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Cornell University administrators reached a compromise with the United Automible Workers last Friday when they agreed to permit the university's 2,000 teaching assistants, research assistants and graduate assistants to hold union elections this fall.

This settlement is the latest in the recent trend of graduate student campaigns to unionize at private universities across the country. Graduate students at New York and Temple Universities have also been granted the right to decide upon forming unions in recent years.

Unlike other cases involving graduate student efforts to unionize, the current arrangement at Cornell was reached without resistance on the administration's side.

This "agreement avoids a long and expensive series of administrative hearings to determine the scope of the proposed bargaining unit," Cornell Vice President for Human Resources Mary Opperman said in a press release last Friday.

According to Ariana Vigil, a member of the Cornell Association of Student Employees/UAW, graduate students are satisfied with the terms of the agreement. "This agreement is historic," Vigil said in a press release. "It is the first time a private university has agreed to abide by the results of a NLRB union representation election."

At Penn, students and administrators are currently awaiting a decision from the National Labor Relations Board as to whether graduate students can vote upon forming a union.

University administrators have shown continual opposition to a petition to unionize that was filed by the Graduate Employees Together-University of Pennsylvania in December of 2001.

According to GET-UP spokesperson David Faris, the news about Cornell student unionization is a step in the right direction.

"We're very happy not only because it's great for Cornell but because every time this happens it sets a precedent: other private universities at a competitive level are recognizing unions and entering negotiations with students," Faris said.

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