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Letter to FSU Members From The Graduate Employee Organization


NOTE: The following letter was submitted to the FSU by the Graduate Employee Organization, who asked the FSU to send the letter to FSU members.

October 23, 2018

Dear UMass Boston Faculty,

We have heard from sources throughout the university that there is some confusion regarding the new Graduate Assistant contract negotiated by the Graduate Employee Organization (GEO) and UMass Boston Admin. We hope to alleviate some of this confusion in this email.

GEO agreed back in August to attend a series of meetings organized by the Office of Graduate Studies, which would brief faculty and departmental administrators on the contract changes. These joint meetings have not occurred despite our multiple requests. Their unwillingness to hold information sessions has enabled the administration to craft a narrative blaming GEO for changes which we had in fact opposed. In particular, this email has been prompted by recent assertions by the administration to Graduate Program Directors that the decision to eliminate .25 FTE assistantships in AY 2019-2020 came from GEO. This is a complete falsehood.

The GEO initially proposed increasing benefits and waivers for students working at the .25 FTE level. Our stance was that these employees did not receive a meaningful level of support. The administration countered by saying they had been focused on reducing the number of quarter-time positions, and that they also wanted to reduce the amount of benefits paid. Their plan, as described to us, was to develop an academic scholarship program to attract incoming students in lieu of the quarter-time positions. Since GEO is only responsible for student workers, we were told we would have no say in the scholarship program. As a result, the details we received on this initiative were vague and non-committal. We call on you to ask university officials: what are their plans for the intended scholarship initiative? When will departments and graduate students receive any information? Where are these scholarships?

Our concern had always been that the administration’s proposals would leave .25 positions with a significant decrease in support and devalue future offers made by departments to prospective students. Understanding that devaluing quarters would hurt our most vulnerable members, we fought for over a year to increase support for these positions so programs could offer better packages to incoming students, and so students at the quarter-time level could focus on their academic work.

Under the contract, GEO does not have the right to bargain over how the administration splits up FTEs, nor over how many FTEs are provided. We tried to set a floor to the number of FTEs offered each academic year to maintain graduate assistant numbers. This proposal was dismissed by the administration.

The first proposal to eliminate the .25 FTE position was put forth by the administration, not GEO.

As we perceived their intention to devalue and eliminate quarter-time positions, we focused our efforts on getting better packages for the positions that remained. In the new GEO contract, all graduate assistants gained vision and dental insurance benefits, as well as salary increases. Our total contractual gains are estimated to increase student support by more than $3 million over the term of the contract. We hope that this significant increase will be leveraged by departments to attract top quality students who will help advance UMB’s research initiatives and our community-focused mission.

Again, we want to stress that GEO is deeply disappointed by the administration’s narrative portraying GEO as the reason why UMass Boston eliminated .25 FTE positions. The administration is placing the blame of a decision that they made on us, instead of taking ownership for what they were planning to do. We feel that this false narrative, in which the administration claims it had to accept the demands of students to eliminate their own employment, insults both GEO’s hard work and your intelligence.

As both graduate students and employees who work directly in your programs, we understand the importance of graduate assistants at UMass Boston. This is why GEO sought to maintain the value of graduate assistantships. Only a reasonable level of compensation will attract high quality graduate students in Boston’s highly competitive academic environment. GEO is open to discussing the reinstatement of the quarter-time assistantship position, but only if the actual value of benefits are not decreased.

By writing this letter to all of you, we wish to dispel any further misinformation. To reiterate: We attempted to increase support for students in .25 positions in our last contract negotiations; the administration refused. Given the administration’s position, we consider maintaining the .25 positions at their current value in AY2018-2019 a success. GEO calls on you, as leaders in the campus community, to demand information on the scholarship plan which the administration claimed would enable departments to attract graduate students in lieu of the quarter-time positions.

We hope that this email sheds light on our bargaining positions from recent contract negotiations. GEO has always sought to improve the opportunities for student workers and their supervisors on campus.

Please reach out to us at if you have any questions. Thank you,

GEO Organizing Committee

Graduate Employee Organization / UAW 1596

/ 100 Morrissey Blvd.

Boston, MA 02125

Quinn 02-081