Solidarity Grant Program
The Solidarity Grant Program established by the Graduate Employees Union AFT #6196 is tasked with the primary purpose of providing financial assistance to Graduate Employees Union members in hardship. As graduate students tend to live paycheck to paycheck, any kind of unanticipated financial cost can cause severe hardship ranging from usurious debt to eviction from one’s home or deportation from the country. Directing resources from the Graduate Employees Union to those in need is an act of solidarity with those members struck with misfortune, embodying the ideal that a strike against one is a strike against all. Between the fall of 2015, and Spring of 2018, we have helped 40 graduate students in financial crisis.
The Solidarity Grant Program is to be administered in a fashion consistent with the demands of the General Membership, the Stewards Council, and the Executive Board. As of December 2014, the Solidarity Grant Program will be administered by the Graduate Employees Union Budget Committee, subject to the oversight of the aforementioned bodies.
The Solidarity Grant Program shall consist of four phases: Graduate Employees Union approval, when the program is approved to begin for a given time and with dedicated funding; the application, wherein Graduate Employees Union members apply for the grant; the selection, wherein the recipients of the grant are chosen; and disbursal, wherein money is given to those who have been selected. Each phase is detailed below
Approval of the Solidarity Grant Program shall consist of the dedication of funds to the Solidarity Grant Program by the action of any authorized body within the Graduate Employees Union, namely the General Membership, the Stewards Council, or the Executive Board.
Approval of the Solidarity Grant Program in this manner shall consist of granting authority over the funds to the overseers of the Solidarity Grant Program, i.e. the Oversight Committee, to be used solely in a manner consistent with this document.
Approval of the Solidarity Grant Program may be rescinded by any authorized body, i.e. the General Membership, Stewards Council, or the Executive Board.
Rescinding approval of the Solidarity Grant Program immediately returns all unspent funds in the Solidarity Grant Program to the general fund. Furthermore, the application must be closed and current applicants informed of the status of the program.
Furthermore, any authorized body, i.e. the General Membership, the Stewards Council, or the Executive Board may change the amount of funds authorized to the Solidarity Grant Program. This shall not be construed as rescinding approval unless the amount remaining for the Solidarity Grant Program is smaller than the minimum disbursal size or zero.
Furthermore, the Solidarity Grant Program shall be considered to be frozen if the oversight committee has fewer than three people approved on it.
Finally, any circumstance in which the union is financially or legally unable to continue the Solidarity Grant Program shall result in the immediate rescinding of approval.
The application shall be prepared by the members of the Oversight Committee. The application shall ask the following questions:
- Contact Information
- Graduate Employees Union membership
- Amount of money being requested
- Reason for needing the money, i.e. hardship being faced
- Timeframe in which the money is needed
- Has the applicant applied for the Solidarity Grant before?
- If so, was the application approved? What was it for?
Further questions may be added and approved in this document at the decision of the General Membership, Stewards Council, Executive Board, or Oversight Committee. No questions not directly related to the purpose of the Solidarity Grant Program shall be asked, nor may any questions be used to disqualify applicants based on any protected status in the GEU constitution.
The application shall be sent out to all current members of the Graduate Employees Union via email, as well as be posted on the website and on social media. Stewards shall be encouraged to talk to their departments about the program. The application may further be sent out to nonmembers, on the understanding that membership is a prerequisite for consideration.
The Oversight Committee shall meet at least monthly to review all applications received within five days of the end of the month.
The application shall provide an estimate, if possible, of when selections shall be performed.
The application need not be closed before the selection phase, so long as funding and approval remain, but must be closed when there are either no approved funds meeting a minimum grant size or support is withdrawn by the Graduate Employees Union.
The selection of applicants for the awarding of grants shall have the goal of providing for the greatest good for the greatest number, while being cognizant of concerns of social justice.
Furthermore, the committee shall endeavor to be as unbiased as possible, and shall not reject any applicant based on race, creed, religious affiliation, color, ethnicity, national origin, gender identity and expression, sex, sexual orientation, physical and/or mental disability, or political affiliation or other characteristics subject to discrimination.
The criteria whereby applicants will be selected shall be:
- Membership- Membership in the Graduate Employees Union is a prerequisite and is required for consideration. Nonmembers shall be immediately rejected.
- For the purposes of this policy, membership as a Teaching Assistant is considered as signing a yellow card, being current on dues and otherwise remaining in good standing with the union. Membership as an Associate Member is considered as being current on associate membership dues for at least one month prior to applying, and a willingness to sign a yellow card before disbursement, and otherwise remaining in good standing with the union. Exceptions to the requirement for the yellow card and timeliness of dues may be applied on a case by case basis.
- Criticality of need- The severity of the problems faced due to the hardship
- Ability to help- The potential that a Solidarity Grant will significantly help the member
- Unpredictability- Hardship caused by unforeseeable circumstances or circumstances outside of one’s control shall receive higher priority
- Funds required- The total amount of money needed to have an impact shall be considered in the determination of which grants to give, so as to maximize the number of people significantly affected. This shall not mean that large single grants will not be awarded, but that such grants must address hardship significant enough to warrant a large outlay instead of many smaller grants.
The selection process shall be performed by the overseeing committee as follows:
The applications submitted shall be prepared for consideration by one individual chosen by the committee, preferably a member of the executive board or staff. This individual shall remove all information which could be used to identify the individual from the application, but shall label the applications so that they may be connected back to identifying information after the selection is complete. If on the committee, this individual shall not be allowed to vote on the granting of funds to any individual whom that person has seen their identity.
The members of the committee shall meet and review the identity-removed applications. In the first round, applications may be rejected or moved to the second round based on the above criteria. All votes to reject shall be by unanimous consent of the committee. All other applications shall proceed to the second round. The purpose of this round is to remove applications which fail to meet major requirements.
After all applications have been processed in round one, round two shall begin. In this round, applications may either be rejected, approved, or tabled for further consideration. Each action shall require unanimous consent of the committee. These are defined as followed:
An application may be rejected, in which case it is removed from future and present consideration.
An application may be approved, in which case the funds which will be disbursed are considered frozen and the committee shall proceed as though it has only the total budget minus the disbursed amount.
An application may be tabled, in which case it shall be taken out of consideration during this selection phase, but shall be considered again in the next selection phase. Any application not receiving a unanimous vote on being rejected, approved or tabled by the end of the phase shall be considered tabled.
The Disbursal phase shall begin after selection. The person assigned to prepare the documents in the selection phase shall, if available, find the applications with identifying information. In case this person is not available, another person may be appointed to do so All applicants rejected by the Oversight Committee will be informed that their application was removed from consideration due to limited funds and the many hardships of graduate students.
The applicant shall then be contacted via the contact information provided in the application. The committee shall be charged with contacting the applicant in a way that best preserves the applicant’s privacy. In case no contact is made after two weeks, the application shall be considered tabled, and the money appropriated shall be considered to return to the Solidarity Grant Program funds.
Once the applicant has been contacted, documentation of the hardship shall be requested where applicable, e.g. a quote for car repairs or a medical bill. The committee shall then decide if the given documentation is sufficient or if more is needed, and may then either approve the disbursal of funds, ask for further documentation, or reject the application. Approval or rejection shall require unanimous consent of the committee. In cases where unanimity cannot be reached, further documentation shall be requested. If rejected, the process proceeds as above.
In order to remain compliant with IRS requirements, a W-9/W-8 form shall be sent to the recipient of funds, which must be completed and returned prior to disbursement.
An Associate Member in addition must have a yellow card on file with the union prior to disbursement.
At this point, the applicant shall either be mailed a check written by the Graduate Employees Union, or shall be instructed to pick up the check at the Graduate Employees Union office at the discretion of the applicant and the committee.
Records of all solidarity grants will be stored with the Graduate Employees Union’s financial information.
The private nature of the information shared by applicants to the Solidarity Grant Program requires that standards of confidentiality be kept. This shall mean that all paper applications shall be stored in a locked container and all electronic versions shall be password protected. All efforts will be made to minimize the number of people who know the identifying features of any applicant, including name, email, msu id, etc. However, as financial information is public, the recipients of grants shall in principle be public information, although will not be publicized. Furthermore, this information shall not include any rationale for the disbursal except that it was through the Solidarity Grant program. The Graduate Employees Union and its representatives, i.e. the president, committee members, etc. shall not under any circumstances not proscribed by law share private information from the Solidarity Grant Program with anyone outside the Program.
Conflict of interest
In any case where a member of the committee believes themselves to have a conflict of interest, i.e. they may know the individual, the member shall recuse themselves from any decisions involving that application. If this should drop the number of individuals able to vote on the committee below three, the Oversight Committee may appoint a replacement for those votes from the Executive Board or Stewards Council.