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The Point: GEO Summer Woes


This week’s Point was written by GEO Organizing Committee Member Chidimma Ozor Commer, PhD, LMSW. School of Global Inclusion and Social Development (graduating in May!)

Dear FSU members,

As many of you know, we are in the throes of preparing for bargaining. In the meantime, another pressing issue we are currently dealing with is how UMB deals with summer employment for graduate student employees.  The current protocols have negatively impacted countless graduate student employees. 

In essence, graduate student employees are hired for a job—usually a research assistantship (RA) or a teaching position for two semesters, fall and spring. Sometimes, they continue their employment in the summer and this is where UMB has room for improvement. The graduate student employee has the same job, yet  their pay/salary is run through an entirely different system which causes what we not so affectionately call “The Great Struggle.”

We have heard and seen the following related issues arise out of the structural inconsistency with graduate student employment between fall and spring semesters and summer semester:

  • Hours. It is very common for Principal Investigators (PIs) to ask RAs to work more than 18 hours a week which is considered full time (1.0 FTE) during fall and spring semesters. Some graduate student employees have disclosed that they have been asked to work upwards of 60 hours a week.
  • Bureaucracy. Additional paperwork is required in the form of hourly timesheets even though the graduate student employee is doing the same job that they had just been doing a few weeks earlier during the spring semester.
  • Pay schedule. Inconsistent pay means that some graduate student employees have reported that they have not received pay for six weeks and then are paid a lump sum which makes them ineligible for certain benefits because it appears that they make too much money.
  • Overall chaos. Inconsistency between programs/departments/schools which usually results in greater confusion.

UMB purports to be an anti-racist and health promoting institution. One concrete way UMB can be health promoting is to make sure that graduate employees have a smooth transition to summer employment. Graduate student employees on campus are committed to teaching and/or research in their graduate assistantships with the highest level of professionalism, despite their low salaries (especially compared to other nearby institutions).  As such, a systematic, streamlined, and clear process should be implemented.

Thank you for walking shoulder-to-shoulder with GEO and using your faculty power to support the basic needs of graduate student employees.  It is greatly appreciated.