On Wednesday, June 18, we continued the discussion about our non-financial issues. OSU negotiating lead David Blake had to ask us whether his predecessor, Jeri Hemmer, had opened parking to negotiation. We reminded Blake that his side of the table previously refused to bargain over the CGE parking benefit, but that recent changes to the parking system have impacted the parking benefit we negotiated, meaning that they’re required to bargain it via “impact bargaining”.
Moving on, we showed OSU our solution for the notice of appointment language in Article 9. Under current contract language, hiring departments do not have an incentive to notify graduate assistants of their employment in a reasonable timeframe. An employee whose contract expires in June might not know until October whether they can expect to have a job. To address the issue, we drafted contract language which will hold departments accountable, but without compromising flexibility.
Here’s how our proposal works: Thirty days before a graduate assistant’s contract is up, the employee will receive one of three letters. In the best case scenario, the assistant gets 1) a new Notice of Appointment, which continues their employment to the next academic term. Departments that need a little more time to secure funding or decide on FTE can send 2) a Letter of Continuation. This letter guarantees that the assistant’s tuition, fees, and health insurance will continue to the next term, as well as giving a date to expect a Notice of Appointment with final employment details. This way, a person’s graduate education is not put in jeopardy because a department needs more flexibility. The last option is to send 3) a Letter of Non-Continuation. This letter makes it clear that the graduate employee should not expect financial support in the next term. It would also recommend that the graduate speak with their adviser about alternative funding, and contain information about other health care and job opportunities.
In the event that an assistant does not receive one of these letters, our contract language stipulates that tuition, fees, and health insurance coverage will continue into the next term. This means that when departments drop the ball, graduate employees aren’t stuck with the bill. OSU’s team suggested that departments might preemptively send all grad employees a Letter of Non-Continuation then hire them again on their own timeline. We believe that such departments would bear the complaints of the advisers who find themselves swamped with meetings about funding and that sufficient disincentives exist to discourage this behavior. Even in the worst case, it wouldn’t result in fewer people receiving assistantships, it would just give those who won’t receive them an early warning. Many departments hire assistants after a term begins as funding comes through or extra sessions open in classes. Under this system they would still be free to make an offer to a graduate who had previously received a Letter of Non-Continuation. That employee would just also have had the opportunity to seek other funding instead of waiting in limbo.
There was concern from the OSU team that existing and proposed contract language incorrectly identified certain OSU Human Resources forms, and we’re working to clean that up together. Additionally, the OSU team said that non-employees cannot be given health insurance. This is clearly not the case, since many people are on health insurance this summer, even though they aren’t currently employed. Besides these objections, the OSU team seemed interested in the changes. They have promised to research implementation while our team edits the contract language.
Next we heard from OSU about the feasibility of adding gender neutral bathrooms to campus. The administration is surveying bathrooms on campus to see which rooms can be retrofitted. On our recommendation, they’re also verifying that there will be gender neutral bathrooms and lactation rooms in the buildings that are currently under construction. OSU has agreed to designate at least one gender neutral bathroom per new building and to retrofit existing bathrooms to increase access across campus. We’re moving forward now on identifying bathrooms to retrofit and working together to improve the availability and visibility of these facilities.
We wrapped up the session by setting the agenda for our next session. The OSU team will research how the new Notice of Appointment language can be implemented, and finally give their revised financial proposal. Meanwhile, our team will revise the proposed language to fit Human Resource’s definitions. See you there on July 1 at 10:30!
[Post by Kalbi Zongo]