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Office of the Provost

From the Desk of the Provost: March 2024

 

Campus is brimming with fascinating work and inspiring stories. That is a testament to the vibrancy of our community. 

In the Office of the Provost, one crucial means of supporting our academic mission is connecting people, especially across departments and disciplines. Early in his tenure, President Ono said that he was struck and encouraged by the low barriers to collaboration at our university. This may not always feel accurate across our famously decentralized institution, but plentiful evidence exists in every sector of campus; collective efforts like the Arts Initiative, the Center for RNA Biomedicine, and the ASSET Research Group working on our student success initiatives demonstrate that worthy goals have the power to unite people. By focusing a wide lens on campus in this newsletter, I hope to promote collaboration across this vast landscape. 

Another key part of our office’s mission is keeping the impact and ingenuity of our faculty and staff front and center. This includes everything from aligning budgetary resources to facilitating the promotion and tenure process. It also includes shining a light on opportunities like CEW+’s Financial Empowerment Initiative or Global Michigan’s new education abroad grant program. 

Speaking with people about their jobs across our enterprise through the years, I have noticed two prevalent themes: 1) We are curious about the professional lives of others on campus. 2) Most people feel their area/discipline is not well-understood. In this newsletter, we have an opportunity to better explore, in people’s own words, how our faculty and staff transform our mission into action. 

In this issue, the inaugural vice provost for undergraduate education, Angela Dillard, walks us through what it’s like to take on a colossal imperative in a new position. In our first podcast, CEW+ Director Tiffany Marra and financial therapist Lindsay Bryan-Podvin talk about how assembling strangers to discuss financial anxiety has created surprising bonds across age, background, and economic status. And in a feature called “Mythbreaking,” experts from the U-M budget team dispel common misconceptions about the university’s financial ecosystem. 

On behalf of the many who contributed to its contents,  we hope you enjoy the newsletter. 

If you have questions or feedback, please share it with me at: [email protected]

Sincerely,

Laurie K. McCauley, DDS, MS, PhD
Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs
William K. and Mary Anne Najjar Professor

The letter above appeared in the March 2024 Office of the Provost newsletter. 

Mythbreaking: The Budget

Promoting budget literacy is a significant goal and challenge of the budget team and the Office of the Provost more broadly. The Office of Budget and Planning has produced explanation videos and articles about the budget model and state appropriations. The university’s Office of Public Affairs regularly updates its Key Issues page with budget-related materials. And this year, the annually-released University Budget Book received a beautiful makeover. 

Budget myths are persistent: they resurface in conversation, at open forums, and on social media. Below, the budget team addresses some of the most common budget misconceptions.

 

Myth: “Student tuition/tax dollars paid for the new scoreboards in the Big House.”

Fact: Intercollegiate Athletics, which includes the university’s football program, is an “auxiliary unit,” which means it is a self-sustaining budgetary unit. Tuition and state funding do not fund the budgets of auxiliary units. Auxiliary units are responsible for generating their own revenue, and use  that revenue to fund their expenses. In the case of the Athletics department, revenues from football tickets, donations, media contracts, and sales of licensed apparel fund expenses like stadium renovations and the salaries of the university’s coaches. Tax dollars or student tuition are not attributed.

There are many institutions which subsidize their athletic department operations, either by charging students an athletics fee or transferring a portion of tuition to athletics.  The University of Michigan is one of a handful of institutions nationally where the Athletics department fully funds its own operations.

Other examples of Auxiliary units – units which “pay their own way” without receiving a portion of U-M’s state funding or tuition support – include Michigan Medicine, Student Housing, and Student Publications.

A related myth is that the Athletics operation is so substantial that it plays a large role in University finances and therefore decision-making. Our large fanbase and the media attention paid to teams, not to mention the volume of traffic on game days, add to this impression. In fact, U-M Athletics has an annual budget of about $200 million, whereas the FY24 General Fund budget totals $2.8 billion. In other words, our academic enterprise is 14 times larger than the Athletics department. The university’s total operating budget for FY24 is more than $13 billion, or 65 times larger than Athletics.

In general, budget confusion occurs when people don’t distinguish between the University’s General Fund and other funds. The General Fund’s sources include student tuition and fees, state support, and indirect cost recovery from sponsored research. It pays for teaching, student services, facilities and administrative support. 

 

Myth: “As a public university, the General Fund’s main source of funding is the State of Michigan.”

Fact: While the State of Michigan’s contribution to the U-M budget is essential, it is approximately 13% of the $2.8 billion General Fund.

When expressed in real dollars (i.e., purchasing power in 2023 dollars) the state appropriation for the Ann Arbor campus peaked at $363.6 million in FY 2003. In 2003, U-M received the equivalent of $12,257 per student in appropriations, when adjusted for inflation and for present day enrollments. In FY23, U-M received $6,508 per student, 47% less purchasing power per student compared to 2003.

We are always grateful when the State increases our appropriation, as these increases help the University to meet rising costs and relieve some of the pressure to increase tuition.   But the purchasing power calculations shared above illustrate how recent increases have not been sufficient to overcome cuts and disinvestment.

The majority of the University’s General Fund revenues come from tuition and fees paid by our students.

 

Myth: “Much of the General Fund goes to central services and administration.” 

Fact: About 14% goes to what is called Central Services. This includes, for example, the Office of Undergraduate Admissions, The Center for Students with Disabilities, the Registrar’s Office, the University Career Center, and the university’s legal, human resources, and fiscal offices. 

The majority of the General Fund goes to Academics: 67% is allocated to schools and colleges, libraries, research institutes, museums, capital renewal, and academic program support. 

13% is allocated to financial aid. (This is why, for instance, many students see no net tuition increase even when tuition increases.) 

The remaining 6% goes to a collection of miscellaneous mandatory costs, including insurance, utilities, and health services.

Grants support the launch of new faculty-led education abroad programs

Two new grant programs from the Office of the Provost aim to encourage the development of new faculty-led education abroad programs at the University of Michigan. 

Funded by the Vice Provost for Engaged Learning’s Global Engagement Strategic Plan, launched in Autumn 2023, these grant programs are designed to address the primary goal of the strategic plan – namely, to increase and diversify both U-M’s education abroad offerings and student participation.

In their inaugural year, ten grants of up to $24,000 each will be awarded to support programs in nearby international locations in North America or programs in less-traveled destinations across the globe, such as Africa, Asia and Central and South America.

In February, the first four grants were awarded to María Arquero de Alarcón, Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning, for a new program on urban transformation in Brazil; Susan Atkins, Marsal Family School of Education, for a new program in teacher preparation in Mexico; April Bigelow, School of Nursing, for a new program in global primary care training in Thailand; and Brian Stewart, College of Literature, Science, and the Arts, for a new program on archaeology in Lesotho.

“Short-term programs led by faculty affiliated with a student’s home institution are a critically important gateway to global learning experiences for first-time international travelers,” said Valeria Bertacco, vice provost for engaged learning. 

“We hope that the creation of new short-term programs in nearby international locations will increase accessibility and affordability of our education abroad offerings, while the creation of new programs in other lesser-traveled regions of the planet will diversify the range of opportunities for our students across the globe.”

Faculty and instructional staff employed at the University of Michigan – Ann Arbor campus, who are leading a new education abroad program, are eligible to apply. The program must be offered for credit and/or tied to a course and include travel of up to eight weeks to an eligible destination. 

Applications will be accepted year-round, with three review and selection periods annually. For 2024, upcoming deadlines are May 17 and September 27.

More Information

For questions or more information, contact Amy Carey, assistant vice provost for international engagement, at [email protected]

How U-M’s AI services are making a difference in the classroom

Last year, generative artificial intelligence (GenAI) had an impactful debut at the University of Michigan. Over the summer, the university’s Generative Artificial Intelligence Advisory Committee published a groundbreaking report, offering guidelines and recommendations for how U-M – and any other educational institution – could thoughtfully welcome GenAI to their community.

A few months later, U-M’s Information and Technology Services (ITS), partnering with colleagues across the campus, released a suite of custom generative AI tools which were specifically designed to meet the needs of U-M’s students, faculty, and staff. This made U-M the first university in the world to launch an exclusive AI platform for its community.

With so many creative minds at the university, it makes one wonder: how is U-M actually using these GenAI tools?

There are hundreds of current use cases, ranging from student projects to staff implementations, but some of the most interesting utilizations are coming from U-M faculty.

One particularly successful example is how the Ross School of Business has incorporated U-M’s GenAI tools into the classroom. Last September, Andrew Wu, Assistant Professor of Technology and Operations, and Jun Li, Associate Professor of Technology and Operations at Ross, decided that they wanted to do a comparison test of the popular Chat-GPT against U-M’s new Maizey tool.

Maizey lets users build their own version of a ChatGPT-like service that can be trained on custom datasets, which they can then share with others. Wu and Lin trained a new Maizey instance on the materials for an undergraduate course in operations management for their test case. Following an encouraging test, Wu and Lin created a special Maizey AI tutor for 313 Operations Management, a class with over 500 students.

According to Wu, the Maizey tutor is “specifically trained using your own course materials. With a click of a button, Maizey can enroll in your Canvas site, then absorb the materials there into a structured knowledge base. Then it taps into that knowledge base to answer student questions.” Students can ask whatever questions they want from the tutor in natural language. The tutor can then respond with answers that come straight from the course materials, and it even cites where the answer comes from.

One of the biggest benefits is that the AI tutor is available to students 24 hours a day, so anyone struggling to finish a late-night paper or cram for an exam always has a support tool at their disposal.

Maizey can easily integrate data from Google Drive, Canvas, Dropbox, and other popular tools. This allows faculty members to set up a Maizey for their classes in a matter of minutes. Wu has even produced a series of videos showing how to create a classroom tutor with a minimal amount of work. (All an instructor would need is a few minutes, their course materials, and a valid shortcode.)

The integration of the Maizey AI tutor into Ross’ Operations Management class was a success. The students in the class asked Maizey over 1,000 questions before assignment and exam due dates during fall semester. Wu noted that, based on an average of 150-350 class questions asked per week, assuming (conservatively) that it takes instructors two minutes to answer a single question, this translated to between 5 to 12 instructor hours saved every week. 

Also, according to a self-reported survey, students who said they used Maizey throughout the class noted an improvement in their grade performance. This improvement, as measured by assignment/quiz scores post-Maizey usage, was as high as 5%.

Wu said their team has “now rolled out Maizey to thousands of students in several core classes throughout the university. Our frontline results show that Maizey works well as a capable system in your classroom – one that has a photographic memory of the course content, is smart enough to pick the right content for each question, and, with the GPT engine, can deliver high quality responses that encourage further learning.”

Bob Jones, ITS’ Director of Support Services and Emerging Technology, says this use case is a fantastic preview of what U-M’s AI tools can do for our students and faculty. “This shows how powerful these AI services can be in a classroom setting,” said Jones. “GenAI literacy is going to be vitally important to the future of higher education. We are prepared and excited to help our campus partners to find creative ways to bring these tools into their classrooms.”

The ITS Emerging Technology team is continuing to work with partners across the university to develop new AI tools for the U-M community. One notable example is LSA’s new Maizey AI Advising tool, a 24/7 AI chatbot they call a “smart sidekick for college life.”

Any faculty members who would like to learn more about the capabilities of these tools can visit the ITS AI Services resources page. They can also contact the ITS Emerging Technology team directly with any questions or ideas for potential collaborations via this form.

CEW+ launches financial empowerment initiative

By Sandra Iaderosa, Associate Director, CEW+ 

Listen to the audio interview with CEW+ Executive Director Tiffany Marra and financial therapist Lindsay Bryan-Podvin

Register here for an FEI workshop (Click on the “Finances” box on the left once on the CEW+ page to see dates/times.)

Money stress can lead to depression, shame, isolation, and anxiety, along with accompanying physical manifestations. There is no end to the resources available at our fingertips to instruct and guide money decisions. And yet, there is a chasm between practical knowledge and the myriad unseen and underappreciated forces that influence our behaviors related to money.  

To help bridge the divide between emotions and financial decision making, CEW+ debuted an innovative approach last fall that delves beyond spreadsheets and interest. The Financial Empowerment Initiative (FEI) deviates from the “instructional” model of teaching about financial literacy by taking a holistic approach to the underlying  forces that shape our decisions, our values, and our fears related to money. 

In partnership with Lindsay Bryan-Podvin, a clinical social worker and financial therapist, CEW+ is hosting a rolling series of 5 workshops that explore spending and saving from an individualized, psychological perspective. Each workshop is intended to provide a safe and judgment-free environment; participants explore their own relationships to money as well as share some of their insights, if they are comfortable doing so. 

The workshops are designed to be taken sequentially, but they can be taken in any sequence. These include:

Workshop 1: Your Money Story: In the first workshop, Lindsay shares a statistic that we form our ideas about money by the age of 8. Our concept about money is shaped by our environment and early exposure to our parents, caregivers, neighborhood, religious community, school and friends. She poses questions like: What did we learn that guides our behavior even as we become adults? Do those beliefs serve a purpose in the present? 

Many are not aware of how we embodied these ideas and where those messages originate. By looking at the genesis of our “money stories” we can gain valuable insights into our spending habits, as well as anxiety related to money.

Workshop 2: Making Confident Money Decisions: This session explores why making money-related decisions can cause so much stress, how to deal with financial choices, and ways to lessen the discomfort in the process. 

Workshop 3: Ultimate Financial Wellness:  This session defines financial self-care by learning how to identify when uncomfortable feelings arise related to engaging  with money and exploring strategies to manage these feelings. 

Workshop 4: Caring for Your$elf: This session discusses the “dry and boring” topics such as budgets, interest rates, and credit scores with a focus on the emotional/ psychological and systemic reasons why it can feel so overwhelming. Finance terms are explained and discussed in a supportive, shame-free environment.  

Workshop 5: Be the Boss of Your Finances: This final session focuses on financial boundaries and how to make decisions that align with our values rather than perceived expectations from friends, family, society or some version of ourselves. Financial boundaries help create and maintain healthy relationships and create realistic goals that truly support “self care”.    

We live in a culture that is constantly giving us messages about what an ‘ideal’ life looks like. We cannot escape the reach of social media, television, advertisements and the influence that they hold in our society. How we respond to these perceived or real pressures depends a great deal on our belief system, the values we hold and the life we want for ourselves. By examining the forces that shaped who we are, we can more confidently make financial decisions that reflect those values and embody the true meaning of “wellness.”

Register here for an FEI workshop (Click on the “Finances” box on the left once on the CEW+ page to see dates/times.)

Q+A with Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education Angela Dillard

Angela Dillard, U-M’s inaugural vice provost of undergraduate education, addresses attendees at the Provost’s Seminar on Teaching. (Photo by Scott Soderberg, Michigan Photography)

Angela Dillard, U-M’s inaugural vice provost of undergraduate education, addresses attendees at the Provost’s Seminar on Teaching. (Photo by Scott Soderberg, Michigan Photography)

Angela D. Dillard, the Richard A. Meisler Collegiate Professor of Afroamerican and African Studies, began her five-year appointment as vice provost for undergraduate education (VPUE) on January 1, 2024. The VPUE will be responsible for leading, overseeing and advancing continual improvements in education, including accreditation, for undergraduate students in partnership with schools and colleges that enroll undergraduate students.

At a recent Provost’s Seminar on Teaching co-sponsored by the Center for Research on Learning and the Provost’s Office, more than 130 faculty, staff and administrators joined Vice Provost Dillard, Provost McCauley, and a panel of visiting student success experts from other universities to discuss the future of undergraduate education at the university. 

What’s it like to occupy an inaugural position and begin in January?

AD: It’s a little like moving into a big and empty house, which is both inviting and intimidating. This “house” has good bones and an equally good view. And, as my cousins in real estate would say, location is everything; if you have that right then everything else will eventually fall into place. My location in the Provost Office is excellent for the kind of cross-campus work I’ve been tasked with undertaking, and I have enjoyed exploring this “neighborhood.” A January 1 start date is always challenging as everyone returns from winter vacation, and can make onboarding tricky – even more so if your first days correspond to a national championship football game. January 5, 2024, which was my first full day in the office; many new colleagues were in Houston with the team, preparing to bring home that Natty. Not that I’m complaining! I roamed freely and started to dream big, making plans for my first 100 days – plans that will, I hope, lay the foundations for realizing all of the potential of this new position. 

 

You’re charged with building student academic success initiatives at Michigan. What exactly does that mean?

AD: Bringing aspects of the national student success movement to Michigan is at the top of my “to do” list. One of the distinctive features of this movement is to encourage institutions to look to their own structures and assumptions as explanations of persistent gaps in the 4 and 6 year graduation rates; for high levels of students dropping, failing, and withdrawing from courses and for problems in student retention and achievement. Instead of blaming students for being unprepared; the student success movement tends to put the blame on institutional systems. It’s not them, it’s us, for short. One major recommendation for addressing the consequences of gaps in equity and opportunity among students is to encourage everyone to register for and complete 30 credits in their first year. It’s called Early Momentum and a mountain of data generated here and nationally has equated early success with a full academic load as a good predictor of long-term success in retention and graduation. These data also tell us that no category of students (e.g., Pell-eligible and first generation students or student athletes) are harmed by institutions setting this expectation. It does, however, require us to reconsider some of our current practices around advising, teaching, and academic supports, ideally in the context of student well-being and mental health. Indeed, I have a full set of recommendations from the Well-Being Collective’s Academic Policies Work Team that have already been extremely useful for thinking through the intersections of student success and student wellbeing. 

 

How will you go about this work?

AD: Using data analytics and qualitative analysis we can better understand gaps in opportunities and then begin to design remedies. I’ll be working closely with the Analytics for Student Success and Equity Transformation (ASSET) team, which is a group of researchers, faculty, and administrators from several colleges, schools, and offices who investigate questions related to equity and student success. Their goal is to provide people like me with analysis that informs decisions about policies and practices that impact students in differential ways. They publish a newsletter distributed twice each fall and winter semester. Their February edition (February 2024.) includes an analysis of “credit gaps” that exist even before students matriculate at Michigan. Students who attended high schools that offer robust Advanced Placement classes, for example, come in with a block of credits that provide advantages. Such students have a buffer that allows them to take a lighter load, withdraw from a course without major credit consequences, and even to skip some introductory courses. If your high school did not offer AP courses then you missed this opportunity. We explored the intersection of data analysis and creative problem solving at the February Provost’s Seminar on Teaching (“Undergraduate Education at Michigan: Forging a Common Vision”).

Catherine Badgley, director of the Residential College and professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, and in the Residential College, and of earth and environmental sciences in LSA, leads a discussion at the Provost’s Seminar on Teaching on Feb. 20 at the Michigan Union. (Photo by Scott Soderberg, Michigan Photography)

Catherine Badgley, director of the Residential College and professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, and in the Residential College, and of earth and environmental sciences in LSA, leads a discussion at the Provost’s Seminar on Teaching on Feb. 20 at the Michigan Union. (Photo by Scott Soderberg, Michigan Photography)

The seminar brought national leaders in the student success movement to campus to share their experiences with Early Momentum and other recommended practices. It also offered faculty, advisors and student life professionals concurrent working sessions geared toward creating action plans for our campus. I’m fortunate that much of the groundwork has been laid by ASSET and by various task forces over the years that have produced a solid set of recommendations for continuous improvements in undergraduate education. I intend to honor – and act on – the work that has already been done while staying open to new ideas and innovations from all parts of campus. I mentioned the recommendations from the Wellbeing Collective above. There is also the report from a Post-COVID Grading Committee, for the Initiative Planning Group on Academic Student Success, and from the Task Force on Undergraduate Education in the Third Century, from 2019. We have no shortage of ideas to pursue together. 

 

What about students themselves? Do you have plans to involve them?

AD: Students were involved in and consulted in all of the reports I mentioned above, and I value their insights and reflections. In fact, one of the first meetings I did back in December after I was appointed and as I began to prepare for this role was to meet with the student leadership of optiMize, which is a partnership between a student organization and the LSA Dean’s Office. (It’s LSA’s main social innovation and entrepreneurship effort that serves students of all ages, from first years to PhD candidates, from all degree programs on all three UM campuses, as well as transfer students through optiMize’s community college partnerships and programs: aMplify and moMentum). Each year they sponsor the Social Innovation Challenge that provides mentorship and community support for student teams to turn their ideas into action. I worked closely with them when I was LSA’s associate dean for undergraduate education and very much wanted to reconnect. As part of this year’s Challenge, student teams will be invited to pitch their best ideas to me for promoting academic achievement and student success at scale. The winners will be offered paid fellowships to further develop their ideas and innovations over the summer. I can’t wait to hear what our talented optiMize students come up with, and I look forward to developing partnerships with other student orgs and associations. I’ve learned a lot from student innovators over the years about the necessity of being bold and taking risks, about the power of diverse teams and active collaboration, and about what our students can do to change the world. 

Sara Blair to Oversee University’s Arts Initiative 

Vice Provost for Faculty and Academic Affairs and Arts and Humanities

Vice Provost for Academic and Faculty Affairs and Arts and Humanities

Sara Blair, vice provost for academic and faculty affairs, has been selected to oversee U-M’s Arts Initiative as vice provost for faculty and academic affairs & arts and humanities. This expansion of her portfolio was approved by the Board of Regents in July.

 “I am delighted for the opportunity to provide leadership and stewardship for the project of embedding the arts more deeply across the whole range of the University’s mission, on our campus and in our engagements with our stakeholders and communities,” said Blair. “The power of the arts to challenge us, to promote understanding of the histories that shape our world and inspire visions of its transformation, has never been more vital or relevant.”   

The Arts Initiative is a universitywide endeavor to make the arts central to U-M’s identity and mission. A $20M investment in the initiative over five years was announced in January. The initiative is entering a new phase with the appointments of Professor Mark Clague as Interim Executive Director of the Arts Initiative, who will report to Vice Provost Blair, and Clare Croft, who has been appointed faculty director of arts research/creative practice in a position supported jointly by the Arts Initiative and the Office of the Vice President for Research (OVPR). 

In her expanded role, the first of its kind in the provost’s office, Blair will provide strategic arts and humanities leadership at the university level, encompassing the Arts Initiative and other key programmatic offerings and initiatives. 

“We will benefit from her support and oversight in the development of cross-cutting projects across campus, and of new synergies across arts and humanities and other disciplines,” said Provost Laurie McCauley in an announcement to campus leaders about Blair’s appointment.  “More broadly, we aim to elevate Michigan’s excellence in scholarship, creative expression, teaching, and engagement in these areas.” 

Blair has served as the vice provost for academic and faculty affairs since 2014. She is also Patricia S. Yaeger Collegiate Professor of English and faculty associate of American Culture and Judaic Studies. Her work has been supported by National Endowment for the Humanities, ACLS, and Michigan Humanities fellowships. She has collaborated with curators at the DIA, the International Center of Photography, and the Addison Gallery of American Art, served as consultant/advisor to a variety of photographic projects and exhibitions, and curated exhibitions at U-M’s Institute for the Humanities and the Middlebury Art Museum. 

Blair is also the author or co-author of six books, including How the Other Half Looks: The Lower East Side and the Afterlives of Images (Princeton University Press), Trauma and Documentary Photography of the FSA (co-authored with Eric Rosenberg, University of California Press), and Harlem Crossroads: Black Writers and the Photograph in the Twentieth Century (Princeton University Press).

Information Regarding 3/29 GEO Strike

The following message was sent to the university community on March 28, 2023. It is published here for your convenience.

Dear University of Michigan Community,

The Graduate Employees’ Organization (GEO) has communicated that the union will begin a strike on the morning of Wednesday, March 29. The university recognizes the essential contributions of GSIs and GSSAs to our academic community, and we are disappointed that GEO believes this step is necessary.

The university will continue to hold classes as scheduled. School, college, and department leaders are planning for substitute instructors, alternative assignments, and other means for delivering instruction as required. The university is committed to ensuring all students receive accurate grades for their coursework and ensuring all graduating seniors can participate in commencement. You can view the message sent to undergraduates, detailing these commitments and more, on the Office of the Provost website. We will also be continuing to work  hard to achieve an agreement with GEO through the negotiations process.

We strongly believe that a strike is simply not the best way for GEO to achieve its objectives. There are many weeks left to negotiate before the May 1 contract expiration, and our intention is to continue to bargain with GEO regardless of a strike. The university’s bargaining team has offered to meet as many days as possible to resolve the negotiations and reach an agreement. The university hopes a state mediator will be able to assist the parties in coming to an agreement through the process of good faith negotiations.

In addition, a strike violates GEO’s own agreement with the university. To be specific: the current contract, which GEO embraced and signed in 2020, and which was ratified by GEO membership, continued to include the contract language specifying the union agrees not to strike while the contract is in effect. The union first agreed to this language in 2013. It is concerning that the union has decided not to honor its contractual promises, which undermines the process of collective bargaining.

Finally, while negotiators have made progress on some issues, the union has failed to move on most of its key demands, including for a 60% salary increase, even as it continues to attempt to negotiate other issues that are outside the scope of this contract, such as police reform.

We expect visible activism on the Ann Arbor campus and we respect the right of any group to peacefully advocate for their positions. We recognize that these can be difficult and complicated decisions, and we urge all members of our community to respect each individual member’s decisions–including the right of union members not to strike. Everyone in our university community, including graduate students, have the right to travel safely throughout campus, enter and exit buildings, and continue to work if they choose, regardless of whether there is a strike.

Please see the GEO negotiations website with background informationguiding principles, and important chronological updates from each bargaining week. You may also follow @UMichHR on Twitter to receive notice when a new update is available.

We remain committed to achieving a fair and forward-looking collective bargaining agreement and ensuring the university and union members can do and be their very best.

Sincerely,

Laurie K. McCauley, DDS, MS, PhD
Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs
William K. and Mary Anne Najjar Professor

Email to students: Important information regarding ongoing labor negotiations at U-M

The following email was sent to undergraduate students on March 25, 2023. It is published here for your convenience.

Dear Undergraduate Student Members of Our U-M Community:

As you may be aware, the Graduate Employees’ Organization (GEO), which is the union that represents Graduate Student Instructors (GSIs) and Graduate Student Staff Assistants (GSSAs), has authorized a strike. At this time, we do not know when a strike might begin or how long it will last. If a strike is called, GEO members may choose not to teach, thereby impacting classes in which you are enrolled.

We remain steadfast in our commitment to our mission to deliver world-class education and we recognize the essential contributions GSIs and GSSAs make to that mission. We are disappointed that GEO has decided to take this step, which is unnecessary for us to come to an agreement about a new contract. It is also a breach of the current contract signed by GEO and the university, as well as contrary to Michigan law. The university’s and GEO’s negotiators have many weeks left to negotiate before the union’s current contract expires on May 1.

I want to highlight four items of importance to undergraduate students, if there is a strike:

  1. Classes and instruction will continue to the fullest extent possible. One of U-M’s priorities is to ensure continuity of education. Faculty, staff, and administrators have been working to ensure that you continue to receive instruction and instructional support. In some cases, that may not be possible. You should be hearing from your instructors about how your classes will proceed, and you may also reach out to your department, school, or college for that information.
  2. The university will ensure that you receive accurate grades for your coursework. While there may be some delays in reporting grades, you can expect grades that reflect your work throughout the semester.
  3. Graduating seniors will be able to participate in graduation ceremonies. Even if there are delays in grade reporting, you can plan to fully enjoy your commencement activities.
  4. Good faith bargaining will continue. The university has been and will continue to bargain in good faith with graduate student employees, who are vital members of our community. You can read updates on negotiations on the University Human Resources website.

Our school, college, and department leaders are planning for substitute instructors, alternative assignments, and other means for delivering instruction in the absence of graduate student instructors.  Providing a high-quality educational experience for every student remains our top priority.

We are aware that some of you might have received messages from GEO or others that could cause confusion or be construed as encouraging you to take actions to support their strike.  We also recognize and understand that some of you might be supportive of the job action. It is important to know that no one may require or pressure you to participate in, or not participate in, union activity. Grades, course credit, or extra credit may not be conditioned on supporting or participating in union activities.

If you have any questions or concerns about the impact of this strike on your learning, please contact your department, school, or college.

Sincerely,

Laurie K. McCauley, DDS, MS, PhD
Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs
William K. and Mary Anne Najjar Professor