Trustees say no to allowing CMU's graduate student union to begin bargaining over holiday break

More than two weeks after emailing the CMU Board of Trustees, Graduate Student Union President Michelle Campbell found herself in front of them Thursday asking why they didn't respond to her.

Campbell said the union, whose contract expires on June 30, had hoped the trustees would consider putting an action item on the board allowing CMU and the union to begin bargaining.

Campbell sent the email on Nov. 19. Only one member responded, saying they would look into it.

"Unlike other bargaining units on campus, our members on the bargaining team do not receive leave time to bargain," she told the trustees Thursday. " ... Asking our members to bargain so late in the semester, when our jobs and our classes are only piling on more work is, as we see it, not an attempt by the university to bargain in good faith for a fair contract."

After her public comment toward the end of Thursday's Board of Trustees meeting, trustees did not respond, citing a policy that public comment is listened to but not immediately engaged with.

Board Chairman Sam Kottamasu wouldn't answer why the board did not put the action item on the agenda. He said he read the email, as did Trustee Brian Fannon.

"We listened to her comment, and as policy, the board does not respond," he said. "I defer to President (George) Ross."

Ross said the reason it was not added was because the timetable is traditional and the university needed time to prepare.

"Typically and historically, (we) have brought to the board of trustees in the winter and spring meetings the authority to negotiate," he said. "We have nine unions on this campus, and we treat them all the same.

"Frankly, it's just getting ready to do it. In either February or April, we'll bring not only the graduate student union, but we're negotiating with two staff unions, too. We'll ask for authority in February or April."

But Campbell is frustrated and said she feels ignored by the board.

She said it's difficult for graduate students to teach, go to classes and bargain during the middle of next semester. She said a start over the holiday break makes sense.

Executive Director of Faculty Personnel Services Matt Serra had told her CMU needed bargaining power from trustees before they could meet over break.

"It is a disappointment that we went through what we thought were the appropriate lines of communication and ... there was no reason it shouldn't have been on the agenda," she said. "They didn't even give me an answer as to why it wasn't, which is also frustrating."

Only Trustee Robert Wardrop II emailed Campbell back, with a sentence response saying he would look into it, Campbell said.

Earlier in the meeting, during a review of Ross' performance as president, Trustee Patricia Maryland said she hoped the university would come together and that people wouldn't dwell on issues from the past year, which Campbell found ironic.

"I don't necessarily think it's going to have to set a negative tone to bargaining, but I am disappointed, especially after Trustee Maryland read that whole speech about working together and moving forward in a constructive manner," she said.


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