From the Coalition of Graduate Workers

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April 15, 2016

The Coordinating Committee of the Coalition of Graduate Workers is surprised by Interim Chancellor Hank Foley’s recent comments to The Columbia Tribune. In an interview, Foley referred to a free and fair representation election as a “mock election,” referred to graduate student employees as “kids,” and once again inaccurately claimed that he was unaware that an election would occur.

These comments are in addition to the Chancellor’s mass e-mail communication one week ago, which threatened “ramifications” and an anti-union “education campaign” if graduate student employees exercised their constitutionally protected rights as residents of the state of Missouri. Although Foley promised a clarifying e-mail this week, no such communication was sent.

Referring to a democratic and constitutionally guaranteed election as a “mock election” is inaccurate and inappropriate. Although we understand that the University is unwilling to recognize the results of the election at this time, we emphasize that this is a choice the University is making. The election itself will be run according to state and federal best practices. Moreover, referring to it as a “mock election” impugns the professionalism, integrity, and civic engagement of the Columbia League of Women Voters, who will operate the polls.

We are particularly disappointed that Hank Foley referred to Mizzou’s 2,800 graduate student employees as “kids.” This is a patronizing and troubling indication of the University’s attitude toward a population with an average age of over 30, many of whom have families and children of their own. Graduate student employees are educators, researchers, and dedicated professionals, and University leadership owes them a basic level of respect.

Finally, the claim that the election is a “surprise” is incorrect, or else indicates a troubling reporting failure within University administration. Meetings between graduate workers representing CGW and University administrators occurred on five occasions, the first occurring on December 21st. The intent to hold an election despite the University’s decision to force legal action was clearly and explicitly communicated to Vice President for Human Resources Kelley Stuck, Assistant Vice President for Human Resources Erik Smetana, and representatives from the University of Missouri System Office of General Counsel. Moreover, this specific intent was also clearly and explicitly communicated to campus administration. It is a worrying testament to the state of University governance if this information was not conveyed to Interim Chancellor Foley.

The Coalition of Graduate Workers has consistently maintained its desire to work with administration toward a better University; indeed, our notice communicating the details of the upcoming election expressed that “we remain ever-hopeful to forge a cooperative relationship with administration,” and further offered the administration the right to send election observers. To date, the administration has not offered any response to our notice. It is frustrating and unfortunate that upper administration has met our show of good faith with misinformation, intimidation, and disrespect.

We believe that these actions are further proof that graduate student employees must work together to represent their own interests, and we urge graduate student employees to vote “Yes” on April 18th and 19th.

Coordinating Committee
Coalition of Graduate Workers

The Coalition of Graduate Workers is a union local affiliated to the Missouri National Education Association and the National Education Association.



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