11 Oct

Oct 15 General Assembly: #CoverMe

10.15.14 General Assembly InvitationPaid for a filling recently?  How about a new pair of glasses?  Shelled out a crazy co-pay on a medical procedure?

Did you ever think, hey, maybe #URIShouldCoverThat?
If you liked our first GA meeting (or sadly missed it), you’ll love #CoverMe, GAU’s General Assembly to fight for comprehensive healthcare for graduate assistants at URI. Mark your calendars for Wednesday, October 15th at 6pm in the Memorial Union Gallery (room 233). 
Overwhelmingly, attendees at our first GA meeting had questions and concerns about their health coverage. Put them to Ellen Reynolds, Director of Health Services, who will be our special guest at this Assembly! We’ll also be doing some brainstorming on how to raise visibility on this issue (and possibly some en masse tweeting–oh and hey, if you aren’t following us at @URIGAU, get on that!).  We’re pushing for better coverage in our next contract, and URI needs to hear loud and clear that grad assistants need their basic health needs met. We’ll also be feeling out the topic of our next Assembly, so if something is furrowing your brow even more than the fact that you can’t afford a dental filling, let us know at the meeting!

 

23 Sep

Weingarten Biergarten Next Tuesday @ 6

Weingarten Biergarten

Hey GAs! It’s time to RSVP to the most rhymiest, craft-tastic union event you will ever attend. GAU’s first annual Weingarten Biergarten promises to be a crowd-pleaser, as:

-We’re holding it at the Mews, in their shiny new lounge area in the Celtic Bar** Because we are brilliant, our Biergarten coincides with both pizza night and Mews trivia. (Trivia aficionados will want to rub elbows with our very own college jeopardy champ for good luck beforehand.)

-GAU Members will get a dollar off drinks of their choice, plus union-themed drink specials!

Don’t get the pun? Of course you don’t. Weingarten rights*** are relatively obscure outside union circles. Hence the need to get your learn on while you beer!

RSVP on the face-booker to attend on Tuesday, September 30th at 6pm. (Trivia to commence at 8pm, FYI)

**Not familiar with the Mews? Ok. There are several different ‘regions’ in the tavern; you’ll want to head upstairs, to the Celtic Bar, take a right and walk aaaall the way back.

***Quick primer: your Weingarten Rights guarantee you the ability to have a union representative present at an “investigatory interview”. UMass has a nice overview of what that means, and when these rights do and don’t apply.

17 Sep

General Assembly Recap

Earlier this week we kicked off a new kind of event: the General Assembly meeting. Unlike the General Membership Meetings we hold each semester, Assembly meetings are casual, issues-driven events that provide an opportunity for GAs to meet, discuss their thoughts and issues, and provide the sort of collective member-driven direction to our organization that we couldn’t otherwise achieve. If you didn’t make it, we’re sorry we missed you! Look for our next assembly meeting on October 15th (location TBA).

Our focus this past Monday was twofold: first, as we’ve all learned the hard way, most of our first paycheck is consumed when we have to pay student fees. Second, parking services has begun issuing a $4.95 shipping fee when GAs apply for parking passes (which, reminder, full-time GAs aren’t supposed to have to pay for at all). One of our members rightly noted that the administration doesn’t recognize that most graduate students are not dependent children. We are largely self-supporting adults, and no small number of our members have families and children of their own to take care of. We can’t get by with nothing for the month of September.

The attendees reminded us that another issue is on everyone’s radar at the beginning of the semester: navigating our new health insurance. Regardless whether you are a new or returning student, you have a new insurance plan this year and you have to enroll to activate it and receive an insurance card. If you have not yet received a card, make sure you have filled out this form! There is widespread confusion on this point, and a lot of our GAs felt that health services and administration need to take a more proactive role in ensuring that GAs have accurate, timely and useful information about their health coverage. There was also an extended discussion of the ramifications for GAs, who largely remain on or near campus during the summer, of the closure of health services during that time. Our next assembly meeting (October 15th, mark your calendars!) will tentatively be focused on health insurance issues. Over the summer, our VP did an extensive investigation into the feasibility of dental and vision insurance that I’m sure will be discussed, so if you are equipped with teeth or eyes, you might want to catch this one!

Among the other issues raised during our open forum were the fact that orientations (grad school and departmental) are not adequately focused on grad assistant needs, and the general confusion that exists surrounding the mysterious two weeks of unpaid vacation GAs are supposed to take as per the contract. We’ll pick these issues up at our next meeting, too. In the meantime, if you have a suggestion for an issue-focus, or for the Assembly meetings in general, drop us a line.

13 Sep

General Assembly Meeting on Monday!

General Assembly Invite (1)Our first General Assembly will be held this Monday, September 15 at 6pm in CBLS 100 (that’s the Ryan Auditorium on the first floor of the building). What’s a general assembly? It’s a chance for you to speak your mind about what’s impacting you as a grad assistant, get questions answered, hear what we’ve been up to and weigh in on what we’re doing as an organization.

We’re especially focused on student fees right now, since it’s so darn timely. We all got our first paychecks of the academic year today. Did you notice that your student fee bill is almost three-quarters of your first check? If you are a new student, that proportion is almost your whole check. For those of us who came to the university without a lot of resources, that’s doesn’t leave any money to survive on for the first month of the semester.

GAU does not approve of charging grad assistants fees to work. Nor is it cool to pretend you aren’t increasing the financial burden on students when you’re really just being sneaky about it. We’ll be talking about this, and many of our other issues, at the meeting on Monday.

(Incidentally, if you are really strapped for cash while you wait to receive another paycheck the university will give you a small, short-term, emergency loan. Inquire at the student loan office in the basement of Roosevelt.)

27 Aug

New GAs: Welcome to URI!

2014reorientationinvitation

Welcome to URI, grad assistants! The beginning of the academic year is a crazy time, especially if you are starting a new job as a graduate assistant. Undoubtedly, you already have questions. When am I going to get paid? What does my health insurance cover? Will I have this job next year? Maybe you’ve heard we are negotiating a contract and you want to know what that means for you. Maybe you were a GA last year and you still have questions, or a thing or two to say about what should go in this new contract.

All GAs, old and new, are invited to attend our grad assistant specific re-orientation on September 5, at 5pm in Edwards Auditorium. We will have speakers! We will have food! We will have answers to your many questions! Put it in your schedule!

2014reorientationinvitation

20 Jun

Tell Us Your Story

This spring, nearly half our membership stepped up and took our 2014 Membership Survey. Thank you! We heard you loud and clear, and we’ll be taking a renewed sense of purpose, inspired by your experiences, to the negotiating table this summer. Our bargaining priorities — earning a living wage, securing better health coverage (hello vision and dental!), working towards guaranteed funding and preventing assistant exploitation — were deeply informed by your feedback.

The most powerful information we can leverage is the personal experience of our membership. We want to know more about how the issues we’re fighting to improve in our next contract have affected you. Do you struggle to pay your bills every month? Has graduate school put you debt? Did you have to reach deep into your pockets to cover basic medical needs? Have you lost your funding or had it threatened? Are you working many more hours than you are being paid for?

We’re not rabble rousing — we live with these problems, too. It’s time to do something about them.

Let us know how these issues are affecting you. We’ll take your (anonymous!) stories with us to the table.

Lastly, if you’re as fired up about these issues as we are, it’s not too late to get involved in the negotiations process!

 

 

11 Jun

Why I oppose the arming of URI campus police

Edwin Fava
Masters candidate 2015

Why I oppose the arming of URI campus police

My personal opposition to the arming of URI campus police stems from my belief that pistols and other sidearms exist for the explicit purpose of killing humans. By arming our campus police force, we will be injecting the possibility, and therefore the threat, of deadly force into every interaction they have with members of the community. This threat will be present regardless of whether or not it is warranted or necessary. I see no benefit to artificially escalating a situation by the introduction of a firearm, especially when the police force has acted effectively over its history without them.

As for tools presently at their disposal, our currently unarmed police force still has years of non-violent conflict resolution at its disposal along with well-armed town and state police close by. By arming our first responders we are taking a high-risk, low-reward gamble on an armed police force using their weapons to neutralize a dangerous criminal before they use them to injure or kill an innocent member of the community.

Furthermore, without an armed guard in every room on campus, any arming of officers will only lead to responding to, not the preventing of shootings. While Pres. Dooley seems to feel that a mass shooting on campus is an inevitable occurrence, the truth is that gun deaths in the US are at an all-time low, further lowering the justification of perceived danger as a rationale for arming campus police.

All of this is only compounded by the huge cost ($150,000 in the first year, $23,000 each year after) of arming the police. This does not even take into account the increased pay for armed officers or the potential lawsuits from wrongful deaths. These are funds that could be spent on positive applications such as greater graduate assistant pay or dental insurance premiums. While the arming of campus police may seem like a foregone conclusion, we can still raise our voices against this unnecessary solution in search of a problem.

What Do You Think?

01 Jun

Take Action on Student Debt

Hey GAs! There’s a bill on the Senate floor that if passed would allow students to refinance their existing debt at the lower interest rates being offered to new borrowers (>7% vs. 3.86%). Most of us have debt from undergrad, not to mention the additional loans than many have taken out to make ends meet as grad assistants. Sign the petition supporting this bill and, especially if you hail from outside RI (both of our Senators are co-sponsors), get in touch with your representatives in Congress to let them know how much your debt will impact your future.

02 May

Membership Survey

It’s time to negotiate our next contract and to do that we need YOUR HELP. GAU has successfully negotiated for raises and improved benefits before and we’re preparing to do it again over the next few months.

Fill out the survey to tell us about your experience as a grad assistant so we can advocate for your needs and priorities at the negotiating table. The more we know about your experience, the better we can represent you!

13 Feb

INEQUALITY FOR ALL screening and LIVE webcast with Robert Reich

Movie Banner

Graduate Assistants United is proud to announce that we will be hosting a free, public screening of “INEQUALITY FOR ALL” on Thursday, February 20th as part of a nationwide campus screening event. The evening will include a live webcast with Robert Reich and a robust discussion following the screening in the College of Biotechnology and Life Sciences Auditorium (CBLS 100).

Doors open at 6PM. The live webcast with Robert Reich will begin promptly at 6:30PM. This event is open to the public, but seating is limited so be sure to RSVP and arrive early!

RSVP: via Facebook

Trailer: http://bit.ly/1ikWtTn

Film Synopsis:

A passionate argument on behalf of the middle class, INEQUALITY FOR ALL features Robert Reich – professor, best-selling author, and Clinton cabinet member – as he demonstrates how the widening income gap has a devastating impact on the American economy. The film is an intimate portrait of a man whose lifelong goal remains protecting those who are unable to protect themselves. Through his singular perspective, Reich explains how the massive consolidation of wealth by a precious few threatens the viability of the American workforce and the foundation of democracy itself. In this INCONVENIENT TRUTH for the economy, Reich uses humor and a wide array of facts to explain how the issue of economic inequality affects each and every one of us. The film premiered at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival.