Office of the Vice President for Global Communications

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Faculty governance group calls for civil discourse in debate over GSRA issue

The U-M Senate Assembly went on record Monday supporting an environment in which all students, staff and faculty members can feel comfortable expressing their opinions in the current debate over whether graduate student research assistants should be allowed to form a union.

The assembly, which consists of elected faculty representatives from U-M's schools and colleges, voted unanimously in favor of a resolution calling for a process that encourages "a dignified exchange of ideas" by those on both sides of the GSRA issue.

"In particular, we oppose intimidation or retaliation against individuals supporting or opposing GSRA unionization. In doing so we respond positively to calls from union activists that individual faculty members endorse this principle," the resolution states.

"In short, we affirm the commitment of the University faculty to uphold federal and state law in this and all other matters. We also call on all parties to put forth only claims that can be documented by reasonable evidence, in order that a dignified exchange of ideas be encouraged."

A state administrative law judge has conducted a hearing to determine whether GSRAs are considered U-M employees under state labor law, and therefore eligible to vote on whether to form a union. The judge is now considering whether to accept any additional information before making a recommendation to the Michigan Employment Relations Commission for a ruling.

In other resolutions approved Monday:

• The Senate Assembly expressed its response to the university's internal review of how a report of suspected child pornography possession was handled at the medical campus.

The resolution states the assembly expects "the University will use this incident to carefully consider the recommendations of the Senate Assembly Resolution 122311-2," which was passed in response to the child sexual abuse scandal at Penn State.

The university on Friday released a detailed report on the six-month delay in response to the suspicion that a medical resident possessed child pornography on a flash drive he brought to work at the Health System.

• The assembly endorsed a suggested vision for U-M's bicentennial, put forth by President Emeritus James Duderstadt, and "in particular that a broadly defined academic core dominate."

The resolution came after a presentation by Duderstadt, who said the bicentennial in 2017 should be used to address the challenges facing higher education and to celebrate the intellectual life of the university.

"It's very important that the voice of the faculty be loud and clear in this effort. You're the source of the core purpose of the university," Duderstadt said.