Dean of Harvard College Rakesh Khurana said in an interview Tuesday that his office is focused on “minimizing the disruptions” for College students in the event that the graduate student union’s strike continues through the beginning of next semester.
Members of Harvard Graduate Students Union-United Automobile Workers began a work stoppage one week ago, following more than a year of contract negotiations with University administrators. HGSU-UAW boasts 4,000 members, including graduate and undergraduate teaching fellows, course assistants, and research assistants.
Khurana said Tuesday that his office is working to minimize undergraduates’ discomfort during the strike alongside administrators from the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, the Office of Undergraduate Education, the Registrar’s Office, and the Office for Faculty Affairs.
“Our focus at the College right now is to do what we can to minimize any disruption to the undergraduate experience,” he said.
Several classes at the College have already changed locations, switched exam formats, and canceled review sessions in response to the week-old strike. Graduate students and faculty have instead taken to picketing in Harvard Yard, hoisting signs and singing labor-themed carols as they call on the University to change its position on several key contract measures.
The union and the University have reached agreements over 12 contract measures, but are currently debating competing proposals regarding compensation, health care benefits, and grievance procedures for complaints of sexual misconduct and discrimination. The union has not announced an end date to the strike.
The strike may delay academic departments’ ability to report grades and prepare students’ transcripts. In some cases, students need finalized grades and transcripts in order to apply for jobs, postgraduate fellowships, and graduate schools. Khurana did not comment on specific measures the College is taking to address grading delays.
“In situations like that, we are working with individual departments and faculty and students to share those kinds of concerns and do our best in these circumstances to address those issues,” he said.
Khurana added that the College is currently planning for a strike that stretches into next semester’s shopping week, when classes usually finalize their course staff and set up discussion sections.
“We are focused on minimizing the disruptions for our students,” Khurana said. “We will work together with our various offices to try to minimize disruption and provide guidelines and instruction for managing registration, new classes, et cetera.”
—Staff writer Shera S. Avi-Yonah can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at @saviyonah.
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