In the last days preceding the hearing before an administrative judge on Wednesday, students and faculty are organizing in opposition to the unionization efforts of some Graduate Student Research Assistant.

A petition in the form of a letter addressed to the University’s Board of Regents, which had 700 signatories as of midnight, launched on Thursday night. Engineering Prof. Fawwaz Ulaby, one of a number of professors who started the petition, publicized the petition on Friday with an e-mail sent to an official College of Engineering graduate student listserv, according to Rackham student Stephen Raiman, president and founder of Students Against GSRA Unionization.

While SAGU was uninvolved in the petition’s launch, Raiman, who signed the petition, said he stands by its objectives.

“We do have the same goals as this professor or this group of professors who created the petition and we’re supportive of the same cause,” Raiman said.

The petition expresses opposition to the classification of GSRAs as public employees as this violates the precedent of a 1981 Michigan Employment Relations Commission ruling.

“The rationale underlying that decision was based on the fact that the primary role of GSRAs is to conduct research in support of attaining graduate degrees,” the petition states.

The petition was initially launched on Ulaby’s academic website, but he was forced to move it as he was in violation of University policy, according to a statement released on Friday by the Graduate Employees’ Organization — the union representing graduate students on campus. The page now directs users to a new site from which they can sign the petition.

An e-mail sent by Ulaby at 12:50 p.m. on Friday and obtained by The Michigan Daily encouraged Engineering graduate students to sign the petition.

“Establishing a union for Graduate Student Research Assistants (GSRAs) would be detrimental to their educational goals and would change the collaborative mentor/mentee relationship between a faculty adviser and a graduate student into an adversarial employer/employee relationship,” the e-mail read. “If you agree with my statement, I invite you to join me by signing the open letter to the Regents.”

According to Raiman, the use of an official listserv to solicit signatures garnered some controversy, particularly those opposed to Ulaby’s message. The e-mail also stated at the bottom its direct affiliation with the University.

“This message is an official communication from the College of Engineering of the University of Michigan to the students,” the e-mail stated.

A GEO statement on Friday condemned the message of the petition.

“We were disappointed when, on Thursday, a professor of engineering established a UM website petitioning the University Regents not to recognize Graduate Student Research Assistants as employees.” the release stated.

Liz Rodrigues, GEO communications chair, said she had not seen the e-mail sent by Ulaby. She said GEO’s feelings were expressed in their release, but they would like to move forward.

“Really we’re just working towards an election,” Rodrigues said.

The argument over whether or not to classify GSRAs as public employees will culminate with the hearing before an administrative judge on Wednesday.

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