In the last Thursday’s session, we continued to deal with the two major issues left on the table: length of appointment and personal time. We made a little headway on both fronts, but we feel that we’ve got a ways to go before settlement.
Length of Appointment
OSU’s team brought an unexpected witness to the table, Sherm Bloomer, OSU’s Director of Budget & Fiscal Planning. Sherm took us through a full accounting of graduate tuition dollars. He explained that all graduate tuition is treated as a revenue source, whether it is tuition “paid” through remission or paid by individual students. The budget committee makes a projection of how many grads will be enrolled in a given year and uses an in state/out of state estimate to arrive at the total revenue from graduate tuition. Graduate tuition remission then appears as an expense line in the budget. The university makes an estimate of how many tuition waivers each employing unit will offer and projects from there. Then, a cushion of ~10% of the total tuition remission is added to the tuition remission expense line to account for variation from the projection. Sherm repeated many, many times that tuition remission represents real money. So, he argues that making guarantees of academic year-long employment would be a real cost if the layoff language had to be invoked (Article 14 provides a grad employee with a tuition waiver in the event that an appointment ends unexpectedly). We don’t entirely agree that tuition remission is real money just because they project it as an expense—since they also project it as revenue. But, the larger point is that it isn’t our responsibility or within our team’s scope to tell them how to overcome institutional barriers to pay for our proposal (hint: pay for it by increasing your projection of tuition revenue when you increase your projection of remission expenses). We’re just letting them know how important longer term appointments are to the financial and mental stability of grads. Our team feels that creating a financial cost (tuition remission) to not continuing a grad’s employment will put the onus on OSU to help grads and their employing departments put together full academic year employment. And that’s a good thing.
OSU’s team is unwilling to commit fully to guarantees of academic year-long employment, but we’re hopeful that we can get a pilot program off the ground. Such a program would provide tuition stability to some people and also allow us to collect better data on how big of a problem term by term appointments are. We’ve agreed to draft language on a pilot program to try out academic year-long employment. We’re not sure how it would work yet or how we’d cap the number of people tapping into the layoff language (OSU wants to limit the financial commitment in the pilot), but we’ll have language soon. If you have ideas about how to make such a program work, let us know!
We’ve had a proposal to provide personal time for grads on the table since June 10. This session, OSU brought back some of the same concerns (mostly administrative) about implementing our plan. We reminded them of our standing invitation to bring language that would deal with their concerns. We’re waiting for them to bring back such language at the Monday 8/5 session.
But, rather than stop there, OSU wanted to be sure we knew that they were skeptical that grads really needed this protection. Despite the fact that we’ve already brought two witnesses to speak of the difficulty of grads, and particularly international grads, getting the necessary time off to make trips home, OSU maintained the position that it wasn’t an issue because they don’t hear about it. Moreover, they reminded us that we’ve never grieved the issue, so certainly it isn’t a problem. It didn’t seem to register with them that we haven’t grieved it because it isn’t yet a contractual protection. Our team got a little heated as OSU continued to refute the legitimacy of this need. We ended with a bit of a discussion of power dynamics and why that might make it difficult for a grad to ask for vacation, particularly when it isn’t guaranteed in the contract. It’d be fair to say we had a different understanding of power dynamics, but had to end it there. We plan to bring another witness to speak to the importance of this language on Monday. OSU’s HR department wishes to remind us all that they have an open door policy. And apparently, you don’t have a problem unless and until you’ve directly communicated it to Jeri Hemmer (Jeri.Hemmer@OregonState.edu). So get on that!
Thursday’s session was Danny’s last; he’s headed to a PhD program at Michigan State University. Danny’s been the fearless leader, cooler head, assigner of spirit animals, and number one doughnut enthusiast of this year’s B Team. Lizz will be taking over on Monday, and she’ll do an excellent job. But we’ll miss you, Danny. Our sisters & brothers at GEU are lucky to be getting such an exceptional grad unionist, person, & friend. Solidarity Forever.