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Tight budget constrains GAU

For the fourth time this semester, the Graduate Assistants United (GAU) bargaining team met with University administrators to re-negotiate the union’s contract set to expire at the end of the spring.

To the team’s dismay, Associate Provost Kofi Glover, the University’s primary bargainer, alluded to the inevitability of differential tuition waivers, where the University would cover only a portion of a graduate assistant’s (GA) tuition.

Currently, GAs must take nine credit hours to be considered for an assistantship. Once a graduate receives the position, he or she is eligible to have his or her total tuition waived.

While members of the GAU stressed the importance of covering the minimum number of hours required to be a GA, Glover speculated that such a situation would simply not be possible because of financial constraints.

Jason Simms, co-president of the GAU, feared that differential tuition waivers could reduce the overall number of graduate students and make the University less appealing to new graduate students.

“If differential waivers are enacted it would reduce the number of quality graduate students (the University) could recruit and retain,” he said.

The GAU also requested a $1,400 raise for GAs at the master’s and doctoral levels. Glover and other administrators again cited lack of funds as the reason for refusal.

His rejection of the GAU’s proposal was accompanied by an unusual sense of regret.

“It is difficult to do, but I have to do it,” Glover said. “We were waiting to see if we could add any more money into the stipends and health insurance, but it’s just not possible.”

GAs currently receive a 75 percent health care stipend. However, the stipend does not meet certain needs of the GAU’s constituency, mainly those of women. In an unplanned proposal, the bargaining team requested a reimbursement program in which GAs could purchase healthcare from a private provider and be refunded the current stipend of $940.

In the past, Glover has said he would like to provide 100 percent health care coverage to GAs.

While neither administrators nor members of the GAU’s bargaining team agreed to any of the conditions presented in Tuesday’s meeting, consensus will have to be reached before the end of the semester.

Collective bargaining will continue April 29 in the Student Services Building, Room 2070. Meetings are open to the public.