The biggest surprise of the day came right at the beginning –it was to be OSU lead negotiator Jeri Hemmer’s last day both at OSU and the bargaining table with CGE. CGE members have been sitting across the table from Jeri since 2005 (that’s 6 contracts, if you’re counting).  As an organization, we’ve certainly had our ups and down bargaining with Jeri, but change always stings a little.  OSU’s team will be led by Director of Human Resources, David Blake, beginning next week.  Unlike with Jeri, we really don’t know what to expect from David at the table.  We’re hoping the switch in leads doesn’t cost us any of the little bit of momentum we’ve built up thus far in bargaining.

 Academic Year Fees
Aside from Jeri’s big news at the top of the session, Friday wasn’t terribly eventful.  Sherm Bloomer was back at the table, so we were able to go over fees in a bit more detail.  It was reiterated to us (as it was in 2012) that *some* fees can’t be covered by federal grants, so a full fee waiver isn’t possible. As in 2012, OSU still hasn’t been able to name exactly which fees can’t be covered, though they suggested fees related to debt (negligible) and also the building fee ($45 academic year; $34 summer) may not be eligible for coverage on a grant.  We asked that OSU come back with a firm answer on which fees cannot be covered by grants so that we can move forward with structuring fee remission.  We repeated our interest in having a fee remission structure where increases in fees are not born solely by the graduate employee, as they are now.  Toward that end, we’d like to move to a fee cap or structure remission as a percentage of total fees.

Summer Fees
Regarding summer fees, we again stated our desire to have a consistent remission policy that extends into the summer. Summer fees represent a significant (~$360) and unexpected burden for those employed over the summer.  OSU continued to argue that the different funding structure over the summer made remission of summer fees more difficult. When pressed for reasons why this structure precluded summer fee remission, they couldn’t really produce any. While it is true that the extra ~$320/employee (assuming summer fees are remitted at ~89% as are academic term fees) will cut into the department’s profit for a summer course, we argue that it is a necessary cost of doing business.  Instead of responding directly to this interest, OSU wants us to get our full financial interests on the table so that they can go back and cost out these ideas in total.  So, over the next few weeks we’ll be detailing all of our financial interests in the contract. Specifically:

Friday, May 2 1-3 PM:  Salary (minimum salary increase, cost of living raises for all, minimum FTE for graduate instructors, child care stipends, and raises as grads progress through their program)

Thursday, May 8 12-2PM:  Health Insurance (employee premiums, partner & dependent premiums, changes to plan)

Thursday, May 22 12-2PM:  Partner & dependent tuition benefits & salary continued

 Ecampus Tuition & Fees
We briefly returned to Ecampus tuition & fees.  While we felt we made progress in earlier sessions by coming up with a structure that removed obstacles to graduate employees using the Ecampus tuition benefit, OSU mostly redirected the conversation to possible limits on the waiver.  It’s our interest to come up with an accessible waiver (one that isn’t denied to people by their departments & adivsors) before we consider limitations on the waiver.  Once we reminded OSU of the structure we’d discussed, Sherm Bloomer was able to tell us that that model would require that ~10% of all graduate Ecampus tuition be redirected to providing Ecampus waivers for graduate employees.  This is a model we like because it requires that the cost be shared by all departments that offer Ecampus courses, instead of focusing it on those departments with students who enroll in Ecampus courses, as the remission is currently structured.  We also repeated our interest in including Ecampus fees in the waiver. Since this has financial implications, OSU won’t be ready to respond until the full financial picture is on the table.

Join us next week as we jump into salary.  Friday, May 2 1-3PM in Westminster House (23rd & Monroe).

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