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Graduate students propose new contract

BY AARON WALKER | NOVEMBER 04, 2014 5:00 AM

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The first phase of negotiations has begun between University of Iowa graduate students’ and the state Board of Regents’ bargaining committees.

On Monday morning, the Campaign to Organize Graduate Students presented its contract proposal to the bargaining committee that represents the UI and the regents. 

COGS proposes a new contract every two years. The regents will present their counterproposal on Nov. 17.

Jennifer Marsh, a field organizer and national union representative, said in addition to requests from previous years, the newest issue regards letters of appointment to guarantee funding throughout graduate studies. 

“The appointments issue has become an increasing issue in terms of having funding all the way through in order to complete that degree,” Marsh said. “So that is the main new proposal.”

COGS President Jeannette Gabriel said the proposal represents how the changing nature of graduate education has created new challenges.

“We outline how it is part of national pressures, it is part of the job market, it is part of changing legislation of how we carry debt loads, and it is also part of specific challenges we face due to a lack of comprehensive support here at the University of Iowa,” Gabriel said.

She said the three major topics COGS is proposing changes to are tuition scholarships, administrative fees, and issues regarding students’ families.

Graduate students in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences appointed for 25 percent or more for the entire semester are assured a minimum tuition scholarship of $8,252 for the 2014-15 academic year.

Many graduate students in other colleges, including the College of Education, pay higher tuition rates.

“Salaries students receive after they come out of the College of Education do not reflect the types of tuition that they pay,” Gabriel said. “We are asking to have a level field across the university and that tuition waiver to be handled in an equal manner.”

COGS also proposed additional changes to increases in health-insurance coverage and additional paid leave for family illness and parental accommodation.

Gabriel said that although COGS has been pleased with past bargaining, she feels there are underhanded attempts to roll back significant gains the union has made.

“[Administrative] fees were increased enormously at the same time that we received the tuition waiver through our efforts at the bargaining table together with you,” Gabriel said to the committee during the presentation. “Basically, that means that you don’t take that bargaining seriously.”

COGS representatives complained about what they feel is the UI’s failure to fulfill an information request regarding what past administrative fees were spent on.

“It takes time, and these are busy people, too,” said John Keller, the dean of the UI Graduate College. “It’s not that we’re not trying to provide that information, it just may take longer to put that information in a form that is readily available.”

He noted that every year he has been on the committee, the two sides have reached a mutually agreeable contract.

Judah Unmuth-Yockey, a fourth-year physics graduate student, said two years ago the proposal was very similar, but “there was no compromise” from the bargaining committee.

Tom Evans, the bargaining committee’s chief negotiator and spokesman, said he felt differently.

“[We] listened to one another, and sometimes there’s disagreement, but ultimately you have to agree, and I think we have a positive dialogue,” he said.  “So that’s one man’s opinion I guess.”


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