The latest on grad student union negotiations

February 24, 2023
Melissa Nobles, Chancellor | Cynthia Barnhart, Provost |


  • MIT has participated in 12 bargaining sessions with the graduate student union since last fall.
  • Discussions have been collegial and constructive. We’ve reached agreement on a number of contract provisions.
  • Discussions so far have focused on the union’s non-economic proposals. To date, the union has submitted only one economic proposal.
  • A contract with the union must prioritize the Institute’s mission, not limit it. We are guided in the negotiations by a set of basic principles that seek balance and fairness in the outcome.
  • See for bargaining updates, FAQs, and more.

To the members of the MIT community:

We write to share updates since the last letter about our progress in negotiations with MIT’s new graduate student union, the MIT GSU-UE (or, simply, the GSU).

In a nutshell, the negotiations have been collegial and constructive. Much ground has been covered, yet there is much more to explore with the GSU. Negotiations with a new union of this size are complex and take time, and the outcomes will impact all of us — not only the graduate students in the bargaining unit, but also faculty, staff, postdocs, and other graduate and undergraduate students.

Our starting point

MIT believes deeply in its graduate students and wants the very best for them. Graduate students are a vital part of the Institute, and we share many of the GSU’s goals for improving their experience.

We aim to find common ground in ways that preserve and even strengthen faculty and student relationships, as well as our teaching and research enterprise. To this end, a Faculty Advisory Committee has been an essential part of our negotiating process; members of this group have observed the bargaining sessions and provided valuable feedback to MIT’s leadership.

We have established a set of principles that are guiding our negotiations, and we encourage you to read them. Here’s a little more about our overall approach:

  • First, we are managing these negotiations in a respectful, serious, and direct way in order to reach a contract with the union that is in the best interests of our entire community — including those students who are in the union and those who are not, as well as faculty, undergraduates, staff, and postdocs.
  • Second, the contract with the union must prioritize the Institute’s mission, not limit it. We have a responsibility to create a contract that is realistic and manageable for everyone at MIT, both today and in the future.
  • Third, we want our community to be informed. While we won’t be able to share all the details on every bargaining topic, we are committed to sharing what facts and information we can along the way.

The view from the bargaining table

MIT’s multidisciplinary bargaining team has been negotiating with the union since September, when the GSU shared its initial non-economic contract proposals. We’ve met a dozen times, with additional sessions scheduled through March.

We are very encouraged that, to date, both sides have been collegial during bargaining, and discussions have been constructive. So far, we have focused on the union’s non-economic proposals and have already reached tentative agreement on a number of provisions that the union has sought, including standardized appointment letters; an Institute website for posting open RA and TA positions; and lab safety enhancements.

To date, the GSU has only submitted one economic proposal, related to leaves of absence. We will strive to keep you updated on our progress through the refreshed site.

Balancing competing demands

While we are working to understand the GSU’s positions and proposals, we must be clear-eyed: There are areas where we disagree with the GSU, including on issues where the union’s positions do not reflect the processes we have already enhanced as a result of direct dialogue with our students in recent years. Also, accepting everything that the GSU asks for would not be reasonable, and could curtail MIT's impact in the world.

We must balance the GSU’s proposals with the overarching needs of our full community, both now and in the future. As we pursue this balance, we remain committed to doing our part to prevent a significant impasse.

Working together to achieve a balanced contract

Ultimately, our goal is to create a healthy, productive working relationship with the GSU and to finalize a contract that supports the needs of all of our graduate students, balances the needs of others outside the union, and furthers the mission of the Institute.

As we move forward, please visit for regular reports on our progress at the bargaining table, or watch for updates in MIT Current.


Melissa Nobles

Cynthia Barnhart