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UPDATE // FALL 2020 ELECTION NOMINEES AND VOTER REGISTRATION

We are happy to announce that we have our nominees! You can download a .pdf here that has their pictures, programs, short-bios, and campaign blurbs. The dates for the rest of the election cycle are below!

  • Wednesday, September 23rd: Campaign period begins!
  • Wednesday, October 7th: Voting registration ends at 5:00 p.m. EST.
  • Thursday and Friday, October 8th and 9th: Voting!
  • Tuesday, October 13th: Results will be announced.

How do you register to vote? 

As part of our new digital voting process, we are requiring that all GEO members who want to be involved to update their membership status by re-registering for membership and voting by filling out a NEW membership PDF form and sending it from your UMB email to geoumb.elections@gmail.com. If you’re already a member, this won’t lead you to being charged again; it just makes it easier for us to tell who currently is and isn’t a dues-paying member for the purpose of voting. Again, to register to vote you must fill out and send a membership PDF form to geoumb.elections@gmail.com.

For the answers to questions like: why do you need to register?, How do I register?, How do I vote?, and more – read up on our Fall 2020 Election FAQ, linked here!

UPDATE // HEALTH AND SAFETY COALITION BARGAINING

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.

UPDATE // GEO BARGAINING // IMPACT AND MAIN-TABLE

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.

ANNOUNCEMENT // FALL ELECTIONS 2020

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.

Brief Pre-Fall Update

Hi GEO,
The new semester is almost upon us. We’re delivering just a few quick updates before we hunker back down into Fall prep.

Parking: We know at some point for Fall semester the university is going to resume collecting parking fees; that said, specific information hasn’t yet come out, though it should be coming out from the university relatively soon. It is important to note that we signed an impact bargaining agreement in Spring that says the university must give two weeks of notice before resuming parking fee collection from GEO members.

Health and Safety (H&S) Bargaining: we’re in coalition with our union partners; we met with them on Monday to deliver our first proposals, which are all about ensuring and enforcing rules to keep everyone healthy. We’re presently waiting on them to get back to us with dates to meet again.

Main Table Bargaining: we are awaiting proposals from management that would entail a one-year extension at the benefit of reduced health insurance costs. We don’t know how much the reduction would be; our next main table bargaining meeting with management is on the 16th.

GEO Elections: due to COVID, we’ve had to overhaul our election process – and we still are. We plan to announce the self-nomination period next week once we iron out all details!

The Scholarly Support Fund: due to COVID, some of you asked if you could request SSF for things other than airfare, conference registration fees, and hotel bookings – because none of us are going to be traveling. We’re in discussions with the university about how to achieve this, but want to tell you now that SSF will be delayed, and applications will not open on the first day of the semester. Once we know more details we will let all of you know.

Stay safe out there,
The Graduate Advocate

INFORMATION // THE SCHOLARLY SUPPORT FUND

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. 

UPDATE // FALL ELECTIONS AND ONLINE VOTING

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. 

INFORMATION // GEO AND THE ACTF

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. 

INFORMATION // HEALTH INSURANCE AND TUITION WAIVERS

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 geo@umb.edu.
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 (shirley.condon@umb.edu) and ensure you are covered for the year. Remember that we also have a reimbursement for vision and dental up to 50%.