Reaching this point has taken a lot of hard work, and MIT’s administrators haven’t made it easy.
I enjoyed my first nine months in my lab without incident — I got along with my PI and was nearing completion on a body of work that would result in a first-author publication. But one October evening, things changed. My PI sent an email accusing me of breaking equipment that I hadn’t touched in weeks. When I tried to defend myself, she called me “combative” and called my communication style “unprofessional.” She told me that I was a bad lab citizen, even though as lab safety officer I devoted hours every week to managing lab waste and keeping my labmates safe. My PI made several unreasonable demands in the following weeks, including that we work at least 60 hours per week and respond to Slack messages within one hour during the workday, a rule that completely disregards the fact that students have classes and experiments that prohibit swift responses at all times. When I tried to communicate my concerns, I was again accused of “giving pushback” and being disrespectful.
Teachers unionize to reduce class sizes so they can focus on providing the best education possible to their students. Nurses unionize to fight understaffing so they can give their patients quality care. We’re unionizing so we can focus on conducting world-class research.