Teaching Assistants Protest WMU Contract Terms

Apr 18, 2018

Supporters of the Teaching Assistants Union at the WMU Board of Trustees meeting on Wednesday
Credit Sehvilla Mann / WMUK

Western's Trustees also revised the school's policy for staff who work with minors, and approved a three percent increase in room and board rates. 

Graduate students who teach at Western Michigan University say they’re unhappy with the contract terms the school has offered. Members of the Teaching Assistants Union packed a Trustees meeting on Wednesday. They told the Board that students who teach at Western struggle to support themselves on their wages.

Teaching Assistants Union President Ian Anderson said the cost of living increase the university has proposed does not go far enough.

“Our members are not asking for all that much. We’re asking for compensation that makes balancing life and graduate studies just a little bit easier,” he said.

Katie Dvorak introduced herself as a PhD student who struggles to pay for her epilepsy medication. Dvorak said her parents are retired and suggested that she cannot simply fall back on them for help.

“They should not have to support me, a graduate student trying to make my life better,” she said.

In a statement, the union said it is seeking a pay increase and the waiving of fees that it claims rise as high as eight percent of a graduate assistant’s salary.

Board Chair Jeffrey Rinvelt says the university looks forward to continuing talks with the students. Otherwise the Board did not comment.

The TAU says its contract with Western expires in August.

WMU Changes Policy for Staff Who Work with Minors

Western Michigan University’s Trustees have revised the school’s policies for staff who work with minors. In a proposal the University tied the timing of the review to “recent events” at Michigan State. Children and teens go to Western for everything from summer camps to music lessons.

The new policy is supposed to ensure that the staff who work with them get the required background check. The policy does not cover clinical services at the student health and counseling centers and the Speech-Language-Hearing clinic. Jessica Swartz is a lawyer for Western.

"The administration’s working on a separate policy right now in terms of those, the clinical settings," she said.

The changes to the university’s minors-on-campus policy take effect immediately.

Room and Board Rates Set

WMU students will see a slight increase in room and board rates in the next academic year. On Wednesday, Western’s Board of Trustees approved a three percent increase in room and board fees beginning this fall.

In a statement, Western’s trustees suggest the increase will help to cover building operations and improvements. Western plans to tear down its Elmwood student apartments this spring and replace them with new student housing.