This summer, an Indiana University task force will launch a year-long study to identify possible improvements to the graduate student experience at the Bloomington campus. The seat reserved for the president of the graduate student body, however, will remain empty.
In April, scores of graduate students began a four-week labor strike, demanding union recognition from the IU administration and a formal process to discuss benefits, higher salaries and reduced fees.
Responding to complaints from graduate students, particularly those employed by the university, IU Provost Rahul Shrivastav recently announced a series of changes and new initiatives, including a specialist task force focused on updating the experience of graduates.
“What we’d like to do is figure out where we are now, figure out where we’d like to be in five to ten years, and then use that data to help us decide how we’re going to get there,” said David Daleke, vice-president. rector. for higher education and health sciences.
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Daleke chairs the task force’s Coordinating Committee, which includes faculty members from the various schools at IU Bloomington. The Coordinating Committee will distribute major research topics among individual working groups, including faculty, staff, and graduate student representatives.
The working groups will look at a variety of issues: housing, health, graduate worker structure, financial aid, interdisciplinary programs and more. These final recommendations are intended to improve the recruitment and retention of IU’s graduate student population.
All working group reports will be submitted to Shrivastav by July 2023, but many recommendations are expected to be released throughout the year, some as early as next fall semester.
“Some (groups) might work for a semester, some will work the whole year — depending on the topic and the urgency of the issue,” Daleke said.
Task force will have graduate student representation despite withdrawal of GPSG
Even before its members began to meet, the task force was criticized by graduates.
“What’s frustrating about the task force is that it frames it specifically around the future of higher education, despite the fact that currently, right now, there are several hundred graduate workers organizing on the picket line for better working conditions for better education for all,” IGWC media representative Cole Nelson said after the initial task force announcement.
Currently, the Coordinating Committee has an open seat reserved for the Chair of Graduate and Professional Student Government.
The GPSG withdrew from any shared governance on campus, citing an alleged misrepresentation of its collaboration with the IU administration over the labor dispute. In a recent resolution, the GPSG body said it would not join any campus committee, including the task force, until administrators meet directly with the IGWC bargaining committee.
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According to Katie Shy, GPSG Vice President, this resolution still stands and the GPSG will not be part of the working group until this dialogue takes place.
“It doesn’t have to be the end point of the negotiations, but it has to be the starting point,” Shy said, “You have to listen in very good faith, which we haven’t seen until now. here. “
Daleke said he would reserve an open spot on the coordinating committee specifically for the GPSG if his leadership wanted to help select members of the task force.
“When they’re ready to come back, the GPSG chair will have a seat there. For the other working groups, we want to start moving our work forward. We’ll be recruiting faculty, staff and students to sit on those committees and I hope to move forward,” said Daleke.
According to Daleke, the committee will select graduate student representatives to serve on the task forces through a separate nomination process from the GPSG, using faculty feedback for appointee suggestions.
The task force will initially focus on graduate financial aid, health
The launch of the groups will be staggered throughout the year, with the first three starting work in the next month. According to Daleke, a group will look into student financial aid and college appointments; another will focus on health and wellness. The subject of the third working group is not finalized.
Working groups will analyze local and national data to see how it can be used to develop best practices for the graduate student system.
“The Coordinating Committee will give them an initial agenda, which will be a fairly high-level set of questions. Then we’ll provide them with a data-driven process,” Daleke said.
Data will come from internal databases as well as external sources, such as the Association of American Universities and the Council of Graduate Schools.
“We will try to collect as much data locally as possible, (using) surveys if necessary,” Daleke said.
Some graduate students have spoken about changes they would like to see in the near future.
Through the Indiana Graduate Workers Coalition, graduate workers have spoken out against mandatory fees associated with their work. They also advocated for higher wages and benefits. According to the coalition, current working conditions have made affordable living difficult for graduate students.
Daleke said a task force will review student financial conditions and the current graduate structure at IU.
“What can we do to examine this structure? Is there a way we can improve for the future? said Daleke. “We are thinking of a five to ten year timeframe, but we could have immediate results that could be implemented immediately on all subjects.”
According to Daleke, the financial aid group and SAA should work all summer.
“If they’re done (by then) they’ll release a report, but they could go on. We’ll leave a lot of that up to the working groups to decide,” Daleke said.
Recommendations from the health and well-being group could also be presented in a shorter time frame. Members of the group will work alongside IU’s Mental Health Task Force, led by Chief Health Officer Aaron Carroll.
“We will align with this process and other recently released reports on graduate student aid,” Daleke said.
Previously:Faculty president calls provost’s memo ‘a slap in the face’ pitting professors against graduates
Other working groups, such as housing, will have a longer schedule depending on the complexity of the subject. According to Daleke, housing was one of the main issues expressed during the listening sessions facilitated by the administrator for graduate students.
“Housing prices in Bloomington have gone up a lot and that’s putting a strain on graduate students on their finances, so that’s something we’re going to look at,” Daleke said.
Even these long-term working groups will submit interim reports to the coordination committee, which will forward them to Shrivastav.
“We will provide interim reports to the provost throughout the process. Some working groups may have completed their work and have a final report for their section instead. Others may simply be interim recommendations that they would like us to adoptions. to the provost,” Daleke said.
IU vice-rector looks to the future, GPSG vice-president wants to act now
Once the recommendations have been submitted, it is up to the administration to forward them to the colleges or offices.
“The provost would take those recommendations and then he could pass them on to someone else, more likely the appropriate group, to ask them to implement the recommendation,” Daleke said. “He might change it a bit. There are other factors that will come into play, like budget, for example, etc., like we did in our last strategic plan.”
Shrivastav could take immediate action based on some recommendations, but many will be framed as long-term goals for the next decade, Daleke said.
Shy, who is also a member of the IGWC, supports a long-term evaluation of the graduate student experience at IU, but thinks the task force will not find quick and immediate solutions to current problems, such as the work conflict.
“In general, I think it’s always a good idea to look at the future of higher education at IU. I certainly want, and I know I also speak on behalf of my peers, that teaching higher than IU is a beacon and a real reason why people come to college,” Shy said. “But the task force is not the right vehicle to meet the needs of the 1,000 graduate workers who have put on strike.”
Shy describes the task force as a “long-term idea generator” that will not address disparities in the living and working conditions of graduate students.
According to Shy, graduate students have seen “well-meaning and forward-looking” committees at IU in the past, but little change has been made to their work. Shy referenced a resolution passed by the GPSG in late 2020, which called for a five-year freeze on mandatory analytics fees and greater transparency on fee necessities. According to Shy, this recommendation was ignored.
“Because we have seen this process unfold so many times, where committees produce reports and recommendations and we see no significant impact on our material well-being, it is hard to imagine the group of work will have an impact that we can feel immediately,” Shy said.
Independently of the contribution of the GPSG, the working group is progressing.
Looking further into the future, directors want to continue the research and recommendation process every five to ten years to keep abreast of best practices across the country.
“Higher education is dynamic, and we must continually reassess where we are and determine how we can provide the best education for our students and how we can do the best research possible at our institution,” Daleke said. “This regular strategic planning process is key to that.”