U-M leadership has now released their plan for the Winter 2021 semester. As we get closer to the end of the semester, we wanted to provide a few critical GSI reminders and provide some info about how COVID might impact hiring and your work as GSIs.

Info About COVID
U-M has announced that all classes will be remote, except for those where in-person instruction is required for licensure or the University deems in-person instruction academically relevant. This means that they can require that certain assignments be in-person, but only if those courses are deemed by the University to be academically relevant. If you have been given an in-person assignment and would prefer to be teaching remote (even if you are unsure if a remote version is possible), email Kat and Sara at grievancechair@geo3550.org. If you are aware of a course that requires an in-person GSI but where you believe the work does not require in-person instruction, also email Kat and Sara at grievancechair@geo3550.org.

If you are in a department that will have in-person instruction for Winter 2021, please email Kat and Sara at grievancechair@geo3550.org and let us know how your department is determining preferences and needs around remote versus in-person work. In order to best be able to advocate for our members, we want to have a clear sense of what’s happening in different departments. Given that we are entering a new semester and that the risk levels in Ann Arbor around COVID spread have increased dramatically, your department should not treat your survey preferences that were stated on the form in June as proof of your preference for in-person work.

The college has announced that, instead of spring break, there will be two mid-week breaks from class on Feb. 24 and March 23. GSIs will not be expected to hold classes or office hours during those days. However, it is still possible that you will have grading or course prep on those days. Professors may only require you to attend a meeting on those days with considerable notice.

If you are GSIing from a country outside of the United States, you may be required to fill out a remote work authorization. Contact your instructor of record or department to fill out this form, if you are planning to be located outside of the U.S. at any point during your GSI position. Some FAQs for international GSIs here. There are a number of countries where access to UM resources are limited or where federal sanctions make maintaining a GSI appointment abroad impossible, including Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Crimea, Sudan and Syria. If you are planning on being in one of the above countries, you should contact Kat and Sara at grievancechair@geo3550.org immediately.

General GSI Guidance
Offer letters are important documents because, by signing them, you agree to the terms that are listed in the letter. So, you should always read your letter carefully before signing, even if you have signed an offer letter in the past. For example, they contain information on the reimbursement of SEVIS fees for international students. They also include a notice of the requirement to disclose felony arrest and/or convictions records. You are responsible for the information contained in your offer letter whether you read it or not, so take a close look before signing!  

Per the GEO contract, all GSIs and GSSAs are guaranteed six weeks of paid medical leave each year for illnesses, injuries, medical conditions, medical appointments or procedures OR if a family member experiences any of the above.

Per the GEO contract, your department must provide you with any and all materials required for teaching. You should not purchase any required textbooks, equipment or technologies specifically for a course where you are a GSI. Instead, you should request these items directly from your instructor of record or department.

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, employees with disabilities are entitled to “reasonable accommodations” in their workplace. Such accommodations might include assistive technology, ergonomic equipment, or an accessible work environment. For information and resources on how to start the accommodations process, see here. If you have any questions or issues with the process, please email contractchair@geo3550.org

There were multiple, deeply concerning issues last semester around GSIs not being hired correctly or not receiving health insurance in a timely manner. Confirm on Wolverine Access that you have health insurance for Winter 2021 and that your tuition waiver has been processed. Contact Kat and Sara at grievancechair@geo3550.org if you have reason to believe your health insurance has lapsed incorrectly. 

International student GSIs cannot work more than 20 hours in a single week and domestic student GSIs cannot be expected to work more, on average, than their fraction (e.g. no more than an average of 20 hours per week on a .5 fraction). Any and all work related to your GSI appointment counts towards your hours, including course prep, emails with students, learning new technologies and materials related to the job, orientation and training, and coordination with the instructor of record. COVID has only increased the amount of labor expected of GSIs, as our students are struggling enormously and many courses have been adapted to entirely new formats. All of the work to adjust, because of pandemic, should be tracked as part of your hours (view hours tracking resources here). If you are consistently (i.e. for 2+ weeks) going over your hours by ~2+ hours each week, you should email Sheira and Gillian from the Hours Working Group at sheiracohen@gmail.com ASAP to talk about your options. If you look at the syllabus or other communication from your instructor and think “this is crazy, there is too much work”, we can help you strategize a low-stakes conversation or other interventions. These have been successful so far, so please get in touch!

The International GSI Caucus previously put together a FAQ for internationals students regarding potential visa issues for international students if classes move fully online: https://www.geo3550.org/covid-19-and-igsis-faqs/
The International Center continues to offer comprehensive information at https://www.internationalcenter.umich.edu/travel-guidance-international-students

Winter 2021 FAQ for GSIs