Central Student Government unanimously supports graduate student strike

Tuesday, September 8, 2020 - 8:06pm

Rackham student Hayden Jackson speaks at at a virtual Central Student Government meeting Tuesday night.

Rackham student Hayden Jackson speaks at at a virtual Central Student Government meeting Tuesday night. Buy this photo
Courtesy of Alex Harring

The University of Michigan Central Student Government Assembly has unanimously passed a resolution in support of the Graduate Employees’ Organization strike.

All Assembly members present voted in support of the resolution at CSG’s weekly meeting Tuesday night. 

The resolution will be presented to CSG President Amanda Kaplan, Public Policy senior. Kaplan told The Daily she plans to sign the resolution as soon as she receives it from the speaker of the Assembly.

The resolution called the University’s official response to the strike “reprehensible.” University spokesperson Rick Fitzgerald wrote in a statement Monday that the work stoppage was illegal. 

“The state of Michigan prohibits public employees from striking,” Fitzgerald wrote. “GEO’s contract with U-M also prohibits the union and GSIs and GSSAs from taking part in any action or interference with the operations of the university, such as failing to report for duty or the failure to perform their employment duties.”

CSG’s resolution also says President Mark Schlissel and other University administrators should “take immediate action to meet the long-awaited demands of GEO members.”

The resolution asks students to observe the picket line — meaning they should not attend class — and participate in other actions such as picketing in solidarity with GEO.

The union announced it would strike starting Tuesday in response to the University’s fall reopening plan. GEO has also demanded the reduction of the police presence on campus and asked for additional support for international students.

The strike is slated to end Friday, with the potential for reauthorization.

LSA representatives Ruby Yearling and Annie Mintun and Engineering representatives Cole Ammerman and Carla Voigt sponsored the resolution. Voigt is also the vice speaker of the Assembly. Mintun said it was important to stand with the graduate students.

“We want to make it clear to the administration and to GEO that we do stand in solidarity with them,” Mintun, an LSA junior, said at the meeting.

The Assembly also unanimously passed a motion calling on the University to implement asynchronous learning on election day to encourage student voting in the 2020 presidential election. 

Public Policy senior Damian Chessare, a sponsor of the resolution, emphasized that it would promote student voting in the election and is widely supported by campus organizations WeListen, The Roosevelt Institute, the University of Michigan’s chapter of the College Democrats, Citizens’ Climate Lobby and Turnup Turnout.

The assembly discussed and enacted the Fall 2020 CSG Budget Act, which appropriates $227,500 to the Student Organization Committee account and $115,890.38 to the Legislative Discretionary Fund, among other allocations.

Mintun also introduced a motion to spend $3,595 from the LDF to pay the instructors of a CSG-sponsored LSAT test prep program. The instructors had requested compensation in a letter addressed to CSG on April 27.

The Assembly met on May 20 to discuss the instructors’ demands, but did not pass a resolution.

“The LSAT instructors were promised lesson plans from LSAC which they never received,” Mintun. “They had to spend time outside of class in order to create materials to run their class. This motion would provide additional compensation for them, if they claim it, to be paid for this time.”

The Assembly passed the resolution with a majority after a roll call vote.

On Tuesday, Kaplan and Vice President Saveri Nandigama released an official statement via Twitter supporting an op-ed from United Asian American Organization, Black Student Union, La Casa, and Arab Student Association calling for the end of the Michigan Ambassadors program. The groups said they felt CSG had ignored their concerns about the program in the piece, which was published in The Daily on Tuesday.

University leadership implemented the Michigan Ambassadors program as a way to promote public health guidelines around campus, but the program was criticized for its connection to police units. The University later announced that no armed or sworn officers would take part in the program.

“Students of color have been perpetually been silenced within our institution, but especially regarding preparations for the fall semester,” Kaplan and Nadigama’s statement read. “We stand with the student organizations who authored this statement, all of whom we made a conscious effort to meet with to elevate their concerns to senior administrators.”

The Assembly also confirmed LSA junior Brendan Neary as the vice president of  CSG’s Student Organization Funding Committee.

Daily News Editor Alex Harring can be reached at harring@umich.edu and Daily Staff Reporter Navya Gupta can be reached at itznavya@umich.edu.