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March 28, 2005 - Image 4

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The Michigan Daily, 2005-03-28

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4A - The Michigan Daily - Monday, March 28, 2005

OPINION

i £id &

JASON Z. PESICK
Editor in Chief

SUHAEL MOMIN
SAM SINGER
Editorial Page Editors

ALISON GO
Managing Editor

EDITED AND MANAGED BY STUDENTS AT
THE UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN SINCE 1890
420 MAYNARD STREET
ANN ARBOR, MI 48109
tothedaily@michigandaily.com

NOTABLE
QUOTABLE
I think all those
people bleating in
Schiavo's front yard
give Jesus a bad
name."
-Bill Youmans, a parishioner at
St. Michael the Archangel Catholic
Church in Clearwater, Fla., as reported
yesterday by The Associated Press.

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0

Unreasonable demands
SUHAEL MOMIN No SU.ENDER

W hen the Lectur-
ers' Employee
Organization
walked out for a day last
winter, few people ques-
tioned the validity of the
lecturers' grievances. It
seemed genuinely unfair
that the University was
treating instructors with
doctoral degrees as tempo-
rary workers - choosing to provide neither job
security nor just compensation. When the Gradu-
ate Employees' Organization held a one-day strike
last Thursday, however, graduate student instruc-
tors didn't even unite behind their union. Consider-
ing the impracticality of GEO's demands, it comes
as no surprise that a good number of undergradu-
ates, professors and even graduate students went
as far as to denounce the strike for what it was:
frivolous. GEO members, who already get a great
deal from the University, need to stop demanding
more and accept a contract.
Though they may carry signs offering to "teach
for food," GEO members are not exploited workers
suffering from unfair compensation. GSIs at the
University are already some of the best rewarded
in the country, effectively "earning" more than
$40,000 a year in tax-exempt tuition waivers
($25,000 per year), stipends ($14,000 per year)
and benefits. When LEO launched its walkout last
year, it was attempting to secure a baseline salary
of $41,000 for its members - who already have
earned doctorates and teach for a living. It's hard
to rationally argue GEO members are exploited or
unfairly paid if the average GSI - who works less
than 20 hours a week, eight months a year - is

compensated just slightly less than an entry-level
lecturer. Furthermore, while GEO may argue that
one cannot live off a tuition waver, the $14,000
yearly stipend ought to easily cover the cost of liv-
ing in Ann Arbor for the vast majority of GSIs.
Even when it comes to the rate of wage increas-
es - which GEO has denounced as too slow
- union members fare just as well, if not better,
than the faculty of the College of Literature, Sci-
ence, and the Arts. In 1996, the University decided
to give GSIs the same annual pay increase given
to LSA faculty, and later revised the policy to
guarantee GEO members at least a 2.5-percent
annual pay increase in the event that LSA faculty
increases fell below that rate. While the University
has indicated it wants GSIs to accept a 2-percent
minimum their first year, it has made clear that all
other GSIs are guaranteed 2.5 percent. Not satis-
fied with a better deal than the professional educa-
tors holding LSA faculty appointments, however,
GEO is now demanding a "living wage," which
would amount to a 20-percent increase over the
next three years - even though no other employ-
ees receive such large increases.
Despite a contractual guarantee that ensures
all graduate employees working more than 10
hours a week receive health care coverage, GEO
has decided to demand that all graduate employ-
ees - even those who work less than 10 hours a
week - receive health care at University expense.
While the University has rejected this request for
financial reasons, the fundamental problem with
this demand is that a GSI working four hours a
week simply doesn't deserve University-spon-
sored health care coverage. This becomes even
more apparent when looking at the LEO contract,
which essentially stipulates that a lecturer must

work average about 20 hours a week during the
fall and winter semesters to qualify for benefits. If
a lecturer, who has made teaching his profession,
needs to work at least 20 hours a week for benefits,
what right does a graduate student not even work-
ing 10 have to that same package?
GEO, unable to see beyond its own "needs"
and recognize the fiscal constraints facing the
University, remains adamant about its costly
concerns and is promising to strike indefinitely
if the University does not negotiate in good faith
to meet them. This threat, more than any single
GEO demand, has rubbed the campus communi-
ty the wrong way. At a time when tuition is sky-
rocketing, state funding is falling and operating
costs are trending upward, many find it ridicu-
lous that GEO seems unwilling to simply accept
an already-comfortable contract. Observers can
quickly see that GEO's self-interest - a desire
for more money and benefits - has placed the
University in a position where it will have to
accept unreasonable demands simply to avoid a
devastating strike. If GEO wants support from
the University community, it would be wise to
drop rhetoric about an indefinite strike and sign
the best contract it can negotiate by week's end.
Before last Thursday's walkout, GEO members
posted flyers proclaiming, "The University is not a
corporation." The flyers are correct: The University
is not a corporation. Rather, it is a public institution
with no profits and little control over its revenue
stream that is losing millions of dollars in funding
each year. GEO needs to tone down its excessive
demands and sign a responsible contract.

01

Momin can be reached at
smomin@umich.edu.

LETTER TO THE EDITOR

GEO strike lacked
compelling argument
I am writing this e-mail due to the heavy
attention given to the Graduate Employees'
Organization walkout. I have been reading the
Daily's editorials and have visited a website
published by the University that addresses the
GEO's demands and explains how the Univer-
sity feels it is dealing with them.
I believe that as a GSI, one should wish to
teach. I am pretty sure that you don't have to
be a GSI to graduate. If you are only interested
in research and furthering your education, that
is fine by the University. You can still do this.
Therefore, I assume that anyone who is a GSI
wishes to be one. I find it contradictory that in
protest, GEO decided to stop teaching.
I still understand that GSIs are benefiting the
University and that they should be reimbursed.
But as stated in the Daily, the GEO wishes to
increase a GSI's salary from $14,000 to $18,000
in four years, citing the need to keep up with the
cost of living in Ann Arbor. This adds up to be
about a 7-percent raise each year. The cost of
living can't be increasing by this amount. The
median income of Ann Arbor for one person
(I do understand that some GSIs are married,
but I would assume most are not.) is $54,400.
The GSI salary now, converted to a full-time
annual salary, equals $41,930. This does not
include the $7,840 to $34,200 off of tuition that
a GSI receives. I am perplexed about why GEO
is angered by the fact that GSIs are only get-
ting a minimum of a 2-percent to 2.5-percent
increase. To me, this seems adequate.
From my analysis of the health care that
the University provides, I am again baffled
by GEO's complaints. The University offers a
program called GradCare. From what I under-

stand, this program is designed to provide the
most efficient health care possible. This-health
care is not provided to faculty or staff in order
to keep it at a low cost. GradCare is directed
at a demographic that is generally healthy due
to age, and as a result, won't need as much
medical help. GEO wants the University to
provide this health care benefit to any "desig-
nated beneficiary" who is linked to a GSI by
some shared life elements. This will totally
negate the purpose of GradCare by changing
the demographic that this health care is aimed
for. Opening GradCare to other demographics
would skyrocket the costs. This "designated
beneficiary" also ignores Proposal 2, which
is a constitutional amendment voted on by the
electorate. The University also guarantees that
there is no office co-pay if GSIs receive service
form University Health Services.
GEO has also issued demands that I feel it
has not thought about logically. GEO wishes to
end the English competence test for GSIs. As a
student, I believe that this is not fair to me. As I
student, I wish to learn, and if I can't communi-
cate with my teacher and he can't communicate
with me, I don't feel that I can learn acceptably.
I feel this point is quite obvious. GEO wants the
University to cover chronic mental health treat-
ment and transgender services. Now granted,
the University denying this might be discrimi-
natory, but as a student I don't wish to be taught
by a GSI who has chronic mental health issues.
Also, I don't really care if you wish to be a man
or a woman, but I think that is your decision
,and you should not use the University's money
to pay for this.
I believe one becomes a GSI to teach and
to learn through teaching. I don't see Law stu-
dents and Medical students picketing because
of the debt they carry as a result of their
respective graduate programs. I feel the argu-

ments that GEO presents can be dealt with in
some other orderly manner. I also don't think
that.GEO has thought of the financial cost that
its demands will bring to the University. Due to
the loss of financial aid from the state, I would
have to assume that a rise in tuition would have
to ensue to cover GEO's demands. I feel that
the GEO is striking just because it can (Which
in reality under state law, it is not legal), not
because it needs to. For that reason, I cannot in
clear conscience support the walkout.
Daniel Murray
Engineering junior

LETTERS POLICY

The Michigan Daily welcomes
letters from all of its readers. Letters from
University students, faculty, staff and
administrators will be given priority over
others. Letters should include the writer's
name, college and school year or other Uni-
versity affiliation. The Daily will not print
any letter containing statements that can-
not be verified.
Letters should be kept to approxi-
mately 300 words. The Michigan Daily
reserves the right to edit for length, clarity
and accuracy. Longer "viewpoints" may be
arranged with an editor. Letters will be run
according to order received and the amount
of space available.
Letters should be sent over e-mail to
tothedaily@michigandaily.com or mailed to the
Daily at 420 Maynard St. Editors can be reached
via e-mail at editpage.editors @umich.edu. Letters
e-mailed to the Daily will be given priority over
those dropped off in person or sent via the U.S.
Postal Service.

0
0

VIEWPOINT
Life lessons

0i

BY JOHN STIGLIcH II
The events of the past month concerning the
fate of Terri Schiavo - a brain-damaged Flor-
ida woman whose feeding tube was recently
removed - have captivated many Americans.
The Schiavo case brings into question what role
the government should play in determining the
fate of life - what is happening to Schiavo
could happen to any of us. President Bush and
members of Congress on both sides of the aisle
have consistently lobbied for erring on the side
of life when a incapacitated individual's inten-

Bush and Congress were caught between prin-
ciple and morality, and even though they made
the correct moral decision, the violation of
government principle was inexcusable.
The Florida state courts have turned down
all appeals of Schiavo's parents - Bob and
Mary Schindler - because Florida law
declares a spouse the legal guardian over the
parents. The law has well-founded reason-
ing - you can pick your spouse, but you can
not pick your parents. Generally speaking, a
spousal relationship entails joint decisions
for the continuation of the couple's welfare.

love Terri and be fighting hard to uphold her
wishes. After numerous appeals to every
possible court, the law is clearly on the side
of Michael Schiavo because that is the lan-
guage of the law.
If Bush and members of Congress feel this
passionately about suspending necessary
medical treatment from a patient, then they
should start a national education program on
living wills. Living wills serve as legal docu-
mentation of a person's wish for life or death
when medical assistance is necessary to sus-
tain life. A living will would override the

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