In coalition with the Classified Staff Union, Faculty Staff Union, Professional Staff Union, and Departmental Chairs Union, GEO has been working tirelessly to pull together a document on the general health and safety measures occurring on campus – making sure that employees and the entire campus community is kept healthy as more classes and research begin to make their way back to campus.
We are entering into our next bargaining session with the university tomorrow, and negotiating an enforceable document with the university so that those who come on campus are kept healthy and safe.
Officially our last Collective Bargaining Agreement with the University ended this summer, which means we are still living in the old world. Going has been slow as COVID and the change of University leadership has caused delays to bargaining. As significant uncertainty exists around the budget and longer-term implications of the pandemic; we are currently looking at options around a one year extension to buy everyone some time. This delay in bargaining is an approach other unions on campus are using as well.
For us in GEO, we are unwilling to let the university buy time for free! We are demanding immediate relief from extra costs associated with COVID and Health Care. We will keep you updated as negotiations progress. But our guiding principles are still the same, we need fair wages and a safe working environment for graduate student employees at UMass!
Scholarly Support Fund
Because we are still working on a new contract with the university, SSF is still up in the air; as things stand currently no travel or reimbursement for travel is allowed by UMass. Unfortunately SSF remains in a tentative grey area as we negotiate with the University.
If you are interested in running for a position in our organizing committee, this is great news! We want to announce that we will run elections for two open positions (0.50 FTE) for the GEO Organizing Committee this Fall 2020. We have adapted the election process to take an online format. Elections will take place early in the semester for a quick start of said appointments. A 0.50 FTE appointment with the GEO could complement your 0.25, 0.50, 0.75, or 1.00 assistantship(s)! You can run for our organizing committee as long as you are a dues-paying graduate worker – a GEO member.
This year elections will be done electronically. Therefore, we will be asking those who are not currently active-dues-paying members to consider signing up for membership early prior to voting. We also recommend that those who currently are or will become eligible for voting register for voting early as well. We will be sending details about the voter registration and nomination process, and more, soon. Stay tuned!
Here is the temporary election process schedule: (final dates to come with next announcement)
- Tuesday, September 15th: Nomination and Registration period starts.
- Tuesday, September 22nd: Nomination period closes.
- Wednesday, September 23rd: Campaign period starts.
- Tuesday, October 7th: Voting registration ends at 5:00 p.m. EST.
- Thursday and Friday, October 8th and 9th: Voting!
- Monday, October 12th: Results will be announced.
We are working to update the SSF to reflect the realities of academia during the lockdown. Our goal is to release a full set of details in our next communication and have the application process start on the first day of classes. At the moment, we’re ironing out some final details about what eligible expenses are and how to verify that you need reimbursement.
Our goal is to shift the SSF from being a travel fund to being a general academic support initiative, which is a pretty major change. Stay tuned to our website for updates. If we have to delay applications to make the program more effective, we will let you know well in advance.
We will be holding elections for two half time (9 hours a week) positions this semester! In a departure from the old world, we’ll be holding these elections entirely online! We’re still finalizing the process and ironing out the details, but keep your eyes open. Once we get everything figured out and ready, we’ll roll out the process.
We want to ensure a two week period for candidates to self-nominate, another two weeks for campaigning, a week for voting, and then the big announcement of results. We’re not sure yet what we’re going to do in lieu of our traditional party–but we’ll figure something out. If you have any ideas, let us know! We’d love some help.
GEO wants to offer what help and resources we can for social justice advocacy groups on campus–and we want to get in touch with all of you. Shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’re doing this kind of work already, and let’s see what we can’t do to bolster one another and work together.
GEO has had representation on the Academic Continuity Task Force, established by the Provost earlier this summer, and has been fighting hard to make sure that the slight re-opening of campus goes without a hitch–and working hard at the social justice aspect of it as well. At the moment, we’re hoping to make social justice and anti-racism resources available for graduate students and student-facing employees.
As many returning students know, but new students are learning, it can take the University until the end of October to process waivers for tuition and health insurance. This makes it very hard for us to know what our account balance is at the Bursar’s office. We suggest making a small good faith deposit and then waiting to find out what your full balance is instead of paying what appears to be owing in September. A deposit is usually enough to have the school waive late fees, though we can assist if they do apply any to your account. Check out your WISER accounts over the next few weeks to see if your waivers have already been applied. The university has to apply all of them manually, and this process takes some time. If you have questions, we are always able to help provide some answers. Email us at email@example.com.
For health insurance: you need to manually enroll in the health insurance plan if you do not have coverage from somewhere else and if you are on a ‘program fee’ or taking fewer than 7 credit hours. The WISER system is not well designed, so you must email Shirley Condon at the Bursar’s Office (firstname.lastname@example.org) and ensure you are covered for the year. Remember that we also have a reimbursement for vision and dental up to 50%.
The highly restrictive ICE memo that circulated on July 6th has been rescinded, but the University has been slow to put plans in place to fully support international students. The situation is better for continuing students who were enrolled and working before the pandemic, but yet there are still challenges created by university policies that make things more difficult for these international students. Having a work assignment is incredibly valuable for graduate students; to study in the US you need to show you have the ability to pay for school. For most foreign grad students, this means having a stipend, tuition waiver, and health insurance and other benefits we in GEO have fought to secure for our members. We are fighting to ensure as many students as possible get their promised appointments and can add much needed diversity to our campus community.
Right now, the university’s plan largely ignores new international graduate students who are not in the United States. Some programs are trying to get these people a scholarship, but the University is using a GEO allocation and pocketing the salary savings. The university should not be trying to profit from some of our most vulnerable members. We in GEO continue to fight for social equity and justice for all members of our campus community, whether in Boston or abroad.