UF does not plan to expand health care coverage for graduate assistants, UF administrators told graduate assistants on Thursday.
Administrators refused Graduate Assistants United’s proposal that asked for vision and dental coverage for the teaching assistants, citing a deficit in GatorCare.
“Compared to other programs both in and out of Florida, you have a very robust plan,” UF Board of Trustees head of bargaining Bill Connellan told the 15 union members during Thursday’s bargaining meeting.
The union contended the proposed UF raised premium rates for graduate assistants as well, which includes a $409 increase per employee for the 2014-2015 school year, according to GAU records.
Administrators said GatorGradCare specifically is estimated to be more than $1 million in deficit, forcing UF to raise the premiums.
Graduate students said they were upset they were not consulted before the change in price.
“It’s like, rip out the IV first, ask questions later,” said 29-year-old GAU chief negotiator and co-president Emily McCann.
Administrators consulted an outside accounting firm but said they had no data to show for it.
“I think it was just number crunching,” Connellan said.
McCann said she is unhappy that UF raised rates without presenting justification through data.
The union also raised issues with UF administration’s recent handling of disciplinary procedures in which graduate assistants have been tried by both the Dean of Students Office and Employee Relations for the same issue.
“I should not be tried twice on campus,” said 29-year-old sociology Ph.D. candidate Luis Caraballo-Burgos, who took over for McCann as chief negotiator for GAU after the meeting. “It takes up a lot of time, and it costs us a lot of money.”
McCann said graduate assistants straddle the line between student and employee.
“We need to have those different parallel processes very clearly spelled out,” she said.
Associate history professor and former graduate assistant Paul Ortiz spoke up for the graduate students on behalf of the United Faculty of Florida.
“We completely support GAU’s bargaining position,” he said.
He said UFF would like to see the end of all graduate fees.
“We depend on graduate assistants as fellow intellectuals. Paying for the right to work takes away from that,” he said.
In the face of preeminence, the university’s goal of becoming a top 10 public research university, UF administrators should work to end the fees, Ortiz said.
“We want to become a top 10 university,” he said. “It’s the right thing to do.”
The union and administrators will meet again to continue bargaining over the health care premiums.
[A version of this story ran on page 5 on 6/10/2014 under the headline "Graduate students bargained, lost"]