Regardless of what compromises the GTFF made at the bargaining table, the Administration will not agree to any contract language that resembles paid leave. They will not guarantee, in any form, that graduate employees can take time off of work for sick leave or parental leave and not lose wages.
We will return to mediation on Tuesday, ready to work with the Administration to reach an agreement that meets our members need for paid sick and parental leave.
An agreement written between two of the employers (President and Dean of the Graduate School) is not what collective bargaining seeks to achieve. It looks to make an agreement between employer and employees. A promise between two employers to protect them employees is not good enough. Without clear language in our collective bargaining agreement, the employer has no legal obligation to follow through with their promise they made to each other about their employees.
The GTFF will continue to work towards an agreement to protect the needs of our members. We have shown time and time again we are willing to work with the University to find a way to reach an agreement. We’ve modified our original proposals, we spent days discussing flex time and have invested a lot of time and effort working on the Graduate Hardship Fund. We need the Administration to work with us and secure protections the 1,500 graduate employees in our collective bargaining agreement.
These policies are not just good for graduate employees. They benefit the entire University community. Our students benefit most from instructors who can focus on preparation, teaching and grading. The challenges that come with serious medical issues or that come with having a new child require time off from work. The lack of paid leave policies discourages our members from taking the time they need to heal and adjust. They are rushed back to work in fear of losing wages, insurance and tuition. The lack of a guarantee that protections are available will not change this reality our members face.
Instructors who are ill or injured cannot affectively teach a course. Women who want to have children are systematically pushed out of academia by policies that do not support them. These are real impacts on equality and the education of undergraduates that can be solved with paid leave policies.
In addition, paid sick and parental leave is a basic human need. Everyone deserves basic protections for their health. We all have families that we need to take care of and spend time with. President Scott Coltrane knows this. He has dedicated his life to studying the importance of having both parents involved in their children’s lives right from their earliest moments. Letting our health, wellbeing and family relationships deteriorate because we do not have access to paid leave is unacceptable.
The Academic Integrity of the University of Oregon
The GTFF is shocked by the actions of the Administration yesterday afternoon. Hundreds or thousands of undergraduates taking courses in the College of Arts and Sciences received the following email from an Associate Dean in the College of Arts and Sciences:
I am responsible for ensuring that you receive a timely grade for the work you have done in COURSE.
On the Academic Affairs website (affairs.uoregon.edu/academic-continuity) the Provost has advised that students in courses taught or supported by GTFs may be given the option to forgo the final assignment/exam and take their current grade in the course.
Please be advised that should the GTFF strike continue to Dec. 12, I will enter the grade you achieved in COURSE up to December 1 as your approximate grade for Fall term. This grade will be based on the grading information given to me by your Instructor. If you wish you may accept this grade as your final grade. In that case, you need not complete any further work for this course and the grade I entered will not be altered.
If this is your preference please send me an email to that effect (email@example.com) by date XXXX. Be sure to include your name, student number, and the course number and name; you may include your understanding of what the final grade would be. I regret that, given the large number of courses with which I am working, I cannot give you the grade I will be entering at this time but I assure you that it will be based on the information your Instructor supplied for work competed as of Dec. 1.
You have the option to complete the final exam / assignment as described on your course syllabus and/or by your Instructor. You may submit that work either to the Department of ZZZZ (LOCATION) or electronically (if this was your Instructor’s preference) by the date and time assigned by your Instructor. At such time as your work is graded, the approximate grade will be replaced by a grade based on all your course work, including the final assignment/exam. If you have any questions, please feel to email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) or contact me via Blackboard.
Judith R. Baskin, Philip H. Knight Professor of Humanities
Associate Dean for Humanities, College of Arts and Sciences
The GTFF finds this action reprehensible. Aggressively removing graduate employees from being instructors of record destroys the foundation of education – the relationship between student and teacher. Teachers put every effort in developing curriculum that builds on their students prior learning outcomes. To chop that off at the end prevents students from achieving the ultimate learning objectives of the course. This action threatens the grades and future academic directions of students who need their final exams, papers and presentations to help finalize the grade they desire. It creates distrust and resentment between faculty members, between faculty and GTFs, and between GTFs and their students. Allowing for grading to be done by an entirely unknown person will not provide adequate feedback or analysis of the work of the students.
These threats are made clear by the fact that the Administration did not just do this for GTF taught classes. They also have taken control over courses taught by some faculty who have graduate student support for a course. The faculty who run these courses had no say in the matter. The Administration did this without permission or the need to do so. It is not a surprise that many of the departments where this policy was instituted are departments where their leadership signed a public letter in opposition to the policies that are now being carried forward. This decisions was a targeted one to put on display the strength and power of this Administration. It also put on display the Administration’s lack of interest in academics.
The members of the GTFF whose students were affected by this policy, as well as many other GTFs, were very unhappy with the Administration’s decision. We care deeply about our students, and were already heartbroken that their education was being disrupted by the strike. After receiving the above email, students from many departments reached out to their GTFs in a panic over the decision they were being forced to make. Our students do NOT want Administrators making decisions on grades that they are entirely unqualified to do. They understand the importance of finals to their education and to their grades. They understood why the GTFF needed to take the stand we have taken, and they have stood with us. What they do not understand is why the Administration is willing to compromise education at the University of Oregon.
The GTFF never expected the Administration would throw out education entirely to make a point that they have complete control of the University.
Let us be very clear: what happened yesterday afternoon was a choice made by the Administration. It is not an action that the GTFF forced the Administration to make. The GTFF went out of its way to work with the Administration during mediation, but they refused to agree to recognize our basic needs as employees. In response to a strike, the Administration did NOT endeavor to reach an agreement, but rather sat on their answer of “no” to paid leave for its employees. Instead of investing a minimal amount in its graduate employees, the Administration sacrificed the education of hundreds or thousands of undergrads to prove a point: they answer to no one.
In the coming days, the Administration will claim that they did so to protect undergraduates from GTFs illegally messing up records of grades. There was NO chance this would happen. The GTFF actively told its members they needed to to comply with requests for grades and materials by their supervisors. At no point did the GTFF evenly remotely suggest that its members sabotage their workplaces.
This supported by the fact that the GTFF’s strike has been peaceful. While some Administrators have openly yelled at GTFs for picketing, we have had zero interaction with police. Ok, that is not true. Some picketing GTFs report that police observing a march through campus waved to the passing GTFs. The action to remove GTFs from instructors of record positions was just to scare, intimidate and panic GTFs. Sadly, this also will ruin the academic reputation of the University of Oregon.
Email from President Coltrane
The email to the campus community by President Coltrane this evening is an insult. The GTFF bargaining team worked hard to reach a place where an agreement could be made, but the Administration continued to place its own interests of saving money ahead of the interests of graduate employees to heal from illness or injury and to bond with children they have added to their lives. A constant stream of “no, we will not give you ANY form of paid leave” is all the GTFF has heard at the bargaining table. As soon as negotiations on any system for leave come to a point where a guarantee for protections come up, the Administration walks away.
The President’s casual reference to the watching last night’s football game showed a clear demonstration of where their true concerns lie. All that was missing was a pitch to pick up your DuckGear at the University owned Duck Store.