On Thursday, Sept 17, 2015, Teaching and Graduate Assistants - graduate student employees - showed their frustration over the lack of transparency in the TA-GA Professional Development Fund by taking action for graduate student workers at Rutgers University. Activists showed up and signed an online petition demanding transparency, better timing, and respect for the bargained promises.
The aim of this action that took place at Old Queens in New Brunswick was to be heard--and this aim was fulfilled at the action, setting the stage for serious discussion of the Fund.
President Barchi and Dr. Karen Stubaus, who as Vice President for Academic Affairs and Administration was active in the bargaining process, joined the graduate student activists outside the building to explain that they are working on the issue of the source of money to pay for the PDF awards and greater transparency in the process. The fund was promised to be paid by the central administration rather than being a burden to our schools and departments. Both Dr. Stubaus and President Barchi accepted that this was the case in bargaining but claimed there is a bureaucratic communication - or miscommunication rather- going on that they need to address. For other issues of timing and speediness in the reimbursement process, they were willing to work on improvements in the next cycle of applications, since this was the initial implementation.
After listening to them in good faith, graduate student leaders reminded Dr. Stubaus and President Barchi that this fund is the main gain for graduate student workers from this round of bargaining and any problems regarding this fund affect their lives deeply. They needed the summer funding and travel/research support that the Fund was created to provide. The union leaders also expressed that they expect to see progress over the source of funding shift from departments and schools toward the central administration of Rutgers, as was intended in bargaining. The leaders reiterated clearly that the demands are a significant improvement in the process of making awards, especially including as much transparency as possible for every graduate student worker to understand how to apply.
In addition, the grad union leaders demanded more transparency over the criteria of selection. Dr. Stubaus said that they can contact the deans and faculty on the selection committee to write up criteria for this fund but she reminded the activists that they would like to keep it flexible. Grad leaders reiterated that flexibility is good when it works for the graduate student employees, which was the intent and is the purpose of this fund.
Graduate student activists will continue to be actively involved in this issue. At the rally, the administration stated that they are grateful for their involvement. Through the union, a meeting was scheduled for Friday, October 9. We will need more communication and organization to make things happen in ways that best work for grad student employees.