As you may know, CGE is currently in the midst of a class-action grievance proceedings related to what we believe is a breach of contract by the university. For those unfamiliar with this grievance, this summer, and every summer past, all of our members, regardless of whether or not they were on assistantship, were levied a $34 charge on their student account entitled the “Summer Session Tuition Base.” The name alone would imply that this charge is, in fact, part of tuition, and hence, under Article 12 of the CGE-OSU collective bargaining agreement, should be remitted to all grad employees on assistantship over the summer term.
In an initial conversation with OSU Human Resources regarding this charge, HR told CGE that the Summer Session Tuition Base is not, in fact, tuition, nor too is it a student fee. Such a charge represents a grave danger to grad assistants because it sets the precedent that the university can circumvent legal approval procedures to levy new tolls on us. In particular, any increases to tuition must be approved by the Oregon state legislature, and any increases in fees must be approved by the Oregon State Board of Higher Education. Moreover, both of these classes of charges must be outlined in the Oregon University System Academic Year Fee Book.
CGE filed a step 2 class action grievance regarding this charge on August 26, 2008. In response, OSU Director of Human Resources Jacque Rudolph informed CGE that the Summer Session Tuition Base is, as far as HR is concerned, a student fee. In addition, she denied our grievance as untimely but offered no justification for her doing so.
Upon deeper investigation, CGE found no evidence that the Summer Session Tuition Base had been approved by the State Board of Higher Ed, nor could we find it listed in the Academic Year Fee Book. However, we did find that the Academic Year Fee Book lists graduate summer tuition at $210 per credit with a $34 base charge-a Summer Session Tuition Base charge, if you will-indicating that this toll is, in fact, tuition and must thus be remitted to all grad students on assistantship over the summer term. Examination of grads’ summer session student bills confirms this breakdown.
Consequently, CGE, in accordance with the current CGE-OSU collective bargaining agreement, resubmitted the grievance to the OUS Labor Relations Division as a step 3 grievance. On November 20, we presented our case to OUS Director of Labor and Employee Relations Rick Hampton and asked that all grads be remitted the Summer Session Tuition Base charge for every summer term in which they held an assistantship. We expected his response by December 8, but it was not received by then. We currently have a meeting scheduled with OSU Assiciate Director of Human Resources Jeri Hemmer on December 16 and will address this issue there. Should the grievance once again be denied, we believe the strength of our case will warrant bringing this grievance to arbitration.
A CGE victory in this grievance proceedings would be significant, since, not only would it recover money wrongly misappropriated from grad employees, but it would also serve to indicate a slight but meaningful shift of power away from the university administration and into the hands of OSU’s grads, brought about through increases in CGE’s membership and manifested in an increased ability for CGE to fight for just treatment of OSU’s grad employees.
We’ll keep you posted on how things play out.