The Negotiating Committee met with the administration for a productive round of contract negotiations this week. A wide variety of issues were covered, but one particularly enlightening outcome from the conversation included clarification of the University’s stance on external employment.
Before negotiations began, GAU polled our members to determine our bargaining priorities. One of the biggest concerns of our members revolved around protecting the right for Grad Assistants to hold external employment to supplement their stipends. While we haven’t yet reached an agreement with the administration regarding what form that protection will take, the Vice Provost of Academic Finances and Academic Personnel made it explicitly clear that the University, the graduate school, faculty members and/or their departments do not have the right to restrict domestic students from seeking employment outside of the university. (Please note: International students remain restricted from seeking employment beyond what is permitted by their visa.)
The implication of this declaration by the administration is difficult to overstate. Many of you have been pressured to not seek jobs outside the University without risking your funding. A number of our members have had their assistantship withheld when it came to light that they were working a second job. Others have been told that they need to quit their second job to be eligible for an assistantship. The Vice Provost made it clear: this practice is a fundamental violation of your rights.
If you have experienced this yourself, we need to hear from you. The administration has expressed a willingness to combat this issue, though they have expressed hesitation in codifying this right in your contract. We need your help to press the administration to secure that right in writing. In the meantime, we intend to seek immediate resolution for students who feel they are being prevented from seeking additional work to help pay their living expenses. You have the right to pay your bills and to make adult decisions about how to support yourself and your family without first needing to seek permission to do so from URI.