Online Teaching Default Email – 23 June 2020

SUBJ: GTA Online Teaching Default for Fall 2020

Dear Dr. [NAME],

As the business agent for the Graduate Teaching Assistants Coalition, AFT Local 6403, I’d like to begin by expressing my sympathy regarding the many confusing communications from our administration regarding unilateral changes to Fall 2020 working conditions. As we move through this unprecedented situation, it can be difficult for University administration to synthesize their plans for non-unionized University workers with those of unionized workers. Unfortunately, this reality has led to additional difficulties for some departments, which we would like to help address.

First, because our 1,100+ Graduate Teaching Assistants stand in union as members of GTAC, any changes to our working conditions must be negotiated between KU and GTAC, and cannot be unilaterally decided by University administration. In light of this, please notify the College and KU Scheduling that all courses taught by or with [DEPT/SCHOOL/UNIT] GTAs will be listed as online (WW) by default unless those GTAs choose to specifically opt in to in-person (P) or hybrid (HC/HO) duties by August 1st, 2020 via a procedure still being negotiated with KU administration. This will include any lectures given or attended by graduate teachers in their capacity as workers.

Next, we would like to address the curriculum for Fall 2020. Outside of individual employment in course design by the Center for Teaching Excellence, GTAs cannot be asked to create curriculum for their courses or departments. At most, individual GTAs acting as Instructors of Record may choose to create and/or modify curriculum as may benefit their personal education and/or career prospects; even then, such labor must be counted towards the weekly cap on hours per FTE. Per Article 8, Section 1 of our negotiated union contract, all curriculum and other instructional materials must be provided in its entirety and free of charge to all graduate teachers by their units/departments. We look forward to reviewing this curriculum when we begin work on August 18th, 2020.

We would also like to address the increased labor demanded by University administration of faculty and adjunct workers, which has been coded as “flexibility” by our Provost and other key administrators. As teaching duties for the Fall 2020 semester are allocated and departments seek to re-distribute any overload in the duties demanded of faculty and adjunct workers, departments should bear in mind the union-negotiated weekly limit of 20 hours per 0.50 FTE for graduate teachers. This limit encompasses all work duties including but not limited to teaching duties including recording lectures, reading and responding to work-related communication, and leading discussions; all course preparation and grading, including time spent interacting with Blackboard and other online tools; office hours; and time spent with students outside of class.

Because some communications from the University have implied additional hours of work may be offered to GTAs, we would like to advise all departments to seek guidance on procedures for updating FTEs prior to offering increased hours to graduate teachers. We would also like to make departments aware that salary adjustments from increased FTEs have historically been covered by the College of Graduate Affairs and have not been counted against department budgets or deducted from department funds. Additionally, we recommend all departments have alternate plans to amend or fulfill the increased labor demands of our administrators, as many GTAs will not be able or willing to accept additional hours of teaching work in addition to their own academic studies and outside employment.

Finally, we have recently become aware that some departments have been excluded by University administration from the negotiations process regarding GTA labor and from other other Fall 2020 planning and decision-making. GTAC believes that faculty workers, adjunct workers, and department leadership are vital to both the practical and ethical fulfillment of our shared mission at the University of Kansas. We believe that faculty workers, adjunct workers, and department leadership must be meaningfully involved in all planning discussions and included as decision-makers, as opposed to being “consulted” by decision-makers or “surveyed” after decisions have been unilaterally made.

Right now, GTAC is standing in union to demand that the administrators at our University respect the inherent rights of all University workers, regardless of union status, in determining our own working conditions and the future of our University. We would like to encourage all faculty and adjunct workers to stand with us, beginning with sharing your thoughts and departmental needs with GTAC. We intend to prioritize your needs as well as our own as we move through this process with University administration, in the spirit of solidarity and towards a viable future for academia.

Please feel free to reach out if there is any way that GTAC can assist the Department of [DEPT/SCHOOL/UNIT] as we move towards our Fall 2020 campus reopening.

Rose Welch
Mobile: 785-640-4640
Office: 785-235-0262

cc: Neill Kennedy, GTAC President