30 Jun

Retroactive Pay Update

Now that our new contract has been ratified, you are getting a raise! In addition to a significant bump in pay for the coming fall, you may also be eligible to receive retroactive pay. If you were a graduate assistant in either or both the Fall 2015 and/or Spring 2016 semester, keep an eye on your direct deposit account/mailbox. You have a check coming your way very soon. Here are the details:

When will I receive my check?

All retro pay will be disbursed at the end of July 2016. If you use direct deposit, your retro pay will go to the account you set up to receive your paycheck. If not, your retro pay will be mailed to the address you have on file on ecampus.

What do I need to do to ensure I receive my retroactive pay?

It is imperative that you update your banking information and mailing address on e-campus to ensure your deposit goes to the correct account. If you have closed your direct deposit account, please update your settings on e-campus to reflect this change and notify GAU so a paper check can be cut and mailed to you at your current mailing address.

How much money will I receive?

All retroactive pay will be pro-rated according to your assistantship and will apply to the raise for the 2015-16 academic year.
2015-16 Graduate Assistants will receive retroactive pay as follows:
Level 1: $800 
Level 2: $700
Level 3: $1000 



Feel free to email GAU with any questions you may have at uri.gau@gmail.com.

24 May

Tentative Agreement Reached!


 In brief:

  • The negotiating team has come to a tentative agreement for the new 2014-18 Graduate Assistant contract. GAU-AAUP TENTATIVE AGREEMENTS SUMMARY 2014-2018 for details of the proposed changes.
  • Join GAU on Tuesday, May 31st at 11AM for a informational meeting to discuss the changes to the new contract, ask questions, and eat donut cake.
  • You must VOTE for the contract on May 31 between 10AM and 4PM to approve or reject the proposed changesso the new contract can go into effect.
  • If you are no longer on campus, send us an email to uri.gau@gmail.com by May 29th and we will make special arrangements so you are able to vote using a special ballot.
  • UPDATE YOUR MAILING ADDRESS on e-campus to ensure you receive your retroactive pay over the summer


The Details:

It is with great pride that I would like to announce that as of this afternoon, GAU has reached a tentative agreement for 2014-2018. Our new contract includes RAISES of 5-6% for 2015-16 and 3% for the following two years, retroactive pay for 2015-16, expanded parking waivers for part time graduate assistants, a clearer, more accurate grievance procedure, modernized language in regards to parental leave, validation of the right to external employment, stronger evaluation procedures, materials and resources to support teaching and research duties, and numerous other solutions that were reached outside of the contract to meet the needs of our members. See the attached PDF to read all of the proposed changes.

Retroactive Pay

If you approve this contract, you will receive RETROACTIVE PAY for 2015-16. This means over the summer, you will receive a check for the wages due to you given the raises we have agreed to. If you are a part time GA, you will receive half of the amount for your assistantship.

The stipend increases we have tentatively agreed to for 2015-16 are as follows:

Level 1: add $800 to 2014-15 stipend amount
Level 2: add $700 to 2014-15 stipend amount
Level 3: add $1000 to 2014-15 stipend amount

PLEASE UPDATE YOUR MAILING ADDRESS ON E-CAMPUS so you are able to receive your retroactive pay check over the summer!

The Most Important Part: RATIFICATION

We need you to vote on the changes to the contract so it can be officially put into place for the 2016-17 academic year. We will be holding a ratification meeting on Tuesday, May 31, 2016 at 11AM in the Memorial Union Ballroom where we will discuss the changes and answer any questions you may haveYou may vote on the contract any time between 10AM and 4PM in the Memorial Union Ballroom. 

If a majority of those who vote vote in favor, the contract is officially ratified and will be sent on to the Rhode Island Council on Postsecondary Education for final approval. Retroactive stipends will then be processed and sent to you by mail over the summer.

Absentee Ballots: If you are no longer on campus, you may arrange to vote via a special ballot. Please contact us at uri.gau@gmail.com  to receive a special absentee ballot on May 31st.

In closing, I’d like to say that all of you have done an amazing job of building momentum and getting the best possible contract we could negotiate this time around. These changes will modernize our contract and set the stage for success in future negotiations. We have worked tirelessly for the last three years to get to where we are today, and our accomplishments in this round of negotiations speaks volumes about what we are able to accomplish by having an engaged, educated, tuned-in membership to help us to push further than we’ve ever done in GAU history.

Congratulations to all of you!
See you on May 31st.
–Danielle Dirocco
Chief Negotiator, GAU Executive Director
05 May

Bargaining Update #20

Contract Action Update: We had 20+ members attend the recent Council for Postsecondary Education Meeting at the Ryan Center on Wednesday April 27th. The Council for Postsecondary Education is the governing body that determines what the administration’s negotiating team is able to offer us, so it is crucial that they hear directly from us when the need arises. It was cathartic to share our concerns with the council, and several members shared personal testimonies to address our needs. We were warmly and graciously received. We hope our presence will assist the council to recognize our needs and to act accordingly going forward. If not, we should be ready to pay them another visit towards the end of the month if necessary to advocate for your needs directly to the people who hold the purse strings. Direct action gets the goods!

Bargaining Update #20: April 25 and May 2, 2016 Negotiating Sessions

We are now fully immersed in the final stage of negotiations: Financials.  We have received the administration’s counterproposal, and are continuing to go back and forth to come to an agreement that is fair and appropriate for all of your hard work going back to when our contract expired in September of 2014. We’d like to hear your feedback to guide us in the coming sessions, so keep the emails coming!

Our main objectives are to negotiate for a living wage, to provide access to dental and vision benefits to reduce the stress of paying for an emergency root canal or broken glasses, and to offer part time Grad Assistants comparable benefits in terms of student and parking fees to full time Grad Assistants. 

Contract Structure: Traditionally speaking, we’ve negotiated contracts that last for three years. This time around, the council on Postsecondary Education is looking to synchronize contracts across all three state colleges so we’re all on the same negotiating schedule. To accomplish this, the administration’s negotiating team has proposed that we extend our previous (2011-2014) contract by a year, then begin a new three year contract that will cover 2015-2018.

Stipends: Given this structural change, the administration’s counterproposal covers four years. The catch is that their counter only contains three years worth of raises. This means the administration has proposed a 0% raise for 2014-15.  We are keenly aware of your need to be compensated for the work you’ve already done just as much as the work you are going to do in the future.  We are also fully aware of the fact that 2015 was a very healthy year, financially-speaking, for the University.  As such, we are doing our best to get both sides of the table to recognize that you need to be compensated appropriately for your work in 2014-15.

Dental and Vision: We have done all of the legwork and remain hopeful that the administration will contribute to a voluntary plan for the coming year. We will report back with any developments on this topic as they emerge.

Part Time Parity: As you know, we have been waiting for months to hear back about the committee that was formed to research issues related to the disproportionate financial burden that part time Grad Assistants often bear. At the negotiating table, we are pushing to extend the student fee discount and parking fee waiver that full timers receive to part timers to try to offset costs. We hope to see movement on this in the coming sessions.

Our next contract negotiation meeting is Friday May 6th at 3:30PM.
–GAU Contract Negotiation Team

19 Apr

Report from the Field: Liz Kohr visits the RI Council on Postsecondary Ed

Last Thursday (April 14, 2016) I had the opportunity to attend the board meeting of the RI Council on Postsecondary Education. I went prepared to implore the council to prioritize contract negotiations with GAU. We wanted to make sure that the council was aware of how hard it would be for us to ratify a contract come summertime when many of our members are not on campus.

Upon arriving, I signed up to speak during the open forum and took a seat. Several council members were kind enough to come introduce themselves and ask about why we were there. I was starting to feel a little bit self-conscious when I realized how many council members were there and that they were broadcasting the meeting on television.  Once the meeting began, they took a roll call and then immediately proceeded to the open forum. I gave the speech below and thanked the council members for their time.

Once I finished, Chairman Foulkes thanked me and said he appreciated us coming to speak to them. In addition he informed us that the GAU was on the agenda for discussion at their executive session which we had been aware of. He genuinely seemed to appreciate us bringing the matter to their attention. I think this can be a great jumping off point for us should we choose to attend their next open forum happening here at URI on Wednesday, April 27th at 5:30PM.

–Liz Kohr

Chairman Foulkes and Esteemed Councilmembers,

Good afternoon. My name is Elizabeth Kohr and I am a Graduate Assistant in the Department of Chemistry at URI. I am here today to speak to you on behalf of Graduate Assistants United, a chapter of the American Association of University Professors, which represents approximately 550 Graduate Employees at URI. Each year, Graduate Assistants serve as teaching, research, and administrative professionals. Our members teach thousands of students, conduct cutting-edge research, and provide essential departmental support that is vital to the health of the University.

Like you, we want the University of Rhode Island to continue to function effectively. As such, we need to ensure that contract negotiations wrap up before the semester ends. We have been working under an expired contract since I began grad school in the fall of 2014 and we have been in negotiations since last January. While contract negotiations have been productive, we have yet to receive the council’s financial counterproposal. We appreciate that the council has welcomed new members recently, and we understand that the council’s esteemed chief negotiator, Anne Marie Coleman, is overburdened. However, the final day of classes is May 2. Grades are due by May 17th, and a considerable number of our members are from out of state or from another country entirely. Our members will begin to leave campus as early as the final day of classes. Without them on campus, we will be unable to gather the majority of our members together to vote on a new contract.

We respectfully implore the Council prioritize the completion of negotiations with GAU. We must receive the council’s financial counterproposal no later than April 25th, if not sooner, to allow our members an appropriate amount of time to review the proposal and go through the process of coming to an agreement that is satisfactory to all parties involved.

We are prepared to negotiate immediately. The cavern between us is not wide. We should not let scheduling challenges stand in the way of the successful completion of this contract.

Thank you for your time.

18 Apr

Bargaining Update #19

Bargaining Update #19: April 8, 2016 Negotiating Session

Time is of the Essence: How YOU can help

As mentioned below, we are fighting the calendar in the negotiating room and have struggled to get a meeting scheduled allowing us an appropriate amount of time to come to an agreement on compensation satisfactory to both parties before the end of the semester. The RI Council on Postsecondary Education, who the administration’s chief negotiator reports to, will be holding a meeting here at URI on Wednesday, April 27th, 2016 at 5:30 PM, Location TBD, and we need YOU to be there to let the council know that we need a fair contract NOW.  

Are you willing to spare less than thirty minutes of your time to attend the council meeting and speak up about why you need a competitive wage with fair benefits and retroactive compensation for the four semesters you have gone without a raise? We need to hear from you!  Send us an email to let us know we can count on you to be there.

On to the blog update.

Our most recent bargaining session finally began to break ground on financials, albeit in an incomplete fashion that left the GAU negotiating team concerned. We went into this  session under the impression we would be receiving the administration’s eagerly awaited financial counterproposal. Unfortunately, their chief negotiator was not present for the meeting, so no such counterproposal was provided. The semester is quickly coming to an end, and it is imperative we get this new contract wrapped up before everyone leaves URI at the end of the semester.  Reread the first paragraph to learn how you can help expedite this process! 

Despite this setback, we managed to utilize the negotiating session productively in regards to dental and vision insurance and competitiveness with peer institutions.

Dental and Vision Insurance

We met with Ellen Reynolds from Health Services to compare research on dental and vision plans and explored the possibility of offering a voluntary enrollment dental and vision insurance option for next year. We will follow up on this with the administration now that we have done the comparative work and see if we can gain some traction on offering graduate assistants some sort of plan to protect their vision and teeth in the fall.

Competitiveness with Peer Institutions

The administration’s institutional researcher was also present to compare research on peer institutions. We want to be sure we are all on the same page when using comparative benchmarks, as this is an essential part of the puzzle in advocating for stipends and benefits that are genuinely competitive with our peer institutions. As you know, URI lags behind on many fronts, most especially in terms of stipend amounts and student fees. We are confident the data both sides are using are appropriate and accurate, which will assist us at our next meeting when we hope the administration will follow through and present its financial counterproposal.

Our next meeting will tentatively be held on Monday, April 25, 2016 at 10 AM in the AAUP Conference Room, 302 Roosevelt Hall.

07 Apr

2016 Election Details

Please take a moment to read through the current candidate biographies as well as the 2016 sample ballot for our election, which will be held on Friday, April 8, 2016 from 6-8pm at the former University Club. The agenda for the meeting can be found here: GAU April 8, 2016 Meeting Agenda.

Alternative Voting Locations

If you are unable to attend the Election Dinner on April 8, the ballot box will be available for in person voting at the following locations and times:

Monday, April 11th: 9:00 am to 1:00 pm at the Nautilus Gallery on the Graduate School of Oceanography Campus

Tuesday, April 12th: 9:00 am to 4:00 pm in Room 007 (basement level) in Coastal Institute, Kingston Campus

Votes will be counted on Tuesday, April 12, 2016 at 9PM.

Election Rules

from GAU By-Laws, Section 2: Elections

2.3  Only in-person voting shall be allowed, except in special circumstances where research or employment as a graduate assistant will make the eligible voter unavailable during the voting period. In such cases, the Election Committee shall make special arrangements for advanced voting, or other voting options. Ballots from such a process will be segregated in a separate ballot box, in the case of a dispute.
2.4   All ballots shall be placed in a ballot box, which shall remain sealed until the end of an election period. Ballots shall be counted as soon as possible after the close of an election period. The Election Committee has responsibility for counting the ballots, but may enlist the assistance of any other individuals who are not candidates in the election. The time and place for the counting of ballots shall be included within the instructions for voting, and any interested member of the Local Chapter shall be allowed to attend.
2.5  Following certification by the Executive Committee, results shall be posted on the website and an official transmittal of results shall be made, in writing, to the Executive Committee and to all candidates. All ballots, signed envelopes, tally sheets, transmittals of results and other records incidental to the election shall be retained by the Local Chapter for a period of no less than one year.

C. The Election Period:
All voting shall be in-person, except where noted in the By-Laws or Constitution. As mentioned, the voting period shall last for at least 24 hours, said period being at the discretion of the Election Committee.

D. Eligibility for Voting:
In order to be eligible to vote in a Local Chapter election, an individual must meet the requirements of membership under the constitution and by-laws of the Local Chapter and be a member in good standing. Any bargaining unit member who qualifies for Local Chapter membership becomes eligible to vote immediately upon joining or rejoining the Local Chapter. There is no waiting period for eligibility. (See URI/AAUP Constitution, Article I, Membership.)

E. Challenges to Elections:
1. Any Local Chapter member who wishes to file to an election shall do so as soon as possible after the election period, but no later than 7 days following the certification of election results.
2. Exceptions shall be presented, in writing, to the Executive Committee. The Executive Committee shall schedule a meeting to hear exceptions within seven days of receipt of a complaint. The Executive Committee shall conduct the meeting in such a manner as to give all complainants opportunities to present their arguments and evidence. This will be done during the Executive Committee meeting that certifies the election results.
3. The Executive Committee may take whatever action it deems necessary to remedy a complaint, including the ordering of a new election.”

Nominations can be taken from the floor at the election dinner with the consent of the nominee.

01 Apr

Bargaining Update #18

Bargaining Update #18: March 28, 2016 Negotiation Session

Brothers and Sisters,

We are coming to the end of the road on non-financial issues, and will rapidly progress through financials in our next session on April 8. That date should stand out to you, as it’s the very same day that GAU will hold its Election Dinner. If you haven’t RSVPed to attend that event yet, head on over to Facebook and let us know that you’ll be there. In addition to electing our 2016-17 Executive Committee, we will discuss the administration’s financial counterproposal. In short, please join us on Friday. We have very important issues to discuss.

Our most recent negotiating session secured tentative agreements on our two remaining non-financial proposals:  Leaves and Materials and Resources.



We have overhauled Article XXI- Leaves (now titled “Employment-Related Leaves”) in three ways to make the article considerably clearer. First, we added language to address what happens when a Grad Assistant actually utilizes one of the leaves articulated in the contract. The article will now indicate that employment-related benefits will remain in place if a Graduate Assistant takes any of the leaves guaranteed by our contract, and that contractual benefits will be suspended in the event a Graduate Assistant takes an academic leave of absence. (See Bargaining Update #15 to learn more about academic leaves of absence)

Second, Article 21.4- Family Leave had numerous problems that we wanted to address. The article formerly stated that Grad Assistants are “entitled to apply” for RI FMLA leave. However, Graduate Assistants do not meet the minimum requirements set by the state to qualify for the benefit. As such, the article has been removed from the contract.


Lastly, we agreed to an expanded definition of who qualifies for parental leave to include childbirth, the placement of an adopted child or foster child, or complications related to pregnancy.


Materials and Resources

We also signed a tentative agreement articulating that all Graduate Assistants are entitled to reasonable access to materials, work space and resources related to their assistantship. The contract will now clearly state that Graduate Assistants will be provided with shared work and/or lab space, supplies needed to do your job, a mailbox and printer/photocopier access.


We spent the remainder of the negotiating session discussing the rationale for our financial proposals, and expect to dive in to those proposals at our next meeting at 11AM on April 8th, 2016. As mentioned earlier, we will discuss the content covered in our next negotiating session at length at our annual Election Dinner on that same day, April 8, at 6PM at the (formerly known as) University Club.

09 Mar

Bargaining Update #17

Bargaining Update #17: March 4, 2016 Negotiation Session

Happy midterms! We met with the administration on March 4, 2016 and wrapped up a number of key issues. This session’s agenda addressed part-time parity, evaluations, and disabilities. Please also take a moment to read the IMPORTANT NOTE at the end of the update regarding the anticipated timeline for us to be ready to call for a vote to accept or reject the final version of the contract. Let’s get down to business.


Part-Time Parity

The administration has been working with us as well as other key parties to come to an amenable solution so part time Grad Assistants finally get a fair share in terms of their stipends and benefits. We expect the administration’s team to comprehensively address this issue once financials are under way.


Performance Evaluations

We’ve reached a tentative agreement on language that clarifies the need for regular feedback regarding your performance as a Grad Assistant. Annual evaluations are essential to have a sense of how you are performing in your duties as a GA in your department, and we wanted to ensure that the evaluation process was as useful to you as possible. In the past, Grad Assistants were not necessarily receiving feedback related to their job performance. We hope this new language will assist you in getting the support you need to do your job to the best of your ability.



Our contract currently lacks any reference to a Graduate Assistant’s right to accommodations for disabilities. We have reached a tentative agreement with the administration to explicitly state the university’s responsibility to follow federal and state laws and regulations. We have also identified the Office of Disability Services for Students as the department on campus that will fulfill accommodation requests for Grad Assistants with disabilities.


An IMPORTANT final note

We are quickly coming to the end of the road as far as negotiations are concerned. We hope to have the contract fully negotiated within the next month. As soon as we have settled, be ready for a ratification meeting.  At this meeting we will need at least 50% of our union to show up and vote to accept or reject the final contract. Stay tuned for details.


Our next negotiating session is scheduled for Wednesday, March 23, 2016 at 2pm.

23 Jan

Bargaining Update #16: Happy Anniversary?

Bargaining Update #16: January 21st, 2016 Negotiation Session

Happy Anniversary? Today, January 23rd, officially marks one full year in contract negotiations. While we’ve been going at this for what seems like forever, we are making considerable progress and, if all goes well, the end will be in sight soon. The negotiating team is still going strong and remains focused and determined. As always, we need you to stay energized and engaged to keep this process moving forward. Talk to your friends about negotiations. Hook up with the Contract Action Team. Share this update on Facebook. Write an op-ed. Hire a sky writer.  Help us to help you get the contract you deserve!

On to business. Thursday’s negotiation session was full of energy with both sides truly looking for the best possible solutions to the proposals on the agenda. Thursday’s agenda included part-time parity, evaluations, pay periods, and materials and resources. Here’s the latest wrap-up.


Part-Time Parity

We all know 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 regardless of how many credits they are registered for. They then receive a half-tuition waiver. This means a part-time Graduate Assistant enrolled in 6 credits is disproportionately charged full time tuition, leaving them poorer than if they hadn’t taken an assistantship in the first place. In addition, 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 of their fair share of benefits to the tune of thousands of dollars.

Update: This issue is being looked into by many parties, under the direction of Dean Zawia. We’ll report back with any progress as we learn more.


Performance Evaluations

As you may recall, we signed a tentative agreement in a previous session clarifying that GAs should receive a written evaluation regarding their job performance each year.  We still need to agree as to whether a direct observation needs to be part of the evaluation process, as our contract currently states.


Pay periods

As it currently stands, we are paid for 36 out of 38 weeks, with two weeks of unpaid vacation over the winter break, divided into 18 pay periods over the course of the academic year. In practice, we receive a paycheck over the winter break, but we do not receive a “final” paycheck in the spring to account for the unpaid vacation time during winter break. However, we learned last week that 18 pay periods appear to be the best possible arrangement at this time, as adding a pay period would result in you losing money due to federal taxes. We expect the administration to draft clear language to be included in offer letters to articulate this up front for all Grad Assistants at the start of their contract.

Update: The administration provided drafted language to clearly state when you will receive your final paycheck and to explain how pay periods work. We also worked together to add language to offer letters to announce that student fees can be paid via the newly created “deferment plan,” which allows Graduate Assistants to pay their student fees in installments over the semester rather than all at once. These changes will appear in next year’s appointment letters.


Materials and Resources

We are looking to add a new article regarding the provision of proper resources and space to Graduate Assistants so you can do your job effectively. We have drafted language that states Graduate Assistants can expect to have adequate office space/lab space, appropriate supplies, access to a copier, etc. As far as we know, Graduate Assistants are not regularly lacking lab or office supplies or being prohibited from accessing the copy machine (if this IS happening in your department, please let us know immediately!), but we would like to see this right clearly identified in the contract. It is good for Graduate Assistants to know what they can expect in terms of departmental workspace, materials and resources to support their work, and it is good for departments to know what is expected of them. We would also like to see a sentence in the contract that states Graduate Asssitants will not be required to pay for lab or office supplies needed for their job out of their own pocket. This will continue to be discussed in future sessions.

09 Jan

Bargaining Update #15

Bargaining Update #15: January 7th, 2016 Negotiation Session

Happy New Year, brothers and sisters! We are pleased to report that we began the new year with a productive bargaining session. Thursday’s agenda included pay periods, part-time parity, evaluations, disabilities, and leaves of absence. Let’s get down to business.


Pay periods

Thank you for everyone’s quick response to the survey we sent out regarding the two-week pay gap at the end of the spring semester. For some background, as it currently stands, we are paid for 36 out of 38 weeks, with two weeks of unpaid vacation over the winter break, divided into 18 pay periods over the course of the academic year. In practice, we receive a paycheck over the winter break, but we do not receive a “final” paycheck in the spring to account for the unpaid vacation time during winter break. Your survey responses indicate the absence of a final paycheck places an undue burden on many of us, who can go up to 4 weeks without pay between the end of the spring semester and the start of any summer income we plan to earn.

We heard you loud and clear and brought this up at our last bargaining session. We asked the administration and payroll to explore adding an additional (19th) pay period to the end of the year so the pay gap is lessened.

Payroll joined us once again on Thursday to share an anticlimactic update. According to payroll,  an additional paycheck  would have an undesirable  consequence– a pay cut.

Long Explanation: IRS regulations require URI to deduct FICA taxes  from your paycheck when classes are not in session (summer break). Since the 19th paycheck would overlap into a pay period  when classes aren’t in session, we would have to pay  7.6% in taxes due to, say it with me now, FICA! This means an additional $63.38 would be taken out of the 19th paycheck. You work hard for your money and recognize that  trading a pay cut to gain access to a 19th check is not a fair deal. As a result, both sides decided that the current setup should remain in place at this time.  But wait, we’re not done yet. You still need to be able to manage that pay gap, so we explored ways for the administration to do a more effective job of notifying all Grad Assistants about the pay gap in the offer letter you receive at the start of your employment so you can plan accordingly. The administration has agreed to draft language for the offer letter that clearly states that you will not receive a paycheck for the last two weeks of your assistantship and explains why  so no one is left wondering where their last paycheck went.

TL;DR 18 pay periods  appear to be the best possible arrangement at this time, as adding a pay period would result in you losing money due to federal taxes. We expect the administration to draft  clear language to be included in offer letters to articulate this up front for all Grad Assistants at the start of their contract.


Part-Time Parity

Next we tried to rekindle the discussion about the financial inequality facing part-time Graduate Assistants. As it stands, half-time assistants have automatically been billed tuition for a full-time course load, but only receive a half-tuition waiver, regardless of how many credits they are registered for. In addition, 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 of their fair share of benefits. We are waiting on the administration to schedule meetings in order to determine viable options for solving this inequity as it relates to the tuition billed.  The administration assured us that they will do the necessary research on their end and that this will be at the top of the agenda at our next meeting.


Performance Evaluations

As you may recall, we signed a tentative agreement in a previous session clarifying that GAs should receive a written evaluation regarding their job performance each year.  We still need to agree as to whether a direct observation needs to be part of the evaluation process, as our contract currently states.

Many of you reported that annual job-related evaluations do not take place in your department, period, never mind you receiving a written synopsis of that evaluation that includes a direct observation. We want our contract to reflect the actual process that you can expect so you have appropriate feedback on your performance as a GA. We were told that the Council of Deans recognizes that there is an issue with the current job evaluation process- namely, that it isn’t regularly occurring for Grad Assistants. We were told that they are working on a “basic feedback system for Graduate Assistants.” We are eager to hear back about what develops in this regard over the semester.



We also discussed the fact that neither the Graduate Manual or our contract mention where a graduate assistant in need of  accommodations for disabilities can turn for support as far as their work duties are concerned. Graduate Assistants with disabilities often need a different set of accommodations than students, and we want to be sure those accommodations are recognized and accounted for in our contract.  The administration is looking into the process currently in place and will hopefully propose  updated language for the contract at our next session.


Leave of Absence (LOA)

As it stands, the language in our contract regarding leaves is confusing. We have been working for several sessions to clear up this language.   If you take a leave of absence from your academics, you are no longer considered a Graduate Assistant and, therefore, lose all of the benefits afforded to you under our contract. This has led to a number of disturbing situations where graduate assistants had been convinced by their department to take a leave of absence rather than utilize contractual leaves (ie parental, maternity or any other leave articulated in our contract) so a new GA could be hired to take their place.

The Graduate Manual has been updated to encourage anyone seeking a leave of absence of any kind to consult with the Assistant Dean of the Graduate School, who will work to ensure that all options are explored and to protect grad assistants from being coerced into options that may be beneficial to their department but harmful to them personally.  We are also discussing the dubious phrasing in the maternity leave section that refers to pregnancy as though it is an emergency evacuation situation. Article 21.3 currently starts out saying “In the event of a pregnancy, a leave of absence shall be granted to graduate assistants with six (6) months or more of service.” Unless pregnancy involves preparing for a water landing in an airplane, we’d like to see this language updated to something less urgent and more inclusive for not only pregnancy but the adoption of a child or pregnancy-related complications.  We are also looking into what we can do to articulate the intent of article 21.4 given that Grad Assistants do not currently qualify for family leave under the Rhode Island Parental and Family and Medical Leave Act.

FUN FACT #1: Have you noticed that the overall order of our contract appears to have very little rhyme or reason?  Now we now know why! It turns out that our contract is “organized” based on the order in which each article was agreed to when the contract was originally negotiated back in 2002. . We will hopefully be able to reorganize the contract in a more logical way this time around.


Our next negotiating session is scheduled for Thursday, January 21, 2016, from 2-4pm. We’d love your feedback on any of the topics above.