Graduate student instructors and staff assistants were denied additional contractual protection from harassment last week during contract negotiations between members of the Graduate Employees Organization and the University. The proposal requested a separate grievance procedure and the inclusion of discrimination as a form of harassment.

Pavitra Sundar, a spokeswoman for GEO, explained that recent cases of harassment prompted the organization to propose the changes.

“The grievance procedure in existence was not adequate we needed to have a separate system altogether,” she said.

Although only three students presented their cases during contract negotiations, Sundar asserted that other incidents of harassment have occurred from both faculty and students and that many graduate students who have experienced harassment do not file for grievance.

“How can you go to the University when the problem is the University itself?” Sundar said. She said GEO suspected the University denied the proposal because there were few cases and added that the institution should not base its decision on the number of cases because individuals are suffering.

GEO member Susanni Ngarian lost a grievance based on harrassment.

“After all that I went through, I couldn”t believe that ordinary faculty that deal with grad students could be part of a team that makes the University seem so heartless,” Ngarian said.

GEO negotiators will consider all of the options to further their appeals but plan to continue discussing the matter at tomorrow”s meeting, Sundar said.

Dan Gamble, the administration”s chief negotiator, defended the University”s rejection of the proposal in a written statement.

“We think it is extremely clear that harassment is covered by the grievance procedure. The important thing is to make clear to (GEO) members that harassment is covered under (it),” a statement from GEO quoted Gamble as saying. University spokeswoman Julie Peterson confirmed the accuracy of the quote.

Peterson was reluctant to offer much information on the University”s stand, while contract negotiations were in progress, but said the University has already created many methods for grievances involving harassment.

“Harassment is simply not tolerated at the University of Michigan. We have a number of offices and processes available to all faculty and students,” Peterson said.

She also said the University and the GEO have been engaged in productive discussions during negotiations and that they normally progress in the back-and-forth process of proposal and counter-proposal.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.