University of Michigan Grad Students Strike over COVID-19 Policy

raduate students and residential advisors at the University of Michigan have gone on strike over the school’s COVID-19 response plan, prompting the university’s president to hunt a court-mandated temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction to force students back to figure .

The student workers are striking with the support of their union, the Graduate Employees’ Organization (GEO), which represents quite 2,000 grad student instructors and staff assistants. Since September 8, they need been joined by quite 100 residential advisers in arguing that the university didn’t provide adequate COVID-19 protections.

“I personally haven’t spoken to one one that thinks our COVID reopening plan was well conceived,” Silke-Maria Weineck, a professor of literary study and German studies at the university, tells Inside education . “What you’ve got immediately , I think, may be a campus getting on the brink of open revolt.”

At the guts of the strike lies the University of Michigan’s fall plans for reopening campus. Graduate students, who are involved in teaching roughly 3,500 courses, claim the university has did not implement adequate safeguards to guard the well being of scholars and school . As a result, they need stopped holding classes or completing research.

“We need a good and just pandemic response,” Jeff Lockhart, a PhD candidate in sociology and a trade unionist , tells Inside Higher Ed. “The university is disregarding all of the simplest evidence and advice from its own experts in terms of how they ought to be reopening.”

The university has reopened during a hybrid format, with quite 75 percent of its courses online, although students are allowed to return to campus housing. Faculty and graduate students have said the administration largely accommodated their requests to show remotely, but others felt coerced or misled after making their decisions to show face to face in June, when community spread was lower.

The students also are striking against the university’s COVID-19 testing protocol, which is a smaller amount stringent than those at other universities. Before allowing students back, the varsity tested only those students living in dorms or involved in fraternity organizations. Now that classes have started, testing is usually limited to students with symptoms.

While the varsity is conducting surveillance testing among undergraduates, participation is voluntary and testing is capped at 3,000 tests per week, Inside Higher Ed reports.

Michigan state officials recently released data showing that college campuses are creating new COVID-19 hotspots. Within the state, Grand Valley State University has 438 cases among its students, Central Michigan University has 271 cases among students, and Adrian College has 229 cases among both students and staff. The University of Michigan has thus far reported 77 cases among its students, consistent with The Detroit News.

Students say they don’t feel supported by campus officials in trying to form campuses safe. “I do desire they’re not taking us seriously, like they will wait us out,” Alyssa Frizzo, a junior and residential adviser, tells Inside Higher Ed. “I don’t think throughout this whole process including the town halls they’ve really understood how serious we are about this.”

The union is looking for more testing and tracing, the choice to modify to remote teaching without documentation, subsidies for student parents, support for international students, funding extensions, and rent freezes for those in campus housing, Inside Higher Ed reports. Among RAs, their demands include hazard pay, regular testing, personal protective equipment, and greater enforcement of safety measures.

In addition, the union has made cutting ties with local police and federal immigration authorities, also as a 50 percent reduction in funding to campus police, mandatory for ending the strike. In an op-ed within the Michigan Daily, faculty from the University of Michigan supported these goals, adding that “policing is a crucial public health issue.”

While the strike is being denounced as illegal by university President Mark Schlissel—public employees aren’t allowed to strike within the state, and therefore the union contract also stipulates a no-strike clause—it has drawn largely positive support from the remainder of the university. quite 680 faculty members and 850 scholars from other institutions have signed open letters in support of the strike, and unionized construction workers and truck drivers have refused to finish work on campus, Inside Higher Ed reports. Dining hall employees had scheduled a walkout in solidarity, but the event was canceled out of fear of retaliation, consistent with The Michigan Daily.