Head administrators address GEO’s concerns

At the annual meeting of the faculty held Monday, members of the campus community voiced concern over the lack of progress being made at the negotiating table between the Graduate Employees Organization and the University negotiating team.

Among the faculty who spoke at the meeting was GEO Communications Officer Peter Campbell, who posed questions to the University’s top administrators about prioritizing academic program funding and the role that graduate students play at the University.

The administrators responded, much to Campbell’s delight.

“I believe that across the Chancellor’s office, we’ve taken $1 million out of the budget to address some of the issues that just occurred,” said Richard Herman, former University Chancellor and special assistant to the interim University president.

“To infer that either the faculty or the administration is insensitive to your cause, I think that would be a considerable mistake,” said Interim President Stanley O. Ikenberry.

Campbell said he was pleased to hear the administration talk about University contracts, and he hopes the administrator’s responses would be reflected in negotiations.

“I was very happy to hear from President Ikenberry that the University is looking to cut administrative expenses and disperse them to academic and instructional programs,” Campbell said. “But this has not been the actual policy of the University in the past, so I hope the administrative policy actually reflects Ikenberry’s words.”

Directly following the administration’s response to Campbell’s questions, Siobhan Somerville, professor of English and gender and women’s studies, professor, voiced her concern on the issue. “I am concerned that students are working without a contract,” she said. “I am concerned for their welfare, as they are teachers as well as my students.”

Somerville also said she spoke at the meeting to raise awareness of the issue among her colleagues.

“I wanted to make sure the administration is addressing this situation in a correct, professional matter,” she said.

Ikenberry said he has not been watching the negotiations particularly closely, but he sees no reason why he would have to act on the subject once he assumes his position.

“I don’t take over as interim president until the first of January,” Ikenberry said. “But I hope that all of that would be resolved before that time.”

Previously, GEO member Rich Potter said the lack of a permanent chain of command about who can make executive decisions on this issue may be why negotiations are stalled. President B. Joseph White dismissed this idea and said that the slow process is not out of the ordinary in labor negotiations.

“I don’t think that is a problem. (Interim) Provost (Robert) Easter is the academic and budget officer of the University. That position is filled, and he is a very experienced person,” White said. “I am a veteran of labor negotiations, and they always seem to move slow when both sides are eager to get a settlement but they can’t get it done. I think this is pretty normal.”

Although Campbell was pleased that the administration addressed his concerns, he said he is still less than optimistic about the University’s willingness to negotiate.

“The GEO is also committed to negotiate and compromise, but we’ve been working for 10 weeks without a contract,” he said. “There is money in the budget to pay grad employees a living wage. Unless we see much greater movement from the University administration, our members will seriously consider a work action.”