Stories indexed with the term ‘GSRA’

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]

Regents Take Action on Security Investigation

University of Michigan board of regents meeting (Feb. 16, 2012): In the wake of a mishandled incident involving child pornography allegedly viewed on a UM health system computer, regents voted last week to start an external investigation into the matter.

Student groups at UM regents meeting

Members of student groups at the Feb. 16 UM regents meeting stood in support of a speaker during public commentary who was advocating for tuition equality for students who are undocumented immigrants. (Photos by the writer.)

Martin Taylor, who introduced the resolution at the start of the meeting, described the situation as “one that is unacceptable to the regents and that we, the regents, feel we must do everything within our power to ensure that it is not repeated.” There had been a six-month lag between the time the incident was initially reported in May of 2011, and action taken by university officials to investigate. A former medical resident, Stephen Jenson, was arrested in mid-December. [.pdf of Taylor's statement]

The university administration had issued its own report on an internal audit earlier this month, with recommendations to improve security and communications. [.pdf of UM report] But regents felt more needed to be done, and have asked UM president Mary Sue Coleman to work with board chair Denise Ilitch to make recommendations for outside consultants who could be hired to carry out an additional investigation.

During public commentary at the meeting, Coleman was sharply criticized for her handling of the situation. One speaker accused her of a repeated pattern of attacking whistleblowers. The remarks prompted some regents to come to Coleman’s defense, calling the accusations unfair.

The ongoing debate about whether to allow graduate student research assistants (GSRAs) to unionize also emerged during the Feb. 16 meeting, when three students spoke about the topic during public commentary. The same issue was the focus of an unusual special meeting that regents held the following week, on Feb. 21. At that meeting – which included heated debate among regents over whether the meeting had been called in conformity with the state’s Open Meetings Act – the board voted 6-2 to oppose Michigan senate bill 197. The bill would prohibit GSRAs from collective bargaining. It was subsequently passed by the Republican-controlled state senate on a 26-12 party-line vote.

Regents acted on a range of other issues during their Feb. 16 meeting. There was no mention of the Feb. 8 special meeting that had been called to approve the use of Michigan Stadium for the National Hockey League’s Winter Classic, scheduled for Jan. 1, 2013. However, one item on the Feb. 16 agenda did relate to UM athletics: a vote to rename the basketball player development center at Crisler in honor of William Davidson, who died in 2009. His family, via the William Davidson Foundation, recently donated $7.5 million to the University of Michigan athletics department.

Another renaming was also approved – for the Computer Science and Engineering Building, in honor of Bob and Betty Beyster. Bob Beyster, who received multiple degrees from UM and founded Science Applications International Corp., recently gave a $15 million gift to the College of Engineering.

In other business, regents voted to revise the board’s bylaws, including a change that eliminated a previous requirement that executives retire after their 70th birthday. Coleman will be 70 when her current contract expires in 2014, but regent Martin Taylor said the change wasn’t being made to accommodate her – it’s to comply with the law, he said. Regents also authorized the appointment of six Thurnau professorships, and took votes that moved forward several previously approved projects, including major renovations at East Quad and the residences in the Lawyers’ Club.

Two presentations were given during the meeting – by Martin Philbert, dean of the School of Public Health, and Doug Engel, chair and professor of cell and developmental biology. Engel’s presentation highlighted recent news that the U.S. National Institutes of Health has authorized an embryonic stem cell line developed by UM researchers to be eligible for federally funded research.

The meeting concluded with public commentary on a variety of issues, including (1) better access to a childcare subsidy available to parents who are UM students; (2) equity for students who are charged out-of-state tuition because they are undocumented immigrants; and (3) criticism of the university’s relationship with China. [Full Story]

GSRA Bill: UM Regents Debate Opposition

University of Michigan board of regents special meeting (Feb. 21, 2012): The board and UM president Mary Sue Coleman met via conference call on Tuesday morning in a brief but contentious meeting that focused on Senate Bill 971. It’s a bill that would make explicit that graduate student research assistants (GSRAs) are not entitled to collective bargaining rights under Michigan’s Act 336 of 1947.

Sue Scarnecchia

Suellyn Scarnecchia, UM's general counsel, was one of the few executives in the room at a Feb. 21 special meeting of the board of regents. All regents and UM president Mary Sue Coleman participated via conference call. Scarnecchia was asked by some regents to weigh in on the legality of the meeting, in the context of compliance with Michigan's Open Meetings Act.

Ultimately, the board voted 6-2 to formally oppose the bill, which was to be considered later that morning at a senate committee hearing in Lansing. [The committee later in the day voted to recommend the bill for passage by the full senate.]

The board’s two Republican regents – Andrea Fischer Newman and Andrew Richner – dissented. It was a vote along the same party lines as action taken at the regents’ May 19, 2011 meeting, when the Democratic majority of the board passed a resolution supporting the right of GSRAs to determine whether to organize. Coleman, who chairs the regents’ meeting but is not a voting member, had spoken against the resolution prior to the May vote. At subsequent regents’ meetings, several students and faculty have spoke during public commentary in opposition to the board’s action.

Much of the Feb. 21 special meeting focused on whether the meeting itself was legal. It was convened by invoking a rarely used bylaw that allows either the president or three regents to call a special meeting for emergency action. However, the meeting was apparently not publicly noticed 18 hours in advance, as required by the Michigan Open Meetings Act.

The university’s general counsel, Sue Scarnecchia, was asked by some of the regents to weigh in on the legality of the meeting. She stated that the meeting had been called legally, based on her reading of the regental bylaw. She did not comment explicitly on how compliance with the bylaw might relate to conformance with the OMA.  [Full Story]

UM Regents Oppose GSRA Senate Bill

At a special meeting convened at 8 a.m. on Feb. 21, University of Michigan regents voted 6-2 to formally oppose Senate Bill 971, which would make explicit that graduate student research assistants (GSRAs) are not entitled to collective bargaining rights under Michigan’s Act 336 of 1947.

Opposing the resolution were the board’s two Republican regents, Andrea Fischer Newman and Andrew Richner. The meeting was held via conference call. None of the regents – nor UM president Mary Sue Coleman, who chaired the proceedings – were physically in the boardroom at the Fleming administration building, though several staff and members of the media attended to listen in to the call.

The bill, which was introduced on Feb. 15 by state Senate majority leader Randy … [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]