FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: GEO GOES TO ARBITRATION IN A CASE AGAINST THE UNIVERSITY FOLLOWING ANOTHER CHANGE IN TUITION WAIVER POLICY
Urbana-Champaign (August 26, 2015): The Graduate Employees’ Organization (GEO, IFT/AFT Local 6300) is going to arbitration in a case the University of Illinois.
The GEO first secured a contractual right to tuition waivers for graduate employees through a 2-day strike in November 2009. That strike included more than 1,000 GEO members and supporters. The policy change in the MCS program is not the University’s first contract violation regarding tuition waivers. Shortly after the contract language was secured in 2009 the University unilaterally changed tuition waiver policy in the College of Fine and Applied Arts (FAA). In that case an independent federal arbitrator ruled in favor of the GEO in 2011. The University refused to comply with the arbitrator’s binding ruling and only reinstated tuition waivers for all FAA graduate employees in an agreement made during the bargaining of GEO’s current Collective Bargaining Agreement.
The policy change in MCS is two-pronged. First, the Computer Science Department will not employ these graduate students in positions that come with a tuition waiver. Additionally, the Computer Science Department seeks a cash reimbursement of tuition from any department willing to employ the MCS students. This would cost the hiring department approximately $30,000 per employee. Past practice has been to simply waive the cost of tuition. Many MCS students were extended offers of waiver-generating employment, only to have them rescinded after the hiring department became aware of the the tuition reimbursement policy.
Many MCS graduate students come to the University of Illinois with extensive experience as teaching assistants in both computer science and engineering. For this skill they are offered positions and paid as “hourly” employees for the same work done by other graduate assistants who are receiving a salary, health, dental, and eye care insurance, and a tuition waiver.
“The administration has admitted that they changed this policy without bargaining with the GEO. This isn’t their first attempt to use graduate student tuition as a revenue generator,” said Becky Schumann, GEO co-president and former grievance officer. “GEO will continue to fight for tuition waivers for all graduate students. Tuition waivers are crucial to maintaining accessibility to public higher education in the state of Illinois.” The GEO has also filed a grievance alleging violation of their current contract. An arbitrator will hear that grievance today.
The Graduate Employees’ Organization, AFT/IFT Local 6300, AFL-CIO, The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, represents approximately 2700 Teaching and Graduate Assistants on the UIUC Campus. In November 2009, over 1,000 GEO members successfully went on strike to secure a fair contract and more accessible UIUC. With events like lobby day, the GEO continues to work for high quality and accessible public education in Illinois.
For more information, please contact Becky Schumann, at (703)973-7486 or firstname.lastname@example.org. More information can also be found on our website