Graduate Student News

J.P. Goodwin

Update On Graduate Employee Organization Contract Negotiations

The following statement was issued by the Graduate Employee Organization (GEO) Boston Bargaining Committee:

The bargaining committee for GEO Boston, which is negotiating on behalf of graduate student employees at UMass Boston has been meeting with the University since April 2001. We have been fighting for a union contract that will benefit all graduate assistants, including TA’s. RA’s, and AA’s. Graduate assistants provide an invaluable service to the University, by assisting faculty members in teaching, grading, researching, and administrative duties, and oftentimes teaching labs or course sections for their departments.

We are fighting for improved conditions for graduate assistants on campus, as well as for better pay. Graduate assistants often have to work far beyond their contractual defined hours in order to fulfill their responsibilities. They are paid pitifully for the hours they are contracted to work, especially in comparison to other Universities. For instance, the stipends for one semester of work here at the UMass Boston ranges from $1,000-$5,000 for up to 20 hours/week for Master’s candidates, and $1,250-$6,000 for PhD candidates, while at UMass Amherst the minimum stipend is $12,000/year. At UMass Lowell the minimum yearly stipend is $13,000. Our low pay combined with nearly unbearable cost of living in Boston, parking here on campus, and the ever-increasing curriculum fees (which are not waived for graduate assistants) have led us to organize this union.

Last fall, GEO Boston held an election, and graduate assistants nearly unanimously voted to organize a union here at UMass Boston for graduate student employees. We are fighting for fair pay and a livable wage. There is a huge disparity between what some departments’ assistants get paid compared to others. For instance, for the same number of hours worked, an assistant in the English department gets paid more than three times less than an equivalent position in computer sciences.

Graduate assistants often rely on their assistantships for financial support in order to reach graduation. In the current situation, they often have to take second and even third jobs off campus just to pay their rent, which leads them to delay completion of their degree. It is not in the best interest of the University to have discontented graduate students who never reach their goals.

Although the negotiations thus far are going very slowly, there has been some preliminary progress made. However, the University has yet to make GEO Boston a financial offer regarding the stipends for graduate assistants. It is time for UMass Boston to make a statement about the importance of graduate student employees here, as UMass Amherst and UMass Lowell have done through their union contracts.

TALES FROM THE GRAD SCHOOL FRONT: Kathleen Carmichael, PhD, offers tips to graduate students on applying for grants: “Before you write: Find out about the composition of the selection committee, and write your proposal accordingly. Who will make the choice? Professors? Librarians and collection curators? Business leaders who underwrite the grant? The composition of your audience will determine the technical level of your grant application language. Use language your audience will understand and cater to their probable interests.

Produce an itemized budget of your research, indicating why you need the money and how you will use it. This small step is useful not only for your own planning, but also helps to convince the grant selection committee that you will use their funds responsibly.

If you are applying for a ‘facilities use’ grant, tailor your application to emphasize your need for the facilities or research materials available there. A ‘facilities use’ grant provides funding for scholars to make use of resources at a specific facility – for example, a laboratory or research library. A good way to prepare a ‘facilities use, grant proposal is to learn as much as you can about the facility and its specific holdings. Ask your university’s reference librarian about online services that can give you access to information about the holdings at research facilities nationwide. When you writye your proposal, be sure to incorporate this information by describing how these holdings are important to your project.

Make sure that the professors who are writing your recommendation have everything they need for the job. First and foremost, provide updated copies of your c.v. and copies of any course work or research you may have done for them. You should also provide a thorough description of the award so that they can tailor their recommendations to suit the specific parameters of the grant. Most essentially, give them enough time to write their recommendations and follow up with them (tactfully!) to ensure the documents have been sent.

GERONTOLOGY PROGRAM: In May 2001, Jennifer Higgins received the University of Massachusetts Boston Dissertation Support Grant for her dissertation on senior gambling. Higgins has been working on senior gambling issues and policies for a number of years. Her work has been referenced in recent senior gambling issues and policies for a number of years. Her senior gambling articles published in the MetroWest Daily News (Framingham, Mass.) and the Fort Worth-Star Telegram, Northeast (Fort Worth, Tex.). In addition to being recognized as an expert by the media, Higgins, was recently invited to join an expert panel at the University of Windsor in Ontario, Canada. The panel, which consists of ten leading clinicians in the field of senior problem gambling, is designing the first senior problem gambling diagnostic tool. For further information, go to their website at

SPAYENE AND BOLLINGER RESEARCH GRANTS: Another reminder about these Graduate Student Assembly (GSA) research grants. Last semester several grants were not awarded due to lack of applicants. The GSA administers four $500 Dr. Robert W. Spayne Research Grants to Masters students and four $500 Craig R. Bollinger Research Grants to Doctoral students each semester. The GSA encourages students from all UMB graduate programs and departments who are working on theses, projects, and dissertations to apply. The purpose of these awards is to help defray the costs associated with the research relevant to students’ work. To apply for the Spayne or Bollinger award, contact Dev Tandin, in the GSA office at (617) 287-7975 or at [email protected].