Coalition of Graduate Employees confront OSU President Ed Ray during rally

A crowd stands outside the Kerr Administration Building in the afternoon of March 5 to sign a Coalition of Graduate Employees petition.

William Ross, News Contributor

Correction: This article incorrectly represented Graduate Employee Andrea Haverkamp’s statements and questions to Oregon State University President Ed Ray. This mistake has been fixed. The Barometer regrets this error. 

They formed a circle outside the Kerr Administration Building. Oregon State University employees, undergraduates and faculty, as well as members of the Corvallis community, standing shoulder to shoulder to support graduate employees as they rallied to highlight their demands during what has become a contentious negotiation process.

The rally was held outside the Kerr Administration Building on March 3, beginning at 2:30 p.m. with chants and speakers. Some passersby joined in as OSU administrators came down to witness, with approximately 170 to 200 people participating in total.

Among the administrators who came down from Kerr Administration Building included President Ed Ray, who entered the middle of the circle to discuss the petition. The Coalition of Graduate Employees’ request includes no OSU employee making more than 186,000 dollars a year, cutting administrator’s salaries who go above that number. The petition also calls for all existing trustees who won’t meet CGE’s request to resign immediately, allowing for new candidates to take over who will satisfy the groups new standards.

Graduate Employee Andrea Haverkamp, standing in the middle of the circle with Ray, used a megaphone to tell Ray what the petition’s demands entail. When Ray began to speak, he brought up the upcoming bargaining session between CGE and OSU administration. Graduate Employee Andrea Haverkamp attempted to direct the topic of discussion back to the petition, saying the rally was about the petition, not bargaining. 

Ray commented that he would not be signing the petition CGE brought, Ray stated he doesn’t agree with certain elements of the petition. After more chanting by the people at the rally, Ray left the circle going back into Kerr.

With Ray gone, the event’s energy remained high with, an open forum taking place to allow people at the rally be given a chance to discuss their concerns with the university. Chants calling for change continued such as, “President Ray cut your pay” and “Chop from the top.”

At 3:30 p.m., the rally concluded, ending the circle community members formed to show their support.

“Bargaining is about a contract. This petition and this rally is about much, much more than that,” said Samuel Burns, a teaching assistant at OSU. “What we are really pushing for is to fundamentally remake the priorities of the institution. When 125 people are making more money than 1800 graduate employees who are all at or below the poverty level, that’s a systemic priorities issue that’s not going to be solved by contract negotiation.”

One specific incident that informed the rally was an email Vice Provost and Executive Vice President Edward Feser sent out on Feb. 28. Some members of the community felt the email did not accurately portray what is going on with bargaining meetings between OSU and CGE. The email came after CGE held a protest in Feser’s classroom, interrupting his class.

“After seeing the email that was sent out by Ed Feser… I was so blown away by his retaliation to the classroom visit that was made,” said Graduate Employee Chelsea Newbold.

According to Steve Clark, vice president for University Relations and Marketing, the email Feser sent out was accurate but did not provide enough context for those reading the email, leading to the negative reactions.

That next day, on March 4, Feser sent out another all-student email clarifying the comments he made in the Feb. 28 email. Feser explained that since most of the language used in the original email was not familiar to students, he should have done a better job to clarify terms. In the email Feser stated he regrets the confusion.

Back after the event took place, Ray was a major talking point for rally members who witnessed him walk away.

“I knew he (Ray) wasn’t going to sign the petition, but I did think him just blatantly walking away and ignoring the questions we were asking him was incredibly disrespectful,” Newbold said.

Clark was with Ray when they went back into Kerr to exit the rally before it finished.

“I think I left because I believe the president represented the university and himself completely and the opportunity that students, graduate students, employees, or graduate assistants wanted further comment had been completed by the president,” Clark said.

Rally participants filled the street with chants, boos and dialogue while Ed Ray spent his time in the circle.

“I say as community members it should be among our mindfulness and our commitment to provide for civil and respectful discourse and I don’t believe that’s what we entirely saw yesterday,” Clark said.

According to Clark, he would like to see people to allow individuals on any side to express themselves without being interrupted or being challenged, giving them the respect they deserve.

“We value our graduate assistants, we value their contribution to the university,” Clark said. “We also value the process that CGE and the university have agreed to engage in with bargaining, that’s ongoing. That’s by the bargaining team of CGE and the bargaining team of the university and I think we should all respect that bargaining process.”

The next bargaining meeting between CGE and OSU administrators is scheduled for March 11.

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