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Harvard Denies Grad Union Grievance Over Exclusion of Population Health Sciences Students

Harvard's Population Health Sciences program is administered by the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, but housed in the School of Public Health, pictured above.
Harvard's Population Health Sciences program is administered by the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, but housed in the School of Public Health, pictured above. By Ryan N. Gajarawala
By Isabella B. Cho and Meimei Xu, Crimson Staff Writers

Harvard denied a grievance filed by its graduate student union regarding the exclusion of 108 Population Health Sciences students from the union's bargaining unit.

The University issued the decision on Jan. 6 in response to the grievance filed by Harvard Graduate Students Union-United Automobile Workers on Dec. 3. The union alleged in the Step One grievance — the first stage in the grievance process per its contract with the University — that the exclusion violated multiple articles in their contract that define the bargaining unit and rights and protections associated with union membership.

University spokesperson Jason A. Newton wrote in an emailed statement that Harvard administrators have determined Population Health Sciences students are only in the HGSU-UAW bargaining unit when they receive additional compensation for teaching and research duties, beyond their program stipend.

“After careful review and consistent with the other social science graduate degree programs across the university, the University determined that HSPH Population Health students are only employed by the University, and therefore in the HGSU-UAW bargaining unit, when they have additional teaching or research appointments for which they receive compensation above and beyond their stipend,” he wrote.

The Office of Labor and Employee Relations granted the union an extension until Feb. 18 for filing a Step Two grievance with University Provost Alan M. Garber ’76, according to HGSU-UAW Communications Committee co-chair Emily M. Wright.

The union requested the extension after Acting Director of Population Health Sciences Tyler J. VanderWeele announced on Jan. 15 to all program students an administrative change to funding for Population Health Sciences students who have teaching duties per program requirements, Wright wrote. The change will make the funding structure for Population Health Sciences students more similar to social science programs in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, according to VanderWeele.

“I am hopeful that the new PhD funding model, that I have been working on with the School and that was formally approved earlier this month, will not only provide 5th year funding for students but also, because of the restructuring of stipend payments and union eligibility, also partially resolve some of the current disputes,” VanderWeele wrote in an emailed statement to The Crimson.

Following the program’s announcement, the union filed a second information request on Jan. 19 with Graduate School of Arts and Sciences Dean Emma Dench and School of Public Health Dean Michelle A. Williams to inquire about details of the new funding model and its implications for Population Health Sciences students. GSAS administers Population Health Sciences, but SPH houses the program.

Wright wrote in an emailed statement that union members will use the extension and information request to investigate how best to move forward with their Step Two grievance following VanderWeele’s announcement.

“With the very recent announcement of this change to how PHS [student workers] providing teaching services are paid last Friday, we are also focusing on gathering more information about this new change and how it will shape our case moving forward,” Wright wrote in the emailed statement.

The dispute began more than three months ago when HGSU-UAW filed the first official information request on Oct. 6 after noticing that dues were not being deducted in the paychecks of several SPH students. A month later, the union noticed 108 Population Health Sciences students were missing from the University’s list of eligible bargaining unit members on Nov. 12, prompting the initial grievance.

If the Step Two grievance is filed, University and union officials will meet, and Garber will issue a determination on the grievance. If both parties cannot reach a resolution, the union can pursue third-party arbitration in Step Three.

—Staff writer Isabella B. Cho can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @izbcho.

—Staff writer Meimei Xu can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @meimeixu7.

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