General Guidance on Contingency Planning for a Strike
The Harvard Graduate Student Union-United Auto Workers (HGSU-UAW) has voted in favor of authorizing their bargaining committee to call for a strike. Their bargaining team has set a deadline to strike by December 3, 2019 if a contract has not been agreed to by that time.
While the scope of their labor action is entirely unknown, it is important to anticipate the impact that any potential action may have on courses, and how best to ensure the University can fulfill its academic mission and protect the vital teaching and research activities in the face of a work disruption.
While each member of the faculty may have a different approach to anticipating and managing through a work disruption, below are some suggestions to guide your preparation.
Think about how your teaching and research are supported, and what you can do to keep them working in the absence of staff who are members of HGSU-UAW. Before a strike begins, faculty should be encouraged to update their students about academic expectations through their usual channels of communication (e.g., my.harvard, Canvas, email lists). They may also want to inquire about any priority grading needs (e.g., grades needed for graduate school or fellowship application deadlines).
Will you be able to lead sections, grade projects/papers/tests, or administer exams? If not, whom will you ask to help? Please be aware that it may be challenging to identify, hire, and pay additional staff on very short notice. Should you have individuals in mind who might be able to step in, please consult with your department administrators prior to offering them work, as the University must assure that anyone who is asked to work is indeed eligible to do so per University, state, and Federal hiring policies. Keep in mind that it may take longer to train new support staff to do this work than the action will last. In the event of a shorter action, it is expected that instructional support staff will make up any work missed.
Will you need to move the physical location of your class meetings? Your Registrar’s Office can help with alternative room options, but you may wish to consider remote access as well. See the HUIT's suggestions for contingency planning.
- Research support. Are there aspects to your research that require constant oversight? Can you organize additional staff to be prepared to take on this work?
Consider assessment and grade alternatives
Have students submitted enough work to be assessed on work completed to date? Could you adjust the format of your final exam, should an action continue through the exam period? Department chairs and course heads may wish to consult on a best practice for courses in their departments, with respect to overall assessment.
Prior to the announced strike date, you should have access to all the information needed to assign final grades, including up-to-date grading sheets, section and participation attendance records, and other assessments. Faculty who encounter any issues obtaining relevant information from a student worker before the strike should contact their Academic Dean for further guidance.
Prioritize those soon to graduate
Perhaps you can assess and grade yourself the work of those who are scheduled to graduate this semester, so that their progress to the degree remains uninterrupted. Work with your local registrar to identify any students enrolled in your classes who are planning to graduate at the end of the fall semester so that you can prioritize grading for these students during a strike. In the event of a lengthy action, additional assessments for other students in your classes may be placed in queue for when instructional support staff return to work, or replacement staff is hired.
Remain sensitive to a variety of views
Some students, Teaching Assistants, and Faculty may wish to show solidarity with the Union by choosing not to attend class during this period; some Teaching Fellows and Course Assistants may wish to continue working. While the University respects the right of all community members to express their opinion, absence from class or failure to meet course requirements during any labor action may have consequences for a student’s grade.