Negotiations between Kansas University and its graduate students - over pay, benefits and conditions - are slow-going and frustrating, the students say.
The process can feel like "rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic," said Kyle Waugh, co-president of the Graduate Teaching Assistants' Coalition. The team is working on a new memorandum of agreement for KU's roughly 900 graduate teaching assistants.
But KU officials disagree with GTAC's concerns and say an agreement could have been reached if students had been more flexible.
"We could have had salary increases for GTAs beginning in the fall," university spokeswoman Lynn Bretz said. She said the coalition declined offers to negotiate over the summer and during winter break.
GTAs are not contracted for employment in the summer or over the winter break and must use that time for other work, said Brian Lindaman, a GTAC member.
"If we were salaried employees throughout the year like the KU administration is, perhaps we could meet," he said.
As it stands, the students' negotiating team is looking ahead at three sessions set for this semester.
It's not enough sessions, they say, to get the job done by the end of this academic year. Katy Martin, a GTAC negotiator, said the group has asked for more dates.
"I'm sure that they are very busy people," she said. "I feel that there must be some way to find more time than that."
Currently GTAs can work up to 10 semesters. But GTAC leaders want the cap removed.
The coalition also wants better representation to help inform new teaching assistants about the conditions and terms of their employment. KU restricts the GTAC's access to its members, Waugh said.
GTAC can't use campus facilities or e-mail for coalition purposes, making it hard for the coalition to inform its members.
The minimum salary for graduate teaching assistants is $10,000, and the coalition wants a raise, as well as improved benefits.
The contract would be the third negotiated between GTAC and the university.
Negotiations for the last contract - which teaching assistants are working with until a new one is hammered out - lasted 22 months.
"We're not trying to make it a posh job at all," Waugh said. "We're just trying to make it a little easier for GTAs. : The heart of this is making KU a better academic institution."
GTAC will have a rally at 12:15 p.m. Tuesday on the Strong Hall lawn.