Correction appended: A previous version of this article misstated the number of graduate students who signed GEO membership cards.
With the semester about halfway through and students’ stress peaking, Rackham Graduate School administrators and members of the Rackham Student Government are aiming to increase awareness of resources to help make graduate school more manageable.
At last night’s Rackham Student Government meeting, the body addressed various issues pertaining to the improvement of campus life for Rackham students, including the school’s student services and a future Graduate Student Bill of Rights. Following the meeting, an RSG committee met to discuss the unionization efforts of the Graduate Employee’s Organization.
Darlene Ray-Johnson, director of the Office of Graduate Student Affairs in Rackham, addressed the members of RSG about the range of resources available to students. The Office of Graduate Student Affairs and the Office of Graduate Student Success work collaboratively to sponsor workshops on subjects ranging from how to write a literature review to stress management. The offices also provide counseling for students.
“We feel between those two offices that a student surely gets the support that they need to successfully graduate,” Ray-Johnson said in an interview after the meeting.
The offices see about 80 or 90 students in the span of a calendar year, according to Ray-Johnson. These students file grievances about various campus issues, though less than 10 of these are typically formal grievances.
Multiple members of RSG said at the meeting that they were unaware of the range of services available to them through the offices. But Ray-Johnson said she thinks the lack of centralization in the Rackham student body accounts partly for why a relatively low number of students use the services.
“What we’re trying to do is to really do more outreach to the students so that they understand that there are lots of resources within their program, but there are also lots within Rackham,” Ray-Johnson said.
RSG also discussed the potential creation of a Graduate Student Bill of Rights, which will be discussed more during the next meeting in March.
RSG President Michael Benson said the process of drafting the Bill of Rights is moving at an accelerated pace and will likely be in place by the end of the term.
The Bill of Rights would include the “Rights and Responsibilities” for all University graduate students and would encompass all facets of their experience at the University, Benson said. He added that other professional schools at the University are interested in “getting on board” with the Bill of Rights.
RSG addresses GEO confusion
The Academic Affairs Committee of RSG also held a meeting following the assembly meeting to discuss the ongoing efforts of the Graduate Employees’ Organization to unionize graduate student research assistant.
GEO President Rob Gillezeau was present during the meeting of the RSG Academic Affairs Committee to discuss the efforts of the organization to give GSRAs collective bargaining rights. He reported that about 800 graduate students have signed GEO membership cards that show their interest in joining GEO.
Currently, GSRAs aren’t allowed to have collective bargaining rights in GEO as mandated by state law.
The Academic Affairs Committee addressed the confusion that exists among graduate students regarding the unionization debate and discussed ways in which they are working to educate Rackham students about the issue, including plans to hold town hall meetings in the future.
At last night’s RSG meeting Benson said RSG “is currently remaining neutral in the unionization process.”
GEO members met on Tuesday to discuss the situation, with some GSRAs voicing apprehension about joining due to union costs.
Jeff Frumkin, the University’s associate vice provost and senior director of the Department of Academic Human Resources, said Friday that GSRAs joining the union “is not really a good idea.”
“The University is not interested in voluntarily recognizing GSRAs as having the ability to organize,” Frumkin said.