Office of the Vice President for Global Communications

Friday, May 20, 2011

Regents approve resolution regarding GSRA organizing effort

The Board of Regents voted 6-2 Thursday to support the rights of graduate student research assistants (GSRAs) to choose whether to proceed toward a representation election.

The resolution, offered by Board Chair Julia Donovan Darlow, made it clear that the majority of the regents consider GSRAs to be employees of the university.

The resolution reads:

“Consistent with the University of Michigan’s proud history of strong positive and mutually productive labor relations, the Board of Regents supports the rights of university Graduate Student Research Assistants, whom we recognize as employees, to determine for themselves whether they choose to organize.”

President Mary Sue Coleman said, “I must respectfully disagree with the resolution.”

Coleman also said: “I know I speak for Provost Hanlon as well when I express my concern about characterizing our research assistants as university employees. We believe it could fundamentally alter the relationship between faculty and graduate students. Decisions about who a student studies with must remain with the two people who care most about the outcome — the student and his or her mentor. At highly competitive research institutions such as Michigan, students seek out faculty based on specialized research that aligns with their interests, and they choose the institution based on that particular faculty member.”

To read Coleman’s entire statement, go to

The American Federation of Teachers/Michigan and the Graduate Employees’ Organization (GEO) have filed a petition with the Michigan Employment Relations Commission (MERC) to conduct an election to determine if GEO will represent GSRAs as their collective bargaining agent. GEO is the union that represents graduate student instructors and graduate student staff assistants on the U-M campuses.

MERC ruled in 1981 that GSRAs were not university employees, as defined by state labor law, for purposes of collective bargaining.