HarvestFest 2015 Agenda
- Appetizers: 5:00 – 5:15
- Welcome: Elizabeth Brannon, Vice President (5:15 – 5:20)
- Negotiation Update and Year in Review: Melissa Burger, President (5:20 – 5:40)
- Contract Action Team Update: Nicholas Constant, Negotiation Committee Member (5:40 -6:00)
Details regarding upcoming CAT Walk and Grade In Event
- Dinner (6:00 – 6:15)
- Dues: Danielle Dirocco, Executive Director (6:15 – 6:20)
Explanation of options for reconciling budget deficit due to uncollected dues from the first week of the semester
- Finances Presentation- Erin McLean, Treasurer (6:20 – 6:30)
Review of 2014-2015 budget
Overview and vote on the 2015-2016 GAU budget
- Closing Remarks- Melissa Burger, President
- Group photo
We have made significant headway in the past two negotiation sessions! Read on to learn more concerning an update on hourly graduate student workers vs. Graduate Assistants, deadlines for sending notices of continuation of appointment and GPA checks, informing students of their personal progress toward degree completion and part-time parity for part time Graduate Assistants.
Mitigating confusion regarding Hourly Grads (aka pseudo-assistantships) vs. Graduate Assistants
Several of you have inquired about benefits for “hourly graduate employees,” graduate students who work as departmental assistants across campus and are paid via the graduate student payroll on an hourly basis. Some departments have taken to calling hourly graduate employees “graduate assistants”, which has led to some confusion as to whether or not they are covered by the GAU contract and entitled to the benefits our contract guarantees. We addressed this issue in both sessions, and the Administration has clarified that graduate students paid on an hourly basis do not receive the same benefits as Graduate Assistants. This is due to the fact that colleges have access to a limited number of official Graduate Assistantships, whose component parts are strictly controlled. In order to avoid confusion regarding these positions, the compensation and/or benefits (as applicable) awarded to hourly grads should be enumerated by the individual hiring departments in their respective grants.
Notices of continuation of appointment and GPA checks
The next topic on the agenda tackled the uncertainty surrounding appointment deadlines for assistantships. There is currently no set date by which a graduate student could expect to receive an appointment letter confirming his or her position as a Graduate Assistant for the following academic year. GAU has proposed establishing a firm notification date where departments notify their current Grad Assistants as to whether or not their assistantship will be available the following year. If the deadline approaches and the department doesn’t know if funding will be available, the department should tell the Grad Assistant this fact so they can be fully aware of the status of their funding as early as possible and can consider alternate sources of funding in a timely fashion if the need arises. It appears that the administration and graduate school are on board with setting a deadline for notification of July 1, barring any case-specific extenuating circumstances. We will confirm this in our next negotiating session and determine how the graduate school and administration intends to implement this deadline.
Qualifying for an Assistantship: GPA Check
According to our contract, a Graduate Assistant must maintain a 3.0 GPA to be eligible for an assistantship. This begs the question, “When are GPAs actually checked?” We were fortunate to be able to discuss this issue with Dean Zawia at length. He described the current process as follows:
A Graduate student’s GPA is checked once at the end of the Fall and Spring semesters.
- Half-Year Assistantships- Your assistantship length matters here. If your GPA drops below a 3.0, you have until the end of your “appointment period” to bring your GPA back up to good standing. You will receive a provisional status letter from by the Graduate School in January for the fall and June/July for the summer if your GPA drops below a 3.0. If your assistantship is for a single semester, it is within a department’s rights to not offer a subsequent assistantship, as your GPA is no longer high enough to qualify you for an assistantship.
- If your assistantship is for a full year and your GPA drops below 3.0 at the end of Fall Semester, a provisional status letter is sent to you by January notifying you of your low GPA and articulating what they must do during the spring semester to bring their GPA up to remain in good academic standing. You are allowed to remain on your assistantship, at the discretion of your department, until the end of the appointment period- that is, the end of the spring semester, to bring their GPA up to a 3.0. To qualify for a subsequent assistantship the following fall, you will have to have a GPA of 3.0 at the start of the appointment period.
Evaluation/progress toward degree completion updates
It has come to our attention that a disparity exists in departmental feedback regarding students’ progress toward degree completion across departments and colleges; some Graduate Assistants are receiving great feedback, whereas others are receiving none. To this end, we have produced a short survey, where you can let us know if you are receiving quality feedback from your advisor as to your progress and performance. Please take a couple of minutes to complete it–the information will help us greatly in the coming negotiation sessions. Please only take the survey ONCE.
We concluded our second session with a preliminary discussion about the financial inequality facing part-time Graduate Assistants. As it stands, half-time assistants are automatically billed tuition for a full-time course load, as they are set to receive a half-tuition waiver. They do not receive a 20% student fee waiver, nor do they receive a parking pass fee waiver. In short, part time Graduate Assistants are left out from their fair share of benefits. We are developing a summary for the next meeting that accurately depicts part-time assistants’ financial outlook and will propose an alternative solution that puts our part-time members on equal footing with their full-time counterparts. Do not hesitate to reach out if you have any personal stories to share regarding any of the topics mentioned in this post.
Our next negotiation session will be held on Friday, November 20, 2015 at 10:45 AM.
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