April 22, 2020
I have received and read the open letter from the Graduate Teaching Assistant Coalition. I appreciate their welcome and the expression of concerns, as well as the work of all our graduate teaching assistants and all of our graduate workers at KU.
I am concerned, however, about the timing of this letter, given that University of Kansas leaders were prepared to meet with GTAC representatives tomorrow, on April 23, to re-open negotiations, and the meeting was postponed until fall by GTAC representatives. I’m especially concerned by the encouragement in the open letter for graduate teaching assistants to engage in a “sick out,” primarily because of the damage this would do to our undergraduate students, many of whom are also struggling during this difficult time, and because this would be an illegal strike under Kansas law.
I have talked to many hard-working graduate students in the short time since I became Provost, and I see their commitment to their work and their desire to collaborate to find solutions to improve working conditions. The union’s letter is not consistent with what I have heard from those students, the vast majority of whom are working hard – as we all are – to serve our students and our university as best we can during this pandemic, which is a highly challenging and unprecedented time for everyone.
We stand ready to meet with union leadership to find a mutually beneficial agreement.
Barbara A. Bichelmeyer, PhD
Provost & Executive Vice Chancellor