Graduate students in the department of Chemical Engineering have put together a document drafted by a nonpartisan group of students. In this document you will notice that:
- Much of what the union is [admirably] trying to do is already codified in the university's bylaws. Examples of things the union is trying to accomplish, but already exist are:
- Leave -- sick leave, maternity/paternity leave, military or jury duty leave (both protected by law as well), other family leave.
- Harassment intervention
- Violation reporting
- Student representation (GAPSA, COGS, etc) -- This will be discussed below
- Health insurance
- Minimum pay
- Maximum work load
- Termination policy
- Same-sex partner policy
- Many other things are provided for as well, but nobody (including me) reads the U of M's code of conduct or anything else containing these stipulations.
- Science, Technology and Mathematics (STEM) graduate students make up more than 50% of the voting population.
- The voting card is actually an authorization for the UAW to act as your union.
- There is no minimum number of voters required for the upcoming election.
The GSWU-UAW organizers typically discuss mistreatment of graduate students as a primary reason for unionization. As skeptical graduate students, many of us examine these claims and wonder what problems exist that a union could fix that the above safeguards are unable to. It seems that not only are there no situations that are not covered by the above existing protections, but there are no situations where graduate students are being exploited in a systematic fashion.
To see our responses to other union organizers' claims, click here.
To provide some empirical evidence for our claims that the University has an acceptable conflict-resolution mechanism, we include below the highlights of a meeting with Student Conflict Resolution Center (SCRC). While we are including this information for the purposes of disproving the claims that there is a lack of an effective grievance procedure, we also hope that students will spread it around as it is important information. It could possibly save you or your colleague headaches from having to deal with a problem alone.
- SCRC is a resource for students who have tried resolving their problems on their own without success.
- It is a free service, paid for by the student services fee.
- The satisfaction rating given by SCRC users is 95% for the past year.
- There were 184 graduate students who used the SCRC's "ombudsman" services (the least involved service).
- There were 16 graduate students who used the SCRC's next step up, the "advocate" services. The advocates assist students during formal grievance or disciplinary proceedings.
The SCRC is located in 254 Appleby Hall, and is open to all graduate students (as well as undergraduates). Jan Morse is the person in charge of handling graduate students' cases.
Jan reports that most of the graduate students that come to SCRC are looking for help mediating a conflict that they have with an adviser relating to their academic progress. For example, a student may be moved from one project to another against his or her desire. The student could then contact the SCRC and discuss the issue with an ombudsman, who will serve as an impartial mediator between the two parties involved. If this is not resolved in a satisfactory way, the student can then choose to escalate the dispute to one of the various committees that have jurisdiction on the matter. During this process, the student can take the assistance of SCRC advocates, who are law students at the University's law school.
From this conversation, it was obvious that there exists a pathway for addressing problems within the University's infrastructure. Furthermore, the ombudsman pathway is a "soft" pathway, meaning that the solutions are mutually-agreed on by all parties. This type of solution is much more likely to preserve or repair an already strained relationship. If the problem is irreconcilable to the point where the student needs to escalate the complaint, the advocates will help the student reach the proper committees or administrators. At this step, the recommendations of the committee or administrator becomes binding. Using the example of the student above, if the student brings a case before the Dean where the Dean recommends in favor of the student, then the adviser is required to follow this recommendation.