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Melody Chapin, Candidate for Graduate Labor Organization (GLO) Social Justice and Accountability Coordinator

Campaign Platform

As Social Justice and Accountability Coordinator, I commit to:

  • Building a Union Culture of Transformative Justice
  • Establishing BIPOC-centered and anti-ableist procedures that will benefit all grads
  • Protecting international grads
  • An anti-racist, abolitionist future at Brown

Building a Union Culture of Transformative Justice

I fervently commit to building a Transformative Justice framework for use within GLO, a responsibility which, in accordance with our Constitution, falls under the SJ&A Coordinator’s purview.

  • Transformative Justice is a framework of justice developed by Indigenous, Black, poor and working-class, immigrant, and disabled communities surviving under the threat of punitive, state-imposed justice frameworks which have openly targeted the most disenfranchised. A transformative justice-based approach transforms, rather than replicates, the cycles of harm perpetuated by top-down, state-imposed punitive justice frameworks.

As Social Justice and Accountability Coordinator, I will work quickly to arrange Transformative Justice training for those on our Executive Board and any interested members of our Executive Board committees. Beginning in Spring 2021, the SJ&A Committee will begin offering general members more consistent opportunities to learn about Transformative Justice.

GLO’s current Social Justice Working Group first pledged to adopt Transformative Justice practices in our July #BLM solidarity statement. In that same month, we began reading, studying, and implementing the most foundational aspects of Transformative Justice in our biweekly meetings. Together with members of our working group, I sought additional online workshops about TJ led by Mia Mingus. In late summer, the abolitionist coalition Grasping at the Root (GR) organized a three-part series of TJ and crisis response trainings led by experienced Transformative Justice practitioners, which I and several members of the Social Justice Working Group took part in.

In the words of Mia Mingus, “What if accountability wasn’t scary?” I commit to building a Union that focuses on our accountability to one another, rather than to our employers. A united front is much easier to manage when we’re working together.

Protecting International Grads

We are living in a heightened moment of outright, state-sanctioned violence against immigrants in the United States, one that continuously targets our nation’s undocumented residents, and now threatens to eclipse the rights of our international graduate students. As Social Justice and Accountability Coordinator, I will make it a priority to fight DHS’s proposed changes to F-1 and J-1 student visas. Our Committee will make a direct effort to hold meetings, Town Halls, and comment periods relating to the threat.

As Coordinator for SJ&A, I will ensure our committee responds to Lubabah Chowdhury’s call for a referendum on endorsing the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, a movement that, as Lubabah outlines in her platform for Presidency, would mirror the successful undergraduate referendum held back in the spring of 2019.” As grad workers, we must leverage our collective power to demand that Brown completely divest from the occupation of Palestine.

Establishing BIPOC-centered anti-ableist procedures that will benefit all

In collaboration with the President, the Political Director, and the Coordinators for Communications and Organizing, I will help ensure across-the-board cooperation in building an anti-racist, anti-ableist Union culture that benefits all grad workers. Such work will include:

Preventative self-accountability measures:

  • On a bimonthly basis, I will schedule a meeting with the full Executive Board in which we intentionally revisit our commitments to consensus-based discussion and decision-making, as outlined in Article XII of our Constitution.

Proactive Accommodations:

  • Ensure the involvement of at least one member of the SJ&A Committee in co-planning member events, such as General Membership Meetings, to facilitate:
    • RSVP forms that include a space for members to request necessary accommodations.
    • Deliberate, measured pacing during meeting times.
  • Offer alternatives to internet-based communications. GLO has begun increasing its transparency and communication through monthly newsletters sent to your email. As Coordinator of Social Justice and Accountability, I hope to go one step further by ensuring that we provide accommodative support alongside our internet-based communications. I will propose to the Communications Coordinator that we offer members a choice in their preferred method of communication for newsletters and high-priority union updates released via the internet. You may prefer a text alert linking you to our newsletter, for example, or perhaps a personal phone call from an organizer.
  • Hold organizer trainings that stress anti-ableist, anti-racist approaches: We must train our organizers to be as successful as possible, and ensure that no minoritized voice is left unheard. I will work with GLO’s Political Director to ensure the onboardings and trainings we offer to new Union organizers stress inclusive one-on-one approaches, such as consensus-based discussion and active, engaged listening.
  • Increase screen reader accessibility on all online platforms.
  • As Coordinator for Social Justice and Accountability, I will work with the Communications Coordinator to ensure that all of our information is accessible for screen readers, including text descriptions of images posted to our social media and website publications.
  • Ensure that GLO’s physical office and organizing spaces are accessible to people with impaired mobility.

Hold comment periods for Black, Indigenous, disabled, and neurodivergent identifying students:

It is an open secret that, as a whole, we as union organizers have not demonstrated a united or consistent commitment to centering the concerns of the most marginalized grads workers among us. I want the Social Justice and Accountability Committee to serve as a driving force to change that. In her platform for GLO Presidency, Lubabah Chowdhury has suggested opening up a month-long comment period for graduate workers who self-identify as Black and/or Indigenous, as outlined below. I additionally commit to running a month-long comment period for disabled and neurodivergent-identifying graduate workers. This is especially important, as our institution’s DIAP procedures do not account for graduate students’ disability rights.

  • “Graduate workers who self-identify as black and/or indigenous can propose various options for materially supporting our black and indigenous colleagues, including the possibility of reimbursing black and indigenous grad workers the difference between agency fees and member dues and setting aside our COPE fund to support progressive black and indigenous political candidates. We will then poll affected members to democratically determine best practices.” Lubabah Chowdhury, Platform for GLO Presidency.

Support and contribute to a mutual aid network for grad workers

As outlined in Lubabah Chowdhury’s platform.

Establish safe, appropriate, and easily accessible networks of communications with bargaining unit students, regardless of membership:

  • Building a formidable union involves maintaining a careful balance between safeguarding sensitive information and building trust and respect among the graduate students with whom we share our greater community. The Social Justice Working Group has begun to engage in mindful communications with graduate affiliate groups that share our core feminist, anti-racist values, such as participating in recent Nabrit-led affinity-group coalition meetings that focus on graduate-led responses to anti-blackness and xenophobia on campus.

Committing to an abolitionist future

GLO was co-founded by people with a woman of color politic, whose values stressed feminism, anti-racism, and radical activism. The Committee for Social Justice and Accountability must uphold these founding values. Now more than ever, the Committee has a crucial responsibility to speak out against the disproportionate harm that our ongoing culture of policing and surveillance has on Black, brown, Indigenous, and immigrant communities. GLO’s Social Justice Working Group began by outlining our stance and our demands in the #BLM solidarity statement released in July. I will make it a priority to uphold the commitments put forth in that letter, which include:

  • Our pledge to “not just say abolition because it is trendy right now but commit ourselves to ongoing, deep engagement with it by centering the work of feminist anti-violence organizations, including INCITE! Women of Color Against Violence, CODEPINK, Survived and Punished, The Bay Area Transformative Justice Collective, Just Practice, Families for Justice as Healing, and BIJAN/Beyond.”
  • Raising member awareness about the violent, nefarious cooptation of union principles perpetuated by police unions in cooperative collaboration with the President, Coordinator for Organizing, and Political Director.
  • Demanding The American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) expel the International Union of Police Associations and the National Border Patrol Council from its organization (a pledge that Lubabah Chowdhury has vowed to uphold if elected GLO President with a seat at the AFL-CIO table).
  • Increasing our support of the greater Providence community’s anti-policing activist organizations. We must recognize the extractive relationship our University has with the Providence community, and by extension, the uneven amounts of privilege and power we hold over others. It is our duty to leverage our visibility and power for social justice, but we must also accept that local organizations have not always wanted or trusted our presence. We must find ways to enter into consensual discussion with the organizations working within the Providence community to learn how we can acceptably boost their work using our visibility as members of Brown’s Graduate Labor Organization.
  • Continued support of Grasping at the Root (GR), a Brown-based abolitionist coalition of student and community organizations which launched their Campaign for Communities Without Policing in September. 10 of the 14 members of the Social Justice Working Group are currently actively involved in campaigning with Grasping at the Root. Echoing Lubabah’s platform, I will ensure that we continue lending our solidarity and labor to GR, beginning with a call to officially endorse Grasping at the Root’s demands using GLO’s referendum process, as described in Article XIV of GLO’s Constitution.

As Coordinator of Social Justice and Accountability, I will also help carry through Lubabah’s pledge to establish an activist training fund for GLO organizers. Such a fund would help reimburse travel costs and registration fees of workshops, trainings, or teach-ins. Priority of disbursement of funds will be given to Black and Indigenous grad workers.

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