Newsletter – 20 March 2020

Now more than ever, we must stand together in solidarity.

Hello from GTAC President Neill Kennedy.

In these trying and unprecedented times, I want each and every one of you to know that your well-being and the health and safety of your families are foremost on my mind. That’s why I’m sending you this survey: I need to know what you’re seeing, hearing, and experiencing in our community.

Right now, our University administration and state/local governments are scrambling to create emergency policies which will affect all of us. Because GTAs are working professionals, our expertise and voices must be paramount in the emergency policies being written. At the same time, many of our normal routines and resources have been disrupted and we want to match our collective resources with the needs of our members and families. To address these dual concerns, we have written a brief survey to help us map how the pandemic is affecting each of us so that we can appropriately route necessary resources. Not just at work but also at home, including our daily routines, access to resources, plans for the future, and overall health of ourselves and families. Please share your voice and help us meet your needs by completing this ten minute survey right now.

Take the 10-Minute Survey right now!

The General Meeting scheduled for the end of March has been cancelled. Instead we will be having a briefing and Q&A via Zoom on how our work is affected by COVID-19 and our rights and responsibilities during this difficult time. Click here to RSVP for the COVID-19 briefing and Q&A session on Monday, March 30th, 2020 at 4pm. Please reply to this email if Zoom does not meet your needs and we will find a way to meet your needs so that you can attend this meeting.

Did you know that you have a 35-page contract with the University of Kansas which outlines your rights as a GTA? Do you have questions about your work as a GTA, or where the line is between GTA work and student work? Are you concerned about graduate and international worker exploitation at KU? You deserve to know the ins and outs of your own employment contract, including common misunderstandings about worker’s rights in Kansas, hours of work, and appropriate job duties. This session will also include a special closer on how our work is affected by COVID-19 and our rights and responsibilities during this difficult time. Click here RSVP for Contract 101 session on Thursday, March 19th, 2020 at 7pm. Please reply to this email if Zoom does not meet your needs and we will find a way to meet your needs so that you can attend this meeting.

During times of organizational anxiety, administrators may behave in ways which are counter to our University mission. This is a normal human response but we don’t have to cater to it. If you are concerned that COVID-19 anxiety is influencing your directions and/or supervision, please reply to this email and we’ll be happy to walk through it with you.

Next, please be aware that some graduate workers at institutions around the country have received unsolicited “telework” or “telecommuting” contracts from their Universities. These contracts were unsurprisingly heavily weighted towards the interest of University administration and did not consider the needs or security of workers or students. Currently, we have no indication that KU administration will attempt this tactic. However, it is important to be aware that your existing contract has not changed and cannot change without our consent. If you do receive such a communication, you should not respond; instead, please forward it to us via email at

In addition, as we shift to online courses, we want to quote Dr. Tressie McMillan Cottom, who is in the Department Sociology at Virginia Commonwealth University and a faculty affiliate at Harvard University’s Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society whose work has been recognized nationally and internationally for the urgency and depth of her incisive critical analysis of technology, higher education, class, race, and gender:

I cannot caution my colleagues strongly enough not to submit detailed plans of their “activity” as they go online to administrators who cannot tell you how these documents will be used. Period.

Please be safe during these times and if you have any questions or concerns about changes to your work, please email or text Rose Welch at or 785-640-4640.

As the COVID-19 affects people around the globe, social distancing and quarantines are turning college campuses upside down. Students are being forced out of dorms, faculty and graduate workers are scrambling to convert in-person classes into online experiences, staff are fighting administrators to access the resources necessary to complete their work from home, and as our community exits campus, questions abound: What will happen to hourly workers who rely on on-campus jobs for income? Are students who depend on prepaid campus food plans going hungry? As faculty and graduate teachers pivot online, how do we replicate hands-on experiences that usually take place in labs, classrooms, music rooms and art studios?

To begin to address these and other concerns, the AFT (our parent union) has joined with the American Association of University Professors to produce guidelines. Their “Principles for Higher Education Response to COVID-19” covers everything from assistance for students left without food and shelter, to continued pay for all campus workers—including graduate workers, adjunct faculty, and staff—and protecting intellectual property rights during the abrupt switch to online teaching.

This student-focused guide takes an established assistance model for struggling graduate workers and students and applies it to this moment, with advice on how to address loss of income, loss of housing and food insecurity—issues already common to many graduate workers who are now experiencing an amplification of those challenges. The guide comes from the Hope Center, founded by AFT member (and professor of higher education policy and sociology) Sara Goldrick-Rab, who also supports this petition to Congress demanding funds to assist students affected by college closures and restrictions.

In addition, the AFT (our parent union) is circulating free, detailed guidelines from the Association of College and University Educators for quickly transitioning courses online.

Please visit to see some of the broader community resources that have been assembled. We also have union resources (including loaner tablets!) available for GTAs – please use the survey to access these resources.

This is the time when our solidarity matters more than ever – click here to become a dues paying member of GTAC.

Thank you for adding your voice to our union. Please reach out to GTAC organizer Rose Welch at or via text at 785-640-4640 if you have any questions, concerns, or immediate needs and take the survey right now to help us help one another.

In solidarity,
Neill Kennedy

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