The Graduate Employees Organization and the University have begun negotiations to renew GEO’s contract with the University for the next three years. Just three years ago, these negotiations stalled and turned into a walkout, canceling classes. Students should be concerned that the University fairly compensate its graduate student instructors. But the University also needs to take into account the needs of undergraduate students during the negotiations.
The negotiations will focus on GEO’s platform for more child care subsidies, the maintenance of its current health care plan, the inclusion of the transgender community in its nondiscrimination bylaws. The talks will also concern discrimination of international GSIs.
In a number of these areas, the University would do well to prioritize the concerns of one of its most valuable assets: its GSIs. A high proportion of graduate employees are parents and because of their status as graduate students and instructors, many GSIs do not have the resources to adequately provide for child care. The University should ensure its graduate employees have the necessary childcare benefits.
Additionally, the University should seek to include the transgender community in its nondiscrimination bylaws. The University regrettably overlooked the transgender community when it last included the gay, lesbian and bisexual communities in these bylaws. The University ought to remedy its previous error to guarantee the legal protection of the transgender community.
Furthermore, the University should maintain the current health care plan it has with GEO. GEO should not be forced to accept the recent changes to the premium structure for the University’s employee health care plans. Those changes require University employees to pay premiums for their health care plans. Most GSIs do not have the financial resources to pay for their health care premiums and should not be unnecessarily burdened with paying for their own premiums.
It is important for the University to meet these concerns because GSIs are essential to the smooth functioning of the University. They provide a valuable and indispensable service.
However, the University has an obligation to remain firm in testing international GSIs in English. Teaching undergraduates whose first language is English requires instructors with nothing short of fluency in the language. Therefore, the University has an obligation to maintain the oral component of its English testing. Although the University’s GSIs perform admirably, it is already unfortunate the University cannot offer its undergraduate students more instruction from professors; at the very least the University should make sure its GSIs speak fluent English.
These negotiations are a great opportunity. GEO has the chance to build on the advances made three years ago. The University has a chance to fairly compensate some of its best and brightest. The University should seize these opportunities to fairly compensate its graduate employees while not forgetting about the interests of its undergraduate students.