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February 14, 2002 - Image 5

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The Michigan Daily, 2002-02-14

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OP/ED

5A - The Michigan Daily - Thursday, February 14, 2002

PART

2:

AT THE BARGAINING TABLE

fter months of heated bargaining, the conflict between the Unive
seven issues. The main concerns of the University are budgetary
an unclear funding commitment from the state legislature, the Ur
in a decade. Meanwhile, GEO is hoping to receive written confirmation
and improve the quality of living for its members. So far, GEO seems corn
versity seems unmoved on many points.
With the contract between the University and GEO set to expire tomor

i distilled to
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ftest budget
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GEO the University: and SALE spya out on the bargaining process. The Daily examines some of the biggest and most contentious issues currently on the table.

The University

Vs .

GEO Local 3550

We are heading into a 12th week of
negotiations with the Graduate
Employees Organization over a new
labor contract, and many graduate students,
undergraduates, faculty and staff are interested
in the outcome of these negotiations. As faculty
members on the bargaining team, we want our
community to understand some of the core val-
ues that govern our decision-making as we
work to come to a fair agreement.
Graduate student instructors are funda-
mentally important to us in two ways. First,
and foremost, they are students. The opportu-
nity for GSIs to work closely with both
undergraduates and faculty in a teaching envi-
ronment is a key ingredient in their education-
al experience. The financial support provided
to GSIs - salary, tuition and benefits -
helps them to pay for their graduate education
and also is part of the University's commit-
ment to their academic success.
Second, GSIs are crucial to the quality of
our teaching enterprise. The employment of
GSIs makes it possible for us to offer smaller
classes, allowing more individual attention and
active learning experiences for undergraduates.
GSIs approach their disciplines with a fresh
perspective and creativity, transmitting their
excitement to the undergraduates they teach.
They are an important link between undergrad-
uates and faculty in the intergenerational learn-
ing model that makes up a great university such
as the University of Michigan.
Because of the importance we place on our
graduate students, we want to arrive at a con-
tract that provides fair compensation for their
work and continues to improve the quality of
their work environment. GEO has played a
valuable role in this process and in bringing sig-
nificant issues to the attention of the University
over the years.
Yet, working with a union made up of stu-
dents presents its own unique challenges. GEO
has regular turnover in its leadership and mem-
bers, with new negotiators at the table for each
new three-year contract. GEO leaders prefer to
bargain publicly with an inclusive, democratic
approach that invites large numbers of
observers at each of our bargaining sessions.
This approach, while understandable, is not the
most efficient method of arriving at a swift con-
clusion to the bargaining process.
Many of the issues we are working through
involve a significant budget impact for the Uni-
versity. We're proud of the fact that our GSIs
are among the most highly compensated in the
country. They are rightfully well paid because
we expect them to be among the best in their
fields. Six years ago we began to link GSI
salary increases to faculty increases in LSA,
both to ensure reasonable pay increases and to
reflect the linkage that exists between faculty

and GSI instructional efforts. Since then, GSI
increases have kept pace with the faculty and
we have never had to rely upon the minimum
salary increases specified in the contract.
However, we are heading into an extraordi-
narily difficult budget year. Faculty and staff
salary increases are likely to feel the impact, as
are a wide variety of University programs.
Undergraduate students and their parents are
understandably concerned that tuition levels not
increase at an unreasonable pace. We ask that
GEO be responsible about the costs of the con-
tract provisions they are hoping to negotiate,
given the realities of our budget environment.
One of the greatest areas of misunderstand-
ing is the cost ofGSIs' tuition that is paid for
by the University. GEO has expressed to us the
notion that tuition expenses are not "real" costs
to the University. On the contrary, tuition
reflects the very real cost of providing instruc-
tion and other academic support and student
services to graduate students. A study in the
Chronicle of Higher Education this week docu-
ments that most universities spend more to edu-
cate students than the cost of tuition reflects.
Some proposals fall outside the scope of
bargaining because they tread on the funda-
mental need of departments to have control
over
t h e
quali-
ty of~
their>
acad-
emic
envi-
ron-
ment.
This
is why, for example, we insist on English lan-
guage proficiency for international students
who want to be GSIs, and why we require
instructional training for GSIs from foreign
countries and for all GSIs at the discretion of
their departments.
In the end, we will not be able to respond to
every proposal .submitted by GEO. It is the
responsibility of both parties at the bargaining
table to prioritize their core issues and concerns,
and work hard to come to a resolution on those
issues that are the most important. We are con-
fident that the set of proposals the University
has put forward will increase materially the
compensation and quality of working con-
ditions for GSIs.
ERIc A. BERMANN
Associate Professor of Psychology
CHARLES C. BROWN
Professor of Economics
LOUIS B. NAGEL
Associate Professor of Music
ROMESH SAIGAL
Professor ofIndustrial and Operations Engineering

Many GSIs today are
than they were a quar
ry ago, thanks to tl
many who have stuck togeti
union was founded. Most of us
paycheck to paycheck, but atl
There are some, however, who
ipate fully in the life of either t
or the city of Ann Arbor. Par
$800 a month in rent to family
over $800 a month for child
them with less than nothing toI
uate student librarians earn an,
percent of what GSIs earn, an
of these are allowed to be in the
arbitrarily are not.
Female and minority grad
have fewer opportunities to teat
do. Some 150 graduate student
"low fraction" GSIs - earn $7
or less without benefits. Withot
against bottom-line budgeting n
candidate, and out-of-state grad
could be shut out of the LSA G
and lose their only way to pa
Graduate students who are ha
job have little or no recourse, ex
lawyer with money they do not1
subjected to an insulting langt
does nothing to assist or to te
mand of the English language.
This contract year is for all t
students who continue to strugg
We ask the question, "what
munity do we want to be?" Do
the kind of community that:
families for trying to make a 1
themselves by attending gradua
does not believe in equal pay fo
C) cuts backroom deals for jobs
sion of women and people ofc
bids our lowest paid citizens
into health care benefits even if
ing to pay for them; E) discrim
those in our number whose ed
more than others; F) allows
harassment to continue with it
G) insults our immigrant citizen
My guess is that the adminis
answer no to each of these qu
yet in rejecting our proposals

doing better
ter of a centu-
he countless
her since the
still live from
least we live.
cannot partic-
he University
ents pay over
y housing and
care, leaving
live on. Grad-
average of 70
d while some
union, others
uate students
ch than others
s -- known as

through their actions, indicated quite the
opposite.
Their position is all the more troubling,
since most of these proposals cost next to
nothing. Take, for instance, our proposal on
harassment. We seek a definition of work-
place harassment and a special grievance
procedure.
Some of our proposals merely ask to put
current practice into writing. For example,
the administration insists that they never
implemented bottom-line budgeting (despite
ample evidence to the contrary); that in fact,
they are managing GSI hiring through the
"slot system" in which the best GSIs are
hired instead of the cheapest. GEO supports
the slot system; all we ask is that they guar-
antee the slot system for the life of our con-
tract.

'00 per month This brings me to the subect of under-
ut a safeguard graduate students, yet another group within
ion-LSA, pre- our community whose interests are undercut
duate students when financial costs take precedence over
SI hiring pool human costs.
y for school. The administration has rejected many of
rassed on the our proposals in the name of undergraduate
xcept to hire a education. However, their refusal to sign a
have. Finally, safeguard against bottom-line budgeting sug-
interna- gests that they will attempt to implement it
t i o n a 1 once this contract year is over. In the last con-
graduate tract round, the administration sought to
students increase the GSI workload by almost 50 per-
- many, cent in exchange for a raise that would have
o f brought us closer to a living wage. This would
w h o m have made GSIs teach 4 sections or about 100
... are flu- undergraduates each, making it almost impos-
ent in sible to give our students the individual atten-
English tion they already lack in lectures.
- are If the administration stonewalls this year,
uage test that graduate students will not be the only ones
st their com- who don't go to class. Undergraduates won't
either. Bottom-line budgeting is bad for
hose graduate undergrads. So is the current state of teacher
le unfairly. training which we are attempting to reform.
kind of com- Undergraduates that I have spoken to are
we want to be also appalled by the pace of negotiations on
A) punishes harassment. Though the myth is to the con-
better life for trary, GEO is one of the last lines of defense
te school; B) (apart from undergraduates themselves) of
r equal work; undergraduate education and it has been the
to the exclu- administration that has more often than not
color; D) for- compromised it. At a highly corporatized
from buying research institution like the University,
they are will- undergraduate and graduate students are all
inates against in this together, like it or not.
ucation costs Unless we are prepared to jeopardize
s workplace both our community and our education, we
mpunity; and should stick by one another in the coming
s? month until the administration decides to
tration would put us before their bottom line.

The students
speak on GEO
F ew undergraduates on campus are aware of
the current Graduate Employees Organiza-
tion contract negotiations. While this issue
may seem to have little to do with undergraduates,
we must realize that it has the potential to greatly
impact the quality of our education in the future.
GEO, the union to which University graduate stu-
dent instructors and staff members belong, has
extended its contract, which expired Feb. 1, until
tomorrow, Feb. 15, in order to continue negotia-
tions. The union is negotiating for a contract,
which includes improved childcare systems, pro-
vides a clause concerning harassment in the
workplace, does not utilize bottom-line budget-
ing in compensating employees and abolishes
unfair language testing practices. The University
provides its graduate student employees with the
least childcare options out of any school in the
Big Ten. GSIs with children are unable to afford
private childcare on their modest salaries and
given veritably meager options by the Universi-
ty, it is difficult for them to complete their own
studiesand also give full energy and attention to
their teaching.
Also, nothing substantial in the current GEO
contract exists to deal with workplace harassment,
a clear deficit in insuring fair and safe working
conditions for these employees.
The University is seeking to change the way in
which GSIs are paid. Rather than simply issuing
each GSI a salary, the administration wants to dis-
tribute a lump sum to each University department
out of which individual departments will pay their
GSIs. If this provision is included in the contract,
the various academic departments will be likely to
hire far fewer international and out of state gradu-
ate students, because these students pay higher
tuition and thus require more compensation. This
would mean that local GSI candidates would be
chosen over all others, regardless of qualifications,
thus lowering the overall quality of GSI teaching
skills, as well as narrowing the diversity of the
GSI body (something to consider at a university
which claims diversity as a priority).
Another shortfall of the existing contract is
that no specific regulations exist for foreign lan-
guage testing of graduate student employees.
Currently, it is perfectly legal for GSIs to be test-
ed arbitrarily - and they are. Often, Caucasian
international GSIs are not required to take the
test, while those from Asian, African or Latin
countries are. Clearly, these issues have serious
potential to vastly effect the state of undergradu-
ate education at the University. GSIs do 54 per-
cent of undergraduate instruction and also the
vast majority of grading our work. Because of
the paramount role played by GSIs in our acade-
mic experiences, the issues they face are integral
to our academic success.
Imagine how we as undergraduates would
fare without the depth of experience and diversi-
ty of our GSIs. Imagine the eminent drop in the
quality of teaching if where our GSIs came from
took precedence over their ability to explain con-
cepts and grade papers insightfully. Think of
how much more efficient and helpful our GSIs
could be if those with children had better
resources and thus more time and energy to
devote to our needs and our work. If our GSIs do
not feel safe at work, if they are not free from the
fear of harassment, from the indignity of dis-
crimination, how can they invest themselves in
their studies and in the work they do for us? Ulti-
mately any issues surrounding the work of grad-
uate employees affect their ability to do their
jobs and thus affect us as undergraduates. If we
care about our education, we must support the
graduate students who are integral to it. We must
stand with GEO to defend our rights as students.
ALENA AcER
LSA, RCsophomore
The writer is a member of Students Organizing
for Labor and Economic Equality (SOLE).
TBargaining
lineup
FOR THE UNIVERSITY:

DANIEL GAMBLE - CHIEF NEGOTIATOR
Human Resources and Affirmative Action Director
ERIC A. BERMANN
Associate Professor of Psychology
CHARLES C. BROWN
Professor of Economics
KAREN CLARK
Manager, Human Resources and Administration
RON DICK
Human Resources Representative
LOUIS B. NAGEL
Associate Professor of Music
ROMESH SAIGAL
Professor ofndustrial and Operations Engineering
SHARON SCHMIDT
Administrative Assistant Human Resources
FoR GEO:
ALYSSA PICARD - CHIEF NEGOTIATOR
History
LELAND DAVIS
Anthropology
IRFAN NOORUDDIN
Political Science
DANIEL PUGH
Anthropology
SUSANNI NGARIAN
Southeast Asian Studies
Liz DUHN
Representative, Michigan Federation of Teachers
DAVID HECKER
President, Michigan Federation of Teachers

iestions. And
s, they have,

Anatomy of the struggle: Some of the biggest issues

INTERNATIONAL GSI TRAINING REFORM:
The Issue
Currently the University has an
ambiguous policy for the English language
testing of foreign GSIs. The University
does not test all international students but
instead tends to test those from non-West-
ern nations. The decision to test does not
consider whether or not English is their
native language or if they were educated in
English speaking schools. GEO contends
that this practice is offensive and ineffec-
tive and should be reformed. According to
(lEO, both US. citizens and non-citizens
have difficulty with English and should be
allowed to improve their skills through the
Univeristy. Also, the test mainly focuses
n the cultural differences between educa-
tion in the United States and other coun-
tries. For examtle.the test asks whether it

GEO says:
All GSIs should attend a mandatory
paid 5-hour training session and'make a
paid 3-week program available to all GSI's
who desire to take part.
FRACTION RECALCULATIONS:
The Issue
GSIs salaries; tuition waivers and bene-
fits are determined on a sliding scale based
on fractions. Fractions are the percentage
of timea GSI spends actually teaching stu-
dents. GIIs who teach more than 95 hours
per week have a quarter (.25) appointment
and are granted a full tuition waiver.

CONTRACTUAL HARASSMENT LANGUAGE:
The Issue
GSIs, because of their unique position
as both employees of the University and
students are particularly susceptible to
harassment, sexual and otherwise.

CEDRIC DE LEON
President, GEO
DOWN TO THE WIRE
is a series-analysis of the Grad-
uate Employees Organization
This, the second part, allowed
the University, GEO and
SOLE to voice their opinions
on the current state of the
negotiations process.
PART 3 WILL FOLLOW
when the 12th contract is
signed - or GSIs, out of
deadlock, are forced to take a
more drastic action ...

GEO says:
GEO has attempted to include eight
pages of language culled from state and
federal statues preventing harassment.
GEO also wants to reform the grievance
system and create a panel equally com-.
posed of GSIs and University officials
that would adjudicate disputes. In the
event of a tie, a third-party arbiter would
hear the case. GEO wants the grievance
process altered so GSIs do not pay for a
lnx-.r +hae -h.r o ii nl n m n fnfon

.-

--

The University says:
The University does not want to
include any anti-harassment language,
samninrIr that Or v an ie the victina

V

1'

I is

I

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