Stories indexed with the term ‘graduate student research assistants’

UM Regents Split on State House Lawsuit

University of Michigan board of regents special meeting (April 2, 2012): At a special meeting held on Monday afternoon that lasted less than 30 minutes, the board passed a resolution directing UM administrators to file an amicus brief in support of a lawsuit filed by Michigan House Democrats against the GOP majority. The lawsuit indirectly related to recent legislation regarding graduate student research assistants (GSRAs), which had been given “immediate effect” by a voice vote of the legislature.

Julia Darlow, Mary Sue Coleman

From left: University of Michigan regent Julia Darlow talks with UM president Mary Sue Coleman after the April 2 special meeting of the board. Darlow was the only regent physically present for the meeting. All other regents participated via conference call. (Photos by the writer.)

Dissenting in the 5-3 vote were the board’s two Republican regents – Andy Richner and Andrea Fischer Newman – as well as Democrat Libby Maynard. Richner and Newman objected vigorously to the action. Richner said it was inappropriate to intervene in a “political spat,” and worried that the vote could have long-term implications that the regents may regret. Newman said the issue involved House procedural rules that Democrats and Republicans have both used in the past.

Denise Ilitch, who voted with the Democratic majority, said the view of Richner and Newman was hypocritical. She said that they had testified at legislative hearings in support of legislation that had the effect of preventing GSRAs from unionizing. Maynard said her opposition was for very different reasons than those given by Richner and Newman, and indicated that she wasn’t comfortable in general with the university filing amicus briefs.

Except for Julia Darlow, all other regents participated in the meeting via conference call.

A hearing on the lawsuit took place earlier in the day at Ingham County Circuit Court, where judge Clinton Canady III ruled in favor of the Democrats and issued a stay on legislation that had been given immediate effect, including the GSRA legislation. That law – which regents had voted to oppose at a Feb. 21 special meeting – made explicit that GSRAs are not entitled to collective bargaining rights under Michigan’s Act 336 of 1947. There are more than 2,000 GSRAs at the university.

Republicans are expected to appeal Canady’s ruling. The motion that was passed by a majority of regents on Monday directed UM administrators to file an amicus “friend of the court” brief in any appeal as well. Jeff Irwin, a Democrat from Ann Arbor’s District 53, is one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit. [Full Story]

Regents Direct UM to File Amicus Brief

By a 5-3 vote, the University of Michigan board of regents directed UM administrators to prepare and file an amicus brief in support of a lawsuit filed by Michigan House Democrats against the GOP majority, indirectly related to recent legislation regarding graduate student research assistants (GSRAs). The regents’ vote was taken during a brief special meeting held on the afternoon of April 2, with all but one regent  participating via conference call. Julia Darlow was the lone regent who was physically present in the room. Dissenting were Republican regents Andrea Fischer Newman and Andrew Richner, and Democrat Libby Maynard.

By way of background, last month state House Democrats sued Republicans over the refusal by the GOP majority to hold recorded roll-call votes when super-majorities are … [Full Story]

Michigan House Passes GSRA Bill

The Michigan Information & Research Service (MIRS) reports that the state House of Representatives quickly passed Senate Bill 971 on Thursday, March 1. The legislation would make explicit that graduate student research assistants (GSRAs) are not entitled to collective bargaining rights under Michigan’s Act 336 of 1947. MIRS reported that there was no discussion of the bill on the floor of the Republican-controlled House, and that the item was not initially on the agenda for Thursday’s session.

The bill, which was introduced on Feb. 15 by state Senate majority leader Randy Richardville (R-Monroe), states: “An individual serving as a graduate student research assistant or in an equivalent position and any individual whose position does not have sufficient indicia of an employment relationship is not a public … [Full Story]

Senate Bill: GSRAs Get No Bargaining Rights

A bill introduced  by state Senate majority leader Randy Richardville (R-Monroe) on Feb. 15, 2012 would make explicit that graduate student research assistants are not entitled to collective bargaining rights under Michigan’s Act 336 of 1947. From SB 971: “An individual serving as a graduate student research assistant or in an equivalent position and any individual whose position does not have sufficient indicia of an employment relationship is not a public employee entitled to representation or collective bargaining rights under this act.

If eventually passed by both the Michigan house and senate and signed into law, the amendment to the bill could resolve the question currently being debated on the University of Michigan campus about the organization of that institution’s graduate … [Full Story]

UM’s Business of Research, Academics

University of Michigan board of regents meeting (Jan. 19, 2012): The sixth floor of UM’s Ross School of Business was the venue for January’s meeting, where regents and executives dispatched the university’s business with an alacrity called for by president Mary Sue Coleman. There was no indication at the time that U.S. president Barack Obama would be speaking here later this month. News of his speech – to be delivered on Friday morning, Jan. 27 at UM’s Al Glick Fieldhouse – was announced on Monday.

Mary Sue Coleman

Before the start of the Jan. 19 board of regents meeting, UM president Mary Sue Coleman scanned an article from The Chronicle – but not this Chronicle. It's a report from The Chronicle of Higher Education. (Photos by the writer.)

Instead, regents dealt with less high-profile matters, approving a range of action items with little discussion. Those included funding for a major expansion of the UM Health System into Wayne County, along the I-275 corridor; renovations that will transform the entrance to Schembechler Hall and make a museum of football memorabilia more accessible to the public; and improvements to the university’s Northwood apartment complex on north campus.

But much of the meeting consisted of reports. Stephen Forrest, UM’s vice president for research, presented a sobering outlook for future research funding, calling the climate for federal funding “worrisome.” After his talk, regent Andrea Fischer Newman pointed out that tuition is helping to support the university’s $1.2 billion research program – about 25% of those research expenditures are covered internally.

Regents also heard from dean Alison Davis-Blake, who described how the business school is countering the caricature of managers that are only focused on short-term profits, and whose management skills consist of the ability to say, “You’re fired!” Graduates of Ross are taught to think more broadly, she said.

An item not on the agenda of the Jan. 19 meeting received considerable attention during public commentary. One student and three professors spoke against an effort to unionize graduate student research assistants (GSRAs).

Also during public commentary, the chair of the Sierra Club’s Huron Valley group raised concerns over the proposed Fuller Road Station, saying that the joint UM/city of Ann Arbor project runs counter to the university’s sustainability efforts. Fuller Road Station’s initial phase is a proposed parking structure, located near the UM medical campus, that could hold over 1,000 vehicles. [Full Story]

UM Grad Researchers Get Right to Unionize

University of Michigan board of regents meeting (May 19, 2011): This month’s regents meeting, held at the Dearborn campus, began with rare public discord between a majority of board members and UM president Mary Sue Coleman – and an even rarer public debate between regents.

Mary Sue Coleman

University of Michigan president Mary Sue Coleman before the start of the May 19, 2011 regents meeting, which was held at the Fairlane Center on UM's Dearborn campus. (Photos by the writer.)

The issue was a resolution introduced at the start of Thursday’s meeting – an item not originally on the agenda – to support the rights of graduate student research assistants to decide whether to organize and be represented by a labor union. Before the vote, Coleman spoke out against the move, describing the relationship between graduate researchers and faculty as a special one that was fundamentally different than an employee-employer relationship. Changing the nature of that interaction could affect the university in significant ways, which she said caused her deep concern. The board’s two Republican regents – Andrew Richner and Andrea Fischer Newman – also objected to the resolution, both criticizing the fact that it had been introduced at the last minute without time for adequate discussion.

The resolution passed on a 6-2 vote, with Richner and Newman dissenting. It was notable in part because, with the exception of votes regarding tuition increases, nearly all votes by the board are unanimous, and in accord with the administration’s recommendations.

The meeting also included a variety of other action items, but none that spurred commentary by regents. They voted to increase room and board rates for 2011-12 by 3%, approved the schematic design for a $52 million expansion of Crisler Arena, and authorized the tenure or promotion of 169 faculty members on the Ann Arbor campus.

Regents also authorized creation of the Institute for Health Care Policy & Innovation, a new venture to be housed at renovated space in the North Campus Research Complex (NCRC) – a $13.7 million renovation project that regents also authorized at the meeting. Ora Hirsch Pescovitz, executive vice president for medical affairs, said the institute will be the largest co-located group of health care researchers anywhere in the world.

In other action related to the NCRC, regents approved agreements – among a collection of 17 conflict-of-interest disclosures – with six start-ups that will lease space in the former Pfizer site, as part of the university’s Venture Accelerator program.

And in another item added to the agenda during the meeting, regents voted to approve the hiring of Lisa Rudgers as UM’s new vice president for global communications and strategic initiatives, effective June 1 with a salary of $270,000.

The board also got an update from Sue Scarnecchia, UM’s vice president and general counsel, on the Compliance Resource Center – a new website that coordinates various compliance efforts at the university.

At the end of the meeting, philosophy professor Carl Cohen spoke during public commentary, passionately urging regents to intercede in the renovation of East Quad in order to prevent the Residential College from being pushed into smaller, inadequate space. The RC is a living-learning program that Cohen helped start in the 1960s, and that’s housed at East Quad. If regents did nothing, he said, “your Residential College will atrophy and fade away.” [Full Story]