Campaign for Better Graduate Assistant Policies and Procedures (GAPP)
- What is GAPP?
GAPP is short for Graduate Assistant Policies and Procedures. Since Act 10 outlawed collective bargaining in 2011, graduate employee contracts have been nullified. Not only is the pre-Act10 contract invalid, but it’s been EIGHT YEARS since our policies have been reviewed, which means it’s time we take a concerted, considered review of them. The GAPP Workgroup, which comprises of four TAA graduate workers and six administration representatives, has been meeting regularly since 2017 to transition and update the old contract language to a new set of policies. Your TAA representatives are from our Bargaining Team, lovingly referred to as “B-Team.”
- Why is this important?
If you feel overworked, unsafe, or violated as a graduate worker, you have little recourse to resolve that issue. Though university administration says they upholding the pre-Act 10 contract in the interim, we know this is not the case. Several students who have reported workplace violations to their supervisors are told they are no longer protected by the pre-Act 10 contract. Examples of common workplace violations include:
- Not receiving an appointment letter which outlines the conditions of your appointment
- Asked to work more hours than those stated in your appointment letter
- Asked you to perform duties outside your job description (e.g. “helping out” with a second class, holding weekend review sessions, walking your P.I.’s dog or babysitting their kids)
- Having preferred work assignments withheld as retaliation
- Asked to work with unsafe materials or not having proper laboratory equipment and training
In short, there is no consistent policy that is being followed and graduates are at the mercy of their direct supervisor and departmental staff. When admin obfuscates a grievance policy (which is wildly out of date), they are making graduate students even more vulnerable.
- What are the TAA’s goals in these “negotiations”?
The TAA has a number of internal goals, but generally we are committed to:
- providing clear and consistent policies and procedures for graduate workers,
- ensuring that mechanisms are in place to enforce university faculty and staff follow these policies, and
- creating a standing GAPP workgroup to improve policies and procedures for graduate workers.
We’ve faced resistance from the administration on each of these three goals. Administrators are frequently surprised by the reality of our working conditions.
- What has been accomplished so far?
The first phase of GAPP began in Fall 2017 and concluded in Spring 2018. Phase I focused on workplace safety, health, training, and nondiscrimination. When significant disagreements arose between graduate workers and administration, two language options were offered for Chancellor and Dean approval. The draft policies resulting from this first phase has been on Dean Karpus’s desk since May 2018 (10 months and counting!). Dean Karpus is — we’ve been told — reviewing these policies right now.
- What is being worked on right now?
The second phase of GAPP began in Fall 2019 and is still ongoing. Phase II is focused on the grievance procedure — the official means to remedy a workplace violation. When employees feel they have been the victim of a broken workplace policy (e.g. being asked to work more hours than you are paid for), they can file a grievance with the university. The grievance policy (Article IV of the pre-Act 10 contract) outlines the steps that both the employee and university must undergo to decide the outcome of the grievance and correct it.