FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
News from Graduate Employees’ Organization 3550
May 16th, 2023
Contact: Amir Fleischmann, firstname.lastname@example.org, (734) 476-4632
University of Michigan Administration Fabricates Grades
This week, University of Michigan Administration has begun entering fabricated grades for students of striking graduate workers. In departments such as English and Romance Languages — where graduate student instructors are typically the instructors of record (i.e., sole instructor) for their course — the Registrar is pressuring non-instructional staff to submit straight As for students whose grades are being withheld as part of the ongoing graduate worker strike. This follows weeks of attempts to force graduate workers and faculty to submit falsified grades themselves. Graduate workers at the University of Michigan, organized through the Graduate Employees Organization, AFT-MI local 3550, have been on strike since March 29th demanding a living wage and safety and dignity in the workplace. According to GEO President Jared Eno, “the move to fabricate grades for hundreds of students is only the Administration’s latest attempt to cover up the fiasco that has led to a six-week strike. It appears that the Administration would rather abandon academic integrity than treat its workers with respect.”
The Administration’s move to fabricate grades for courses designed and taught by graduate student instructors is a direct contravention of their March 25th commitment to “ensure that [students] receive accurate grades for [their] coursework … that reflect [their] work throughout the semester”. The Administration is now ordering non-instructional University staff to fabricate grades— workers who have never met, let alone taught, the students whose grades they are now submitting. As such, these grades do not and cannot reflect the students’ work throughout the semester.
Grade falsification will disrupt future instruction in ways that are likely to harm students and instructors alike. For language classes, which are largely taught by graduate student instructors of record and are required for all undergraduates, these fabricated grades represent a particularly serious problem. If everyone gets an A, it will be impossible to determine whether a student has learned enough to progress to the next level, for example from Spanish 1 to Spanish 2, setting up students and instructors for a chaotic Fall term. According to Garima Singh, a graduate student instructor in the Romance Languages department, “if the Administration made up Winter grades, how are students supposed to know whether they’ve met the prerequisites for classes in the Fall? Once again, the Administration has left instructors and students to clean up their mess. It’s obvious that they don’t care about how their actions disrupt students’ education”.
The move to circumvent instructors of record by submitting fabricated grades has been called “a violation of professional ethics” by the University of Michigan Faculty Senate. In a statement on April 21st, the Faculty Senate warned that “Assessment of student work is the prerogative of the instructor, and demands thoughtful and holistic evaluation of student performances”. “Bypassing faculty-of-record” the statement continues, “is an infringement on faculty freedom”. Rather than providing graduate workers with a fair contract, the Administration has searched for employees it could pressure into committing academic misconduct. “These fabricated grades are a serious threat to the academic and pedagogical integrity of the University of Michigan”, says GEO secretary Karthik Ganapathy. “Fake grades that are totally detached from students’ progress, learning, and work mean that the Administration is now not only disrespecting graduate workers, but all students who deserve thoughtful feedback and legitimate grades. Ultimately, the Administration’s action could put the University’s accreditation at risk.”
The Administration has disregarded the rights of graduate workers, faculty, staff, and students rather than provide fair working conditions. University Human Resources continues to offer graduate workers an effective pay cut and proposals that do not address problems with gender-affirming care, disability accommodations, childcare, and other basic issues of workplace dignity and safety. “We are at a crucial moment of the strike. At this crossroads, faculty and staff must decide whether to support or betray graduate workers. At stake is not just our union but the future of what kind of university we want and the fighting prospects of a blooming labor movement”, says GEO vice president Ember McCoy. “The stakes are high”, she continued, “and the Administration’s current stance will only force graduate workers to continue striking into the Fall”.