University of Michigan officials have informed graduate student instructors and graduate student staff assistants that employees who participate in a strike this fall will be subject to replacement for the entire semester.
Graduate employees engaged in the work stoppage also will “likely be removed from the system as a course instructor and will lose access to the Canvas site(s) for the course,” according to an email message from Provost Laurie McCauley sent Aug. 7.
The message, sent as the university readies for the start of the fall term in three weeks, comes amid an ongoing contract dispute with the Graduate Employees’ Organization, the union representing GSIs and GSSAs. The union’s prior contract expired on May 3.
“As we attempt to reach an agreement, ensuring the continuity of education for our students is non-negotiable,” McCauley wrote. “A semester that allows our students to pursue their education is an inflexible expectation of our students, their families, deans, university leaders, and the Board of Regents.”
McCauley said campus deans have developed and endorsed the guidelines, along with the Office of the Provost, to “support the continuity of instruction in the event of a work stoppage” this fall.
The email specifies that all instructors are expected to fulfill their instructional responsibilities, which include, but are not limited to, creating a syllabus and Canvas site for every course, teaching scheduled classes, grading student work and submitting grades on time.
“When instructors choose not to fulfill their teaching responsibilities, it disrupts students’ education, damages the quality of instruction, and can cause other harm,” she said. “This is a serious breach of the trust that our students place in us as educators and in their reliance on the institution to deliver on our educational mission.”
GEO representatives did not respond to an inquiry seeking comment Monday afternoon.
Additional guidelines for GSIs and GSSAs listed in the message include:
- GSIs and GSSAs will be required to complete weekly online forms attesting that they have completed their work duties.
- GSIs and GSSAs not fulfilling their job duties will not receive their stipend for any period during which they are not completing their duties.
- GSIs who engage in a work stoppage will be subject to replacement for the entire semester if the university hires or assigns another individual to perform their duties, or if the university restructures the course. The person hired or assigned to cover the GSI’s course will not be subject to displacement during the semester.
- GSIs engaged in the work stoppage likely will be removed from the system as a course instructor and will lose access to the Canvas site(s) for the course.
- GSIs and GSSAs who claim medical leave during the duration of a strike will be required to provide verifiable, written proof from their health-care provider of the reason or reasons enumerated in the former contract to substantiate their need to use paid sick time.
Meanwhile, negotiations between the two parties continue this week.
The university’s latest proposal to GEO fell through Aug. 4 after union members said the deadline for approving the deal “did not allow for the time needed to have rigorous, collective discussions about the offer.” GEO leadership received key details of the proposal, including salary information, on July 31, and a written proposal on Aug. 2.
That deal — brokered with the assistance of the Board of Regents; David Hecker, former president of the Michigan organization of the American Federation of Teachers; and Kirsten Herold, president of the Lecturers’ Employee Organization and secretary-treasurer of AFT Michigan — would have provided GSIs and GSSAs on the Ann Arbor campus with 20% in total raises over the next three years — 8%, 6% and 6%, respectively — along with a $1,000 bonus this fall.
McCauley said the offer was intended to get the parties to a final resolution of all terms.
“Given the imminent arrival of the fall term, this offer was accompanied by a deadline of Friday, August 4 at 4:59 p.m.,” she said. “The union neither accepted nor rejected the offer, and thus it expired. As a result, the offer was withdrawn and the university’s current proposal is its May 12 proposal.”
The May 12 offer would provide GEO members on the Ann Arbor campus 12.5% in total raises over the next three years — 5%, 4% and 3.5%, respectively. GEO members on the Dearborn and Flint campuses would receive 6.75% in total raises over the same period.