We are a voluntary group of graduate students who are concerned about the current effort by CGSU/NYSUT/AFT to unionize graduate students at Cornell. In principle, we are not opposed to unionization in work places, including graduate schools. However, we are opposed to the unionization effort as executed at Cornell. Our group is not affiliated in any way with Cornell University, but for the fact that we are Cornell graduate students.

If you would like to find out ways that you can get involved or if you would like to join our email list, use the form on the right of this page. Any questions can be directed to atwhatcostcornell@gmail.com.


“At What Cost?” was the name used by a group of Cornell graduate students during the CASE/UAW unionization efforts in 2002. We chose to revitalize this name because of the similarities between the 2002 movement and the current unionization attempt. The archived At What Cost? page from 2002 is still available here. Note that many of the linked press articles are no longer available. The name, “At What Cost?,” originated with a similar group at Brown in the early 2000s and has been adopted by many independent groups over the years across campuses such as Cornell, Penn State, University of Minnesota, to name a few.


Just like now, in 2002, Cornell graduate students were presented with the opportunity to unionize. Cornell graduate students in a group called CASE chose to affiliate with UAW (United Automobile Workers) similar to how CGSU chose to affiliate with NYSUT/AFT. At What Cost organized discussions, maintained a website, distributed posters, and emailed graduate students directly with factual information. The election was held on October 23 and 24, 2002; Cornell graduate students voted 2-1 against union representation.


We have not and will not receive any funding from either Cornell University or outside individuals. Expenses associated with hosting this website, printing fliers, etc. are paid for by donations of concerned Cornell graduate students. The unionization effort at Cornell is funded by NYSUT/AFT.


1) Let your friends and fellow graduate students know about the website – atwhatcost.org

2) Have a discussion with fellow graduate students and ask them about their concerns regarding the unionization effort. Raise awareness!

3) If you have any friends at other universities reach out to them and find out more about how the union has affected them.

4) Any other ideas? We would be happy to hear them.


Since launching our website we have received multiple inquiries regarding our officers/committee/organizational structure. We are not an official Cornell organization nor do we have a hierarchy among our members. A few of us have offered to become publicly accessible. Please keep in mind that we are all full-time PhD students with lives outside of Cornell and At What Cost. We all volunteered our time to build this website, because we believe this to be a just cause. We challenge CGSU to release all the names of paid NYSUT/AFT staff working in Ithaca on the unionization campaign.

Siddarth Chandrasekaran – sc974
Hello, I’m a 7th year PhD candidate in Chemistry with the goal of finishing my PhD in 2016. I am originally from Hyderabad in India and have completed my Bachelors in Chemistry from Loyola College, India. I also have a Masters degree in Spectroscopy from the University of Lille (France) and University of Leipzig (Germany). At Cornell, I am largely focused on developing Electron Spin Resonance techniques to study biological membranes as a member of the Freed group/ACERT. I am passionate about teaching and have been a teaching fellow at the Center for Teaching Excellence. I also am active in a dozen groups at Cornell (Cornell BEST Program, Asha Cornell, Cornell India Association to name a few).  At Cornell, I have also interacted extensively with the administration through my many roles such as a member of the General Committee of the Graduate School and as the Chair of the Appropriations Committee of the GPSA.

Joel Brown – jmb742
I am a 5th year graduate student in the Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics. I have a passion for understanding mammalian development; that is, how does a single-cell develop into a full-fledged, organism with hundreds of distinct cell types and tissues? I won’t bore you with the details. 🙂 When I’m not busy at the lab, you can find me hanging out with my wife and four kiddos at one of the many local area parks, or exploring the woods at our Newfield home. All in all, I’m just another grad student toiling in the trenches and looking forward to an exciting future. I feel honored to be part of the Cornell community.

Nicole Wiles – ntj7
I am a 2nd year Materials Science PhD student researching plastic deformation in glass. I focus on understanding the atomic mechanisms involved with plastic deformation. I grew up in Iowa (think corn not potatoes) but not on a farm. I completed my BA in Physics and Mathematics at Coe College, a small liberal arts college in Iowa. When I’m not on campus, you’ll likely find me getting my hands dirty working on older BMWs with my husband or attempting to maintain my former glory on the ice arena. If it’s snowy, you’ll likely find me on the slopes still learning how to snowboard or inside with my nose in a book sipping some hot cocoa.

Mark Obstalecki – mo362
Hello, I’m a 6th year PhD candidate in Mechanical Engineering with hopes of finishing my degree soon. I’m originally from Illinois (yes the “S” is silent), where I finished my undergraduate degree at UIUC. My research at Cornell focuses on studying plastic slip localization during fatigue loading of polycrystalline metals such as copper. I probe my samples nondestructively using high energy x-rays at the Cornell High Energy Synchrotron Source (CHESS). If you haven’t already, sign up for a tour! In my spare time, which is often difficult to find, I enjoy spending time outdoors, running and cycling. I’m also an avid numismatist and travel across the country searching for rare coins.

Kyle Mack – kam467
I am a 4th year graduate student in the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology focused on elucidating mechanisms of interesting transformations in organic chemistry. Our lab employs spectroscopic techniques in concert with DFT calculations to understand these transformations at the molecular level. Originally from New Jersey, I earned my Bachelors in Chemistry at Montclair State University. I have served as the president of the Graduate Association of Chemistry (GAC). In my free time, I enjoy playing soccer, hiking around Ithaca, and playing golf—Fore! At home, I am very passionate about cooking and enjoy hosting dinner parties.