GSI Solidarity with Lecturers

This statement was delivered as a testimony before university administration at a bargaining session.

Good afternoon. My name is Annette Beauchamp and I’m a first-year graduate student in the Joint Doctoral Program in English and Education at this institution. I’m also a first-year Graduate Student Instructor (or GSI), which is the main reason I’m here today. When I heard about this meeting concerning Lectures at the University of Michigan, I felt compelled to attend, even if it meant missing class, which I am this afternoon. I’ve sent my professor an email and hope she’ll understand why I’ll be late to class today—this is an important matter that’s at the heart of the mission of this institution.

Specifically, the reason I’m here today is to inform you of the connection between graduate student and Lecturer labor and why a better contract for Lecturers matters to Graduate Student Instructors, such as me. First, as a new member of this institution, Lecturers have played an important role in my development as a GSI. Since last semester, fall 2017, I’ve taught English 125: Writing and Academic Inquiry. Given the primary goal of this course, which is to prepare students for academic writing, this is usually a required course for most undergraduate students including first-year students, transfer students, and multilingual students. Given everything involved in preparing for this course and teaching this course, for GSIs who have never taught this course, the learning curve can be steep, and we depend on the expertise and generous assistance of members of the English Department Writing Program of which Lecturers are a part.

For example, my responsibilities as a Graduate Student Instructor for English 125 began even before I stepped foot on campus as a new student. It began in the spring of 2017, shortly after being admitted to the UM. But my training for English 125 did not end after these three intense days of training. There were syllabi to review and modify; course readings to review and select; assignments to review and revise; and much peer-reviewed reading material about writing pedagogy and composition studies. By sharing their work with new GSIs and by making themselves available to answer questions, Lecturers helped me and members of my cohort with our initial work as GSIs.

Their connection with us, however, did not end there. Throughout the fall semester and even during this winter 2018 semester, Lecturers have continued to support GSIs with the very important role they’ve been entrusted with—the education of undergraduate students at the University of Michigan. They do so in several ways. For instance, they present at various EDWP Colloquia and Writing Craft Sessions. These Colloquia and Writing Craft Sessions offer opportunities for GSIs to learn directly from Lecturers. Lecturers have presented on diverse topics such as supporting multilingual writers, approaches to grading and student feedback, fostering self-reflective and inclusive classrooms, and overseeing workshop and peer review. Events such as these have helped me create classrooms spaces where all students feel welcome.

I’d like to personally thank the EDWP Lecturers who have made a difference in my early career as a GSI. Thank you first to Steve Engel who let me observe in his class and who took the time to answer my questions on different occasions about lesson plans, writing assignments, and peer review writing workshops; I’ve also learned much from your writing accountability group idea. Next, a big thank you Shuwen Li and Scott Beal for information about how to better support multilingual writers. Also, to all the Lecturers who’ve taken the time to present at EDWP Colloquia and have shared your work on the EDWP Canvas site. I’ve learned a great deal from your experiences concerning challenging aspects of our work. Finally, to the Lecturers at the Sweetland Center for Writing, thank you for your feedback and support. The mission of this institution depends on dedicated professionals like you who engage widely with the university community. Your support of GSIs in particular helps meet the goals of this institution. For all these reasons, I stand in solidarity with you and support your campaign for a better contract.