graduate Dept of Religion
Jennifer Pilat, Cancer Biology
Anonymous RA, Chemical Engineering
Bethany Gardner, Psychology and Human Development
Rachel S.
Abraham Liddell, History
Steven Rodriguez, History
Johnathon Speed, History
B R. Balmer, Human & Organizational Development
Kelly Cunningham, Philosophy
Katie McCormack, Anthropology
Lantana Grub, Biological Sciences
Jacob Gambrell, Divinity School
Will Compton, Central Library
Sylvia Cheever, Anthropology
Misha Inniss-Thompson, HOD
Meredith Meadows, Human & Organizational Development
Holland White, Teaching and Learning
Kevin Pereira, Chemical and Physical Biology
Kellie Williford, Neuroscience
Abigail Trozenski, German, Russian, and Eastern European Studies
Emerson Bodde, Philosophy
Kate Schaller, GREES
Levi Sledd, Mathematics
Ishan Ishan, Mathematics
Toni Cross, Law school
Wenhao Wang, Department of Mathematics
Richard Sakamoto-Pugh, History
Joanne Lee, Biomedical Engineering
Sumati Thareja, Mathematics
Emma Reimers, Teaching and learning
Caroline Johnston, History
Greg Berumen, Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering
Maya Krause, Anthro
Maddie Geller, Teaching & Learning
Natalie Pak, Special Education
Sarah DiMaggio, Philosophy
Alexandra Mulligan, IGP
Huntley Hughes, English
Lindsay Breidenbach, Human Genetics
Haley Yaremych, Psychology and Human Development
Janna Eaves, Mechanical Engineering
Mohammad Nasirul Haque, Mechanical Engineering
David Marsh, Mechanical Engineering
Marsalis Pullen, Mechanical Engineering
Francisco Santelli, Leadership, Policy, and Organizations
John Rector, Mechanical Engineering
Velia Garcia, Chemistry
Yizhi Fu, Chemistry
Yidan Tang, Chemistry
Karla-Anne Knapp, Chemistry
Jared Oakes
Andreanna Burman, IGP
Olivia Feehan-Nelson, IGP
SangEun Kim, Political Science
Mandy Truelock, Microbe Host Interaction (Pathology, Microbiology, and Immunology)
Francisco Garcia, Graduate Department of Religion
Melanie Chong, Special Education
huiyuan miao, psych
Lindsay Martin, Biology
Nicky Eleuteri, IGP
Margret Fye, Interdisciplinary Graduate Program
Anne Kruse, Economics
Margaret Root, Graduate School
Ryan Fsnsler, IGP
Valeria Garcia Lopez, Biological Sciences
Eden Faneuff, IGP/PMI
Miriam Guevara, Pathology, Microbiology, and Immunology
Sarah Guagliardo, IGP
Jacqueline Yap, Hearing and Speech Sciences
Adam Szewciw, Physics and Astronomy
Mikin Patel, Biological Sciences
Amberly Dziesinski, Leadership, Policy, and Organizations
Rachel Hanebutt HOD
Shelby McNeill, Leadership, Policy, and Organizations
Samantha Beik, Cancer Biology
Loïc Daumail, Psychology
Eeshan Hasan, Psychology
Dominique Tunzi, HOD
Brenna Appleton
Sophia Lubarsky, Psychology and Human Development
Dumindu Sandakith Kasiwatte Kankanamge, Mathematics
Srijata Chakravorti, Electrical Engineering
Nicolette Frazer, Biological Sciences
Bernard Yett, Engineering
Yuan Yang
Eugenia Zavaleta, Anthropology
Kaelee Belletto, Sociology
Austin Butterfield, Electrical Engineering
Sara Eccleston, Human and Organizational Development
Taiye Winful, Anthropology
Claudia Monterroza Rivera
Savannah Bastian, Sociology
Kyle Moore, EECS
Ebony Hargrove-Wiley, IGP
Xiaohe Yue
James Zimmer-Dauphinee, Anthropology
Adam Schoenbachler , Sociology
Tessa Huffstater, Biomedical Engineering
Chancey Herbolsheimer, Sociology
Adriana Norris, Biological Sciences
Rebecca Cutler, Psychological Sciences
Almaskhan Baimyshev, Mechanical Engineering
Sebastian Levar Spivey, Divinity
Qiaohairuo Lin, Economics
Lilly Quach, Earth and Environmental Science
Marissa Schoedel
Zach Feldman, CMAP, German
Ivana Lazaroska, History
Rachel Siegman, Peabody–Department of Teaching and Learning
Colin Bloomfield, Mathematics
Matt Santini Special, Education
Tanushree, HOD
Raunak Pillai, Psychology & Human Development
Emily Conder, Peabody
Debbie Brubaker, Department of Religion
Sarah Fluker, Spanish & Portuguese
Stephen Ferguson, Biological Sciences
Lo Meisel
Hayden Jananthan, Mathematics
Will Fox, Chemistry
Brian McCray, Anthropology
Deanna Bowman
Molly Richard, Human and Organizational Development
Sophia Podolsky, Undergraduate
Emily Condor, Psychology and Human Development
Allegra Anderson, Peabody and Human Development
Dylan Lawless, Biomedical Engineering
Anna Wright, PSY & HD Peabody
Nora Sultan, Owen Business School
Sarah Lee, Teaching and Learning
Nathan Frisch, Anthropology
Jack Deinhart, Biomedical Engineering
Christopher Haycook, Biomedical Engineering
Anonymous RA, Civil Engineering
William Sissoj, Mechanical Engineering
Brian Ferrer, IGP
Kathleen Larson, Biomedical Engineering
Karrie Raymond, Medicine, Health, and Society
Ana Fonongava’inga Stringer, Environmental Science & Environmental Sociology
Rachel Wilson, Peabody
Neel Pai, Political Science and Computer Science
Miguel Moravec, Civil and Environmental Engineering
Chelsea Wegrzyniak Vanderbilt University Philosophy
Lisa Madura Vanderbilt University Philosophy
Kaylee Brilhart, Law School
Michael Havazelet, Teaching and Learning
Tayo Fasan
Kate Nuhring, Special Education
Sarah Vassall
Dongsheng Han, Biological Science
Emily Kight, Biomedical engineering
Sara Kassel, Cell and Developmental Biology
Jordan Hill, Biomedical Engineering
Xavier Milling, DOS
Zarabeth Davis, Teaching and Learning
Mohammed W. Rony, EECS