In one of Parliament’s final meetings of the semester and before Temple Student Government elections this week, the legislative body passed a resolution supporting policies which intend to resolve graduate student employees’ issues with finances, access to health care and travel and in light of the COVID-19 outbreak on Monday.
The adopted framework could increase pressure on the administration to grant greater financial and health care accommodations for graduate student workers.
John Hess, a representative of the Temple University Graduate Student Association and third year Ph.D. political science student, spoke to Parliament about the issues facing graduate student employees.
Graduate student workers told The Temple News that they are struggling with getting in contact with their professors and students and financial and travel situations.
Amid the COVID-19 outbreak, TUGSA’s executive board sent an open letter to university administrators asking for a summer subsidy program which provides financial assistance for international graduate student salaries during the summer, expanded health care coverage, prorated refunds for student, lab and course fees.
“These are short-term policy adjustments that over 1,000 people, the graduate workforce here at Temple, urgently need,” Hess said.
Hess insisted the collective bargaining agreement that currently addresses the rights of graduate employees could not account for the financial, academic and personal changes caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and the university’s response.
TUGSA sent the open letter in March once the decision to move learning online was clear, Hess said. A day later, the university responded and said that they will comply with the collective bargaining agreement they already have.
TUGSA’s proposed relief policies, put forth by Vice Speaker of Parliament Issa Kabeer in a resolution, call on the university to extend graduate employees’ monthly salaries through the summer, expand health insurance coverage to fully cover graduate employees and their dependents and commit to fulfilling employment and research opportunities for international graduate workers.
The union has also requested additional refunds for the costs associated with campus offerings, similar to those pushed for by Parliament and TSG previously.
Parliament voted 10-0 in support of the resolution, though several representatives abstained or did not vote.
Drew Gardner, the speaker of Parliament, attributed some of the abstentions to the technical difficulties surrounding the Zoom meeting and scheduling conflicts proposed by the coinciding forum with TSG Executive campaign BloomTU.
Parliament also discussed but did not vote on a resolution calling for mandatory disability training for faculty members but no resolution was formally proposed.