On March 29, 2023, the Graduate Employees’ Organization (GEO), who represent graduate student employees at the University of Michigan, went on strike to protest the University of Michigan administration’s counteroffers in their contract bargaining this year. Among the key issues is that the administration’s best offer so far does not provide a living wage for graduate employees; it doesn’t even account for recent inflation. There are also additional issues that GEO would like to negotiate, but which the administration refuses to engage with.
The university countered, first by going to court to seek an injunction that would force GEO members back to work (the judge declined); next, by asking Graduate Student Instructors (GSIs) and Staff Assistants (GSSAs) to submit attestation forms about how much they worked; and then, by docking pay for those who did not explicitly attest.
GEO’s contract with the university expired on May 1, and both the negotiations and the strike continue. Many courses do not have all assignments and exams graded for the sake of calculating grades for Winter 2023 courses. Some faculty have expressed support for graduate employees through open letters, at least one of which includes pledges not to submit grades this semester until a new contract is signed. Some faculty have not submitted grades on the basis that they cannot properly do so until their GSIs complete grading — an issue that should be between the administration and the GSIs.
In some units, the administration has begun pressuring faculty — lecturers, tenure-track faculty, other instructors of record — to submit grades, regardless of whether all course assignments have been graded. And, there are claims that the administration is requesting some faculty to submit grades for GSI-led courses that those faculty have not taught.
To express support for GEO, UM Ann Arbor’s AAUP chapter issued an open letter on April 10 that criticized the seeking of an injunction, and calling on President Ono, Provost McCauley, and the Regents to end the strike through negotiation, transparency, and respect.
To reinforce academic freedom and instructor autonomy over courses, the chapter issued a statement on April 22, calling on President Ono, Provost McCauley, and university Deans to withdraw any directives requiring faculty to submit grades for students they haven’t taught; and calling on faculty to refuse submitting grades for GSI-led courses.