GAU claims victory over 12 -credit hour rule
Over the summer, Dean of the Graduate School Delcie Durham sent out a notice that graduate workers (graduate assistants, teaching assistants and research assistants) would be required to take 12 credits instead of nine in order to be eligible for full-time status, funding and insurance. This was presented to graduate workers as a way to complete their degrees in a shorter period of time and to become more competitive in the workplace.
The Graduate School would pay for the additional fees and tuition associated with the extra credits, so there would be no additional financial burden for students.
Graduate workers and many members of the faculty at USF were puzzled over the administration’s decision. Although the ability to take three credits for “free” is appealing and useful for students in a variety of programs, many worried the increased workload would cause undue stress, a decline in the quality of graduate laborer’s work and provide little real professional gain. Many suggested that the requirement be made optional, available for students who believed they could benefit from it.
Enter Graduate Assistants United, the labor union representing roughly 1,600 graduate laborers at USF. After the announcement from the Durham, GAU organizer Sara Dykins-Callahan began a grassroots effort to recruit members and invite graduate workers into leadership roles in the union.
The newly energized nucleus of GAU tirelessly worked to rally support against this requirement from graduate laborers and academic departments through petitions, departmental visits and word of mouth. GAU also sought support on this matter from the United Faculty of Florida, which was forthcoming.
Legal representation on behalf of UFF and GAU informed Durham her proposed 12-credit rule was a clear violation of the collective bargaining agreement.
Ultimately, the work of numerous faculty, graduate assistants and sympathetic organizations contributed to Durham’s announcement that the additional three credits would not be mandatory for the “immediate future.”
Instead, as per the common suggestion, the program is now optional. GAU believes this is an equitable and reasonable solution. However, GAU hopes the program never again attains mandatory status.
Dykins-Callahan and her colleagues at GAU are empowered by their efforts. The organization intends to carry this success into fighting for graduate worker rights in other areas, such as improved and more affordable health care, competitive stipend raises and a comprehensive evaluation of the fee structure.
They are looking forward to the elections of officers on Friday. Please contact GAU at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to be a part of your graduate labor union.
This letter was written by Graduate Assistants United.