Office of the Provost


Common ground and a path forward

September 12, 2020

Dear Graduate Students,

We write at the end of a week of labor action by the Graduate Employees’ Organization (GEO). Regardless of whether or not you participated in this action, we have sought to provide you with information by publishing our proposal to GEO, and by explaining that we believe that some topics cannot be the subject of labor negotiation because they require university-wide engagement. Many voices, including mine, have reiterated the continuing value of your diverse contributions to our university community.

As we all take a moment to reflect this weekend, and prepare for the next, I renew my respect for your activism, and for your protest. I look forward to engaging with your protests as students in parallel with your employment concerns.

To that end, we wish to meet graduate students’ interests by listening, engaging and finding common ground and ask that you do the same. We have been and would like to continue to meet and talk with GEO’s representatives about how to resolve the strike, and how our community can come together to lead a path forward. Our negotiating team reached out to GEO’s president today inviting a meeting. The University’s representatives are on standby, willing to meet with GEO’s representatives this weekend.

We understand that GEO is considering whether to continue the strike. We hope that you will encourage the union’s membership to return to the classroom so that we may continue to serve our students and deliver the high-quality instruction that we care so deeply about. We encourage everyone to make their voices heard.

We recognize that we need to continue, and enable more work to be done on these issues that matter to our entire community - faculty, staff, students, parents and alumni. We understand that many of the issues deserve and warrant on-going and continuing efforts with many stakeholders, diverse perspectives, and multiple interests.

As such, and separate from negotiations with GEO, we are working to continue addressing vital health and safety concerns during these very challenging times, and to provide greater communication on the steps the University has already taken. These conversations must involve all of the members of our community; please be assured we are committed to engaging in these discussions now and in the future.

While they can’t be resolved by union negotiations, we are committed to addressing policing concerns in separate venues. To be a leader in this critical space, the University of Michigan must include numerous and varied voices, including graduate students, and work thoughtfully and deliberately to achieve impactful outcomes. Whether the strike continues or not, and we hope it does not for the sake of our entire community, we will continue those efforts.

University and Division of Public Safety and Security (DPSS) leaders remain open to discussing these vital issues with members of the university community. The safety and security of our large campus requires a security unit that is sensitive to the unique needs of the university community. DPSS has longstanding prevention and education programs that are essential to its daily work, with presentations and training frequently requested within our community. These include self-defense workshops; active attacker Run, Hide, Fight training; See Something? Say Something training; and workplace and classroom violence de-escalation presentations.

For those who might be interested, the DPSS Student Advisory Board is continuing its efforts to promote effective and impactful ways for students to participate in shaping campus safety. Applications should be submitted by the end of September, but rolling applications will be accepted throughout the year. If you are interested in joining, fill out this online application.

I am deeply concerned to see our community so fractured, and I hear the frustration and anger of many graduate students. You are essential members of the University of Michigan community, who have a very special, important and time-honored role -- as students and as partners in teaching and research. I look forward to working together to address concerns and to heal our community.


Susan M. Collins
Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs