Advocacy

Through their activities, unique responsibilities and frequent meetings with administrative units at the University of Minnesota, members of the COGS Leadership Team advocate for the success, safety and well-being of graduate students. The Team has historically coordinated their advocacy efforts through General Assembly meetings, where advocacy topics are identified and prioritized.

Please return to this page for regular updates on the advocacy activites and priorities of the COGS Leadership.

Advocacy Priorities

During the September 2021 COGS General Assembly meeting, advocacy topics were prioritized from a list of persisting and newly-identified advocacy topics. Based on the thoughts and concerns of their constituents, and the data- and evidence-based descriptions assembled by the COGS advocacy team, program representatives identified the following items as top-priority issues for COGS leadership to tackle throughout the 2021-2022 academic year:

  1. Support and advocate for graduate students who experience discrimination including but not limited to graduate students who identify as African-American, international, Native American, queer and/or disabled.

  2. Push for centrally mandated sick leave, parental leave, paid vacation time, and disability accommodations for graduate assistants.

  3. Reestablish graduate and professional student occasional use parking and advocate for free or subsidized on-campus parking for graduate students.

  4. Work to secure long-term raise agreements.

  5. Support and advocate for international graduate students in regards to ISSS and GPS Alliance communication and consultation.

  6. (Runner-up) Follow up with University leaders related to pandemic working conditions for graduate students.

The Raise and Reduce Campaign:
Raise the Pay and Reduce the Fees

On March 25th, 2022, the UMN Graduate Labor Coalition published the open letter below to the graduate student body of the University of Minnesota - Twin Cities:

Hi Minnesota Grad Students!

 

Over the course of this semester, we have heard in COGS meetings and in plenty of other settings about the personal effects of post-COVID inflation and the rising cost of living here in the Twin Cities. Our wages as grad students have stagnated at the same time. In response to this crisis, a group of graduate students from around the University (some of whom are listed below) wrote a petition demanding that university administrators:

  • Provide a minimum stipend of $35K

  • Guarantee us annual raises

  • Cover all student fees as a benefit of employment. 

Currently, there are no policies in place to increase our wages with inflation or ensure that we receive yearly cost of living adjustments. Low wages and exploitative working conditions (forced overtime, casual employment, inadequate benefits, and not being compensated for scope of work) further exacerbate the mental health crisis facing graduate assistants. 

 

Let's do something. Please read through the petition and sign your name in support. Even though this issue won't be solved overnight, we are more likely to see change if we team up and work together. At the very least, let's get the conversation started and leave a legacy for future graduate students to have better living conditions.

As of April 15th, 2022, "[over] 2,400 grad students, faculty, staff, undergrads, and community allies have signed on, most of whom are graduate workers. [The petition is] 500 more grad assistant signatures away from showing administrators that a majority of grad workers demand better pay, inflation-adjusted raises, and fee reduction."

Graduate/Professional Worker Parking Contracts

Thanks to the tremendous efforts of the UMN Transportation Advocacy Team, the Parking & Transportation Services (PTS) have begun implementing Graduate/Professional Student Worker Parking Contracts. As announced in this February 28th, 2022 communication, graduate student workers are now able to purchase quarterly-billed staff/faculty parking contracts for any staff/faculty parking facility with available space. Eligibility extends to fellowship students, and those with job codes starting with 95XX. 

 

Details of the Graduate/Professional Worker Parking Contracts, as available on the PTS website, are as follows:

 

Eligible graduate student workers will also be able to join wait lists, or continue to follow the student lottery process. At this time, Contracts are billed quarterly unless a payroll deduction can be set up (Associates only). Quarterly rates are:

  • $231 for Parking Lot

  • $327 for Parking Ramp

  • $429 for Parking Garage

 

Quarters are delineated as follows:

  • Quarter 1= Jan 1st (Saturday) - March 31st (Thursday)

  • Quarter 2 = April 1st (Friday) - June 30th (Thursday)

  • Quarter 3 = July 1st (Friday) - September  30th (Friday)

  • Quarter 4 = October 1st (Saturday) - December 31st (Saturday)

 

Additional, current information on the Contracts may be found on the Graduate Student Parking Contract program webpage, as well as the application form

Response from Provost Croson to Open Letter to President Gabel

On September 29th, 2021, COGS received the below response from Provost Rachel Croson to COGS President Rielle Swanson's September 09th open letter to President Joan Gabel (titled "Graduate Students' Request for Enhanced Access, Flexibility, and Stronger Protocols for Workplace and Classroom Safety"). The open letter to President Gabel and senior leaders was issued in an effort to bring attention to the gaps in existing workplace and classroom safety protocols that put our University community, particularly graduate student employees, at risk. The letter was made in solidarity with similar open letters written by Graduate Student Educators on Pandemic Working Conditions, UMN Students, Staff, and Faculty United for Health and Safety (SSFUHS), and the University of Minnesota’s Medical School Class of 2024.

On October 4th, 2021, Students, Faculty and Staff received updated guidance regarding positive COVID-19 cases from Vice President for Clinical Affairs/Campus Public Health Officer Jakub Tolar, MD, PhD.  On October 6th, a Special Meeting of the University Senate adopted a Resolution on Classroom Health and Safety under COVID-19. COGS Leadership has discussed these recent updates to policy and approach at the October 14th General Assembly meeting.

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University Senate
Campus Safety Committee

The University Senate Committee on Committees released a number of recommendations regarding the University Senate Campus Safety Committee, which were discussed by COGS Leadership at the October 14th General Assembly meeting. These recommendations will now go before the Campus Safety Committee for comment before returning to the Committee on Committees for ultimate proposal.

As stated on the Campus Safety Committee webpage, the Committee "advises and consults with the president, the responsible senior administrators, and the Vice President for University Services on policies and major decisions relating to campus and public safety at the University. Board of Regents policy delegates immediate administration of public safety and University health and safety to the president, the central administration, the Senior Vice President for Finance and Operations, and various University officers across the system; this committee has no direct role in the day-to-day management of the departments."