If the DEI GSSA proposal is something you are committed to, and if you feel strongly about the issues that have been raised during our campaign, WE NEED YOU.
We’ve been hearing from GEO members who are frustrated and upset about the presentation of the DEI committee’s recommendation to Friday’s GMM regarding our campaign for paid DEI GSSA positions to implement Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion plans. We have heard that there was not sufficient discussion around the issue and that people of color, and others from marginalized communities, did not have a space in which to have their voices heard. There is also great disappointment in the outcome of our vote, which supported the DEI committee’s recommendation. Our recommendation was offered after careful consideration and in response to repeated roadblocks. We too are profoundly disappointed by an option that is this far from our original demand.
We are writing to you to provide some additional information, to apologize, and to ask for your engagement on this issue.
1. Over the last year, our organizing team has worked hard to navigate the shifting political landscape around DEI issues at UM, and our efforts have encountered one baffling institutional roadblock after another. Last week, Vice Provosts Rob Sellers, Carol Fierke, and Amy Dittmar rejected our final invitation to a meeting to discuss the DEI GSSA proposal; throughout our entire campaign, the administration has refused to have any discussion with us about the merits of the DEI GSSA proposal, which is supported by more than 1,100 individuals and 42 organizations on campus. Neither HR nor administrators leading the University’s DEI initiative will talk to us about it, nor will they address this at bargaining. They also continue to take steps to divide students doing anti-racist work from being able to organize together. We have few options left.
Based on the barriers we’ve experienced thus far, we know that reaching our goal may take additional organizing beyond this contract negotiation. As members of a coalition of graduate students, we, and GEO, are dedicated to continuing this fight if necessary. Our goal of unionized, valued, and compensated DEI labor has not been met.
The decision made at last Friday’s GMM expanded the number of strategies open to us. It is important to remember that we still have the tools and strategies we have used up until now, and Friday’s vote does not require us to deviate from that course.
We will be providing a more detailed update regarding the DEI proposal at our next GMM, Thursday April 6 at 6:00pm in room 1200 of the Modern Languages Building, but also want to be able to communicate about the strategizing around this proposal in person before the GMM. (Strategizing around negotiations is better discussed in person.) We also want to give space for input from members of marginalized communities that might have been unheard at last Friday’s GMM.
2. We failed to fully communicate these issues with you throughout the process or to adequately invite you in to strategize with us. For that we are sorry. The decision we made at Friday’s GMM was a last resort that we came to after hours of deliberation amongst representatives from a variety of student organizations who prioritize equity for those in marginalized communities. We are reaching out to you now because you deserve an opportunity to be fully informed and engaged at the strategic level.
3. Please Join Us at GEO on Tuesday 7:00pm for our DEI GSSA Collective Action Meeting (339 East Liberty St. Suite 340). On Tuesday we invite you and anyone in your community committed to creating paid, unionized DEI positions for students to convene and strategize next steps, collectively.
We plan to dedicate more time to this issue at Thursday’s GMM (6pm 1200MLB), where we will also be framing this proposal within GEO’s history of non-inclusivity of those from communities of color.
GEO DEI Campaign Committee
Jamie Tam & Velma Lopez, The Multicultural Leadership Council and The Network for Doctoral Student Diversity at the School of Public Health
Canyon Bosler, DEI Student Advisory Board
Vidhya Aravind, Students4Justice
John Ware, GEO President
Denise Bailey, GEO Staff Organizer