In this update you will find:
Updates from bargaining
Title IX rule changes
Two petitions in support of contingent faculty at Columbia and Barnard
Solidarity statement with graduate workers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst (UAW Local 2322)
On Wednesday, May 15, the Bargaining Committee continued discussion of the effects of COVID-19 with Columbia. We raised new concerns about the health and safety of student workers in relation to plans for reopening the university and asked Columbia for further responses to our outstanding demands. Here are the highlights of the discussion:
Plans for Reopening:
- Columbia said that a new council of Deans was formed to participate in the ongoing work of the COVID-19 Task Force but did not share any details beyond repeating that plans for reopening would “follow the science”.
- We followed-up on concerns that labs at CUIMC may be reopening soon. Columbia confirmed that conversations about reopening within the next week are relevant to essential workers at doctor’s practices and clinics, not research labs.
- Healthcare: Columbia is still looking into extending health insurance coverage for graduating students past August 14 and stated they would have an answer by our next session, on May 29. We re-emphasized the need for an emergency healthcare fund for all student workers. Columbia stated that it was not possible to have a centralized fund and put this responsibility on individual departments.
- Remote learning in the fall: Columbia stated that they were only able to approve remote summer education because the summer is not classified as a real semester. They are awaiting state and federal approval for remote learning beyond the summer term.
- Funding extensions and appointments: When asked about student workers who are excluded from the recent GSAS provisions for additional summer support and emergency fund, Columbia said they would relay this concern to the Provost’s office, which is responsible for the aid. It is unacceptable that student workers without summer appointments are falling through the cracks in these provisions. We also emphasized the need to prioritize summer appointments for those who have fewer funding opportunities but Columbia, again, placed this responsibility on individual departments.
While we recognize that the work to address this pandemic will be ongoing, there are pressing issues that Columbia has not properly responded to for several weeks now. We are here to advocate for student workers, and we expect Columbia to engage with us in a way that will generate fair solutions for those in need. We hope to have a more productive conversation on reopening health and safety protocols in two weeks.
After discussing COVID-19, we continued contract negotiations. We began by asking Columbia how the university plans to respond to the recent changes in Title IX, elevating the need for us to move forward on negotiations over Non-Discrimnation and Harassment. Despite having over a year to review the proposed ruling, Columbia remained silent beyond stating that they needed time to review the new regulations. More unsettling, they refused to discuss the Non-Discrimination and Harrassment article since previously rescinding their agreement to allow for neutral arbitration. This has remained a central issue to our unit, and we will continue to fight for real recourse for cases of discrimination and harrassment. Their intransigence on many aspects of our proposed article cannot be justified by their interpretation of Title IX, neither can it be explained by the financial impact of the pandemic.
Our team also passed counters on Job Posting, Discipline and Discharge, and prompted a response to our previous counters on Appointments and International Student Workers’ Rights, but we were again met with Columbia’s intransigence. Columbia provided no new counters or productive responses to our articles. Citing current circumstances is an unacceptable reason for Columbia to bargain in bad faith, especially because our fight for a contract is necessary to address the long-term impacts that this pandemic will have on student workers across the university.
You can join us in standing up to Columbia’s outrageous bargaining tactics by attending our next session on Friday, May 29 at 9:30am. To join via zoom, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
– GWC-UAW Local 2110 Bargaining Committee
New Title IX Rules
GWC condemns in the strongest terms the rules issued by Trump’s Department of Education governing how to enforce Title IX. These rules, issued in the midst of a world crisis when fewer can oppose them, will limit the scope of what constitutes harassment to what is both “pervasive and severe” and requires universities to allow those accused of sexual assault to cross-examine their accusers. In the process, they will make university campuses less safe–fewer survivors will feel capable of coming forward and those who do risk further trauma and are even less likely than before to get any form of justice.
We call on Columbia to do better than simply reviewing these rules without public comment or condemnation–they should join one of the legal suits against this rule change, as well as ensure that the restricted definitions of harassment are not used as an excuse to reduce the already meager accountability that exists for survivors of assault on campus. What’s more, Columbia must not use these rules as an excuse to avoid agreeing to real recourse on harassment and discrimination in our contract. Rather, these rules underscore the need for such recourse.
Support Contingent Faculty at Columbia and Barnard
Please take a moment to sign two petitions in support of contingent faculty at Columbia and Barnard.
Open Letter: Contingent Faculty and Barnard’s Future
COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY: Retain non-tenure-track instructional faculty for 2020-2021
Statement of Solidarity with the Graduate Employees Organization – UAW Local 2322 at the University of Massachusetts Amherst
The Graduate Workers of Columbia-UAW organizing committee stands in solidarity with graduate workers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst (GEO-UAW 2322) who have been in negotiations with the University administration for almost two months to ensure decent working conditions during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.
Along with graduate workers across the country (for example, at NYU and here at Columbia, the University of Arizona, and Oregon State University), GEO-UAW 2322 are demanding Fall 2020 job security, summer employment, legal support for international students, and a stay on evictions from graduate housing.
This pandemic has worsened the economic insecurity that graduate workers have long been subjected to. Graduate workers on visas, with disabilities, and with families and dependents are particularly vulnerable at this time, as this petition and a recent “Reverse Town Hall” with around 200 participants made clear.
Many international students currently have little to no support as pandemic-related xenophobia and racism not only exclude them from state and federal support but make them vulnerable to deportation, imperil their ability continue their degrees and research at UMass, and position them as targets of acts of discrimination and violence. Just this week, graduate workers living in Amherst were shot at twice in 24 hours outside their own home by violent anti-Asian neighbors. We call on UMass to take a stand against xenophobia in the community, commit to fair and good-faith bargaining, and to recognize the needs of graduate workers.
Finally, we support the many grad workers who, due to the nature of these extreme circumstances, poor internet access, and a stressful work environment, have been unable to submit their grades on time. TAs and TOs worked hard over Spring Break – their much-needed vacation days – to support the University’s abrupt transition to remote learning. UMass Associate Provost for Academic Personnel told workers that they could take vacation time at a later date to compensate for their lost days off. We stand with the 700 UMass Amherst graduate workers who collectively requested vacation for the week of May 11-15, and condemn the university administration’s intimidation of student workers for making these vacation requests. The administration must allow workers to take the vacation days to which they are entitled. Anything other than this is a gross failure of the administration. It is imperative that UMass Amherst support its student workers, especially in this time of crisis and need.