At bargaining on June 23rd, GEO members voted to end the session early and walk out after a frustrating conversation about the latest sexual harassment scandal at the University. At the session, grads relayed the harrowing details of Professor Stephenson’s abuse of his grad workers to HR, in hopes of reassessing our proposed Transitional Funding Program (TFP) further at the table. This program would offer at least a semester of funding for grads who need to escape an abusive work environment.
On Friday, June 23, graduate workers walked out of a bargaining session with the University of Michigan’s Human Resources (HR), after HR refused to take responsibility for the latest sexual harassment scandal involving Professor Robert Stephenson’s abuse of two graduate students, reported on by the Michigan Daily on June 7. During negotiations, Garima Singh, Co-Chair of GEO’s Feminist Caucus, recounted the harrowing details of the case, in which the Equity, Civil Rights, and Title IX office (ECRT) dismissed, minimized, and misinterpreted evidence against Stephenson to find that he had not violated University policy. HR hid behind technicalities in an attempt to justify their proposal on harassment protections, which would not have protected Stephenson’s survivors. With multiple harassment survivors in the room, graduate workers grew frustrated with HR’s refusal to work with graduate students to solve the harassment crisis and voted to walk out. According to GEO President Jared Eno, “graduate workers walked out today because we are fed up with HR’s prioritization of arbitrary rules and procedures over the real-life experiences of workers—which only mirrors the institutional betrayals perpetrated by ECRT.”
At a press conference this week, grad workers announced that the Higher Learning Commission (HLC), U-M's accrediting body, will move forward with our complaint about the grade falsification scandal. Grads filed the complaint with the HLC after Provost McCauley and Dean Curzan pressured department chairs and non-instructional staff into submitting fabricated grades for the students of striking workers. The evidence that workers compiled (bit.ly/FakeGrades) was enough to raise "potential concerns regarding the institution’s compliance with the Criteria for Accreditation", according to an email from the HLC. A loss of accreditation would have severe consequences for U-M. According to GEO spokesperson Amir Fleischmann "this shows the power of our strike: the only way Admin could get grades in without us was by falsifying hundreds of grades. This risky maneuver has now jeopardized U-M's accreditation. They won't be able to do it again."
This week, grad workers went public about facing intimidation from the campus cops over their participation in an action in April. On May 21st, at 6:30pm, DPSS police officer John Buehler (#167) approached a grad student in their home and attempted to intimidate them, threatening to file a report with the Washtenaw County prosecutor's office about the picket action. The same officer emailed another grad student with similar information. Neither student spoke to or made any statements to DPSS. Both instances were about the April 20 picket of President Ono at a downtown restaurant. The Administration is attempting to sow fear; our strongest defense is our solidarity, our care for each other, and our collective non-cooperation with police. Know your rights and don't talk to the cops; see bit.ly/May31Statement for more.
On Sunday, May 21, 2023, at 6:30pm, DPSS police officer John Buehler (#167) approached a graduate student in GEO (AFT Local 3550) at their home. Buehler knocked on the door and the student answered, and the cop proceeded to attempt to intimidate the student as they stood in the doorway. Buehler threatened to file a report with the Washtenaw County prosecutor's office regarding a previous picket action, advised the student to "reach out to Student Legal Services," and left his business card. On Monday, May 22, 2023, at 10:00am, another graduate student with GEO received an email from the same cop, John Buehler, making similar demands of this student. Both instances were in response to the April 20, 2023 picket of President Ono at a downtown restaurant at which DPSS briefly detained two graduate students. Neither student spoke to or made any statements to Buehler or to DPSS.