Office of the Vice President for Global Communications

Thursday, January 19, 2012

University denies allegations made by grad student, GEO

University officials responded swiftly to allegations made Wednesday by the Graduate Employees' Organization that graduate students were being intimidated in regards to the unionization effort among some graduate student research assistants.

"The university does not condone threats, intimidation, or retaliation against graduate students for union activity or any other reason," said university spokesperson Rick Fitzgerald.

The response came after the GEO had a press conference on North Campus to call attention to the case of an engineering graduate student. The student, Jennifer Dibbern, and GEO President Sam Montgomery said Dibbern was fired from her GSRA position and dismissed from the doctoral program in material science because she supported unionization for GSRAs.

"Nothing could be further from the truth," Fitzgerald said. "This was a decision based solely on academic performance. The university has reviewed this matter, and believes that our faculty made appropriate academic decisions."

Under provisions of the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, universities are precluded from discussing publicly a student's academic record, so Fitzgerald could not comment further on specifics about Dibbern's situation.

Fitzgerald did say, however, that Dibbern's GSRA appointment ended on its pre-established end date of Dec. 31, 2011.

While Dibbern said at the press conference that she had tried to resolve her situation by working through normal university channels, university officials said they had no record of an academic grievance being filed.