The University of Michigan Central Student Government heard from a lecturer on ongoing contract negotiations between the Lecturers’ Employee Organization and the University at their meeting Thursday evening. The Assembly also discussed the expansion of the Maize & Blue Cupboard.
In anticipation of their contract expiring in April, LEO began bargaining with the University in January in hopes of reversing the pay disparity for non-tenure-track faculty across all three campuses. After giving the University an ultimatum to continue negotiations, the union reached an agreement with the University to extend their current contract to Sept. 15. At that point, LEO members are no longer contractually bound and may vote to strike.
At last week’s meeting, CSG unanimously voted on a resolution to support LEO if they choose to strike.
Jimmy Brancho, lecturer at the Sweetland Center for Writing, said there is a disparity in resources available for students and employees when comparing the Ann Arbor to Dearborn and Flint campuses. In addition, Brancho said LEO is also continuing to demand benefits and professional development as well as childcare rights for lecturers.
“We remain pretty far apart on the salaries that the Union wants and the salaries that the University is offering,” Brancho said.
The lecturers’ union, Brancho said, is also calling for greater freedom for lecturers to the structure of their curricula.
“Because the department doesn’t include lecturers in the decision-making structure — and isn’t obligated to — that frustrates a lot of us, that we don’t really have a big say in what we’re doing,” Brancho said.
Brancho also said that advocating for lecturers is beneficial for the campus community and encouraged students to get involved in empowering the voices of their lecturers.
“Word of mouth is incredibly valuable,” Brancho said. “Many of your lecturers are in a position where we have to work multiple jobs to support ourselves and our families, and that’s an injustice in many ways and it’s a disservice to you, because at that point you’re getting half a teacher — you’re getting two thirds a teacher. You’re getting somebody who’s overworked and who doesn’t have the resources they need to give you the attention that you’re paying for.”
The Assembly also met with guest speaker Keith Soster, director of Sustainability, Student & Community Engagement. He discussed the Maize & Blue Cupboard program, a food pantry free to students that aims to address food insecurity on the U-M campus.
Soster said food insecurity has always been a prevalent issue at the University, but the COVID-19 pandemic has heightened the likelihood of students experiencing food insecurity this year.
“When you have food insecurity, there’s usually financial insecurity as well as housing insecurity — there’s overlap there,” Soster said.
Soster said food insecurity is associated with many other issues students may face such as increased stress levels and anxiety, lower grade point averages and higher body mass indexes.
In addition to providing affordable food for the U-M community, Soster said he hopes the Maize & Blue Cupboard program will become an accessible resource hub with educational programming, such as chef demos and classes on ways to identify food insecurity.
“I think part of my responsibility or what I want to ensure happens as we move forward, is that it stays student-to-student, educating students and building community among other students,” Soster said.
LSA senior Eman Naga, senior policy advisor, also outlined concerns she’s heard from the University community regarding the CSG budget for funding anti-racist initiatives on campus. Naga said the current $3,000 budget for these initiatives must be expanded.
“(We at CSG) are hoping to expand to working with a bunch of different organizations doing teachings with them, working with them, especially communities (and) clubs of color on campus,” Naga said. “$3,000 seems a bit of a low amount considering the amount of talk that we do on CSG. $3,000 is just not going to suffice, and $10,000 dollars is the number that we’re looking at that we think would work for.”
No resolution was brought forth Thursday to increase funding for anti-racist initiatives.
The Assembly also nominated LSA sophomore Phoebe Yi for vice chair of the Executive Nominations Committee.
Daily Staff Reporter Nirali Patel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.