The University’s Board of Regents public quarrel over whether graduate student research assistants should be able to legally unionize continued yesterday in a hastily scheduled special meeting.

The regents voted 5-3 in favor of the University writing an amicus brief to an Ingham County Court decision regarding unionization of GSRAs. Specifically, the court found that Michigan House Republicans did not follow correct protocol when voting last month on immediate effect of a bill that formally declared that GSRAs are not state employees.

Senate Bill 971 was passed with immediate effect, barring GSRAs from unionizing. Without immediate effect, the bill will go into action 90 days after the last of day of the Michigan legislative calendar, which is scheduled to be March 2013.

The regents’ meeting was called on Saturday, but the court hearing was held yesterday, just hours before the special meeting began.

After only about 10 minutes of discussion, the regents voted along party lines with Olivia Maynard (D–Goodrich) as the only Democrat to oppose the motion.

University President Mary Sue Coleman declined to offer her opinion on the issue. However, Coleman has previously said that she along with other top University administrators, believes that GSRAs are students not employees with collective bargaining rights.

“I’m not going to comment on this particular decision,” Coleman said “I think this is something the board needs to decide.”

Still Coleman said that filing a brief is an uncommon action for the University, though she noted it is within the bounds of reasonability.

“I would not question that it’s rare, but it is certainly within the purview of the board if the board wishes to do so,” Coleman said.

Regent Andrea Fischer Newman (R–Ann Arbor) voted against the brief and said she does not believe it is the University’s place to take a position on the issue. She added that both parties have traditionally ignored the use of proper protocol when voting on immediate effect acts.

“We shouldn’t be involved in legislative procedural issues,” Fischer Newman said. “I don’t think it does us any good to take sides in a legislative proceeding that’s been used by both Democrats and Republicans over the years.”

Newman added that topic of the meeting should have been made public prior to the start of the meeting.

“I also find the circumstance of this meeting troubling,” Fisher said. “I understand that the notice was given, I think that the topics should be included in the notices. There is nothing to be gained from not having public comment on the issue.”

Regent Denise Illitch (D–Bingham Farms) said supporting the amicus brief would not conflict with the past precedent.

“I think it is very important and in accordance to the values of this University,” Illitch said. “It’s very scary to me when legislation is passed in its immediacy.”

Rackham student Layla Houshmand, a member of Students Against GSRA Unionization a group on campus working to prevent the unionization, said the University should not take an active role in such discussions.

“I think it’s inappropriate for the University to be directing resources to commenting on procedural matters within the House,” Houshmand said. “I don’t think it will have any real impact legally.”

Rackham student Jeremy Moore, a Graduate Employees Organization spokesman, wrote in an e-mail statement that the state Legislature used the immediate effect to disenfranchise GSRAs who want to unionize.

“When politicians in Lansing took away my right to join with my coworkers and form a union, they trampled on my democratic rights,” Moore wrote. “The way that House Republicans rammed the legislation through without regard for the state constitution also tramples on the rights of all Michiganders. I am glad that the courts are taking a serious look at this issue.”

Houshmand said she is unsure when the issue will be resolved.

“There are just so many endless legal avenues to challenge one thing or another,” Houshmand said. “This could be going on until after we graduate.”

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