UMich agrees to support 'unarmed, non-police emergency response program' per union demands

The University said it would be informed by the city of Ann Arbor's recent resolution for an unarmed response program.

The agreement was part of contract negotiations between the University of Michigan and the Graduate Employees Organization.

The University of Michigan (UMich) agreed to support an unarmed non-police emergency response program based on demands from its graduate employee union. 

The agreement is part of an agreement between UMich and the Graduate Employees Organization (GEO) to end a strike. According to a press release from the organization, obtained by All About Ann Arbor, the program will likely be the first of its type at a higher education institution.

UMich President Santa Ono agreed to make an official statement to support an “unarmed, non-police emergency response program available to members of the U-M community,” university spokesman Rick Fitzgerald told Campus Reform

[RELATED: University of Oregon begins disarming police]

An email sent by the university to GEO President Jared Eno revealed that Ono would support an unarmed program “informed by what the City of Ann Arbor is putting into place,”  The city of Ann Arbor enacted a resolution for an unarmed response program on June 20.

Several Southeast Michigan organizations sent a letter to UMich in support of the decision, with demands for implementing the new emergency response program. “Community members who live, work, learn, and play on campus deserve access to an option for calling for support in times of conflict, crisis, and concern for wellbeing without involving armed officers who are trained for law enforcement rather than providing care,”  the groups wrote. 

The letter demanded that the new program be independent of law enforcement; have “a decision-making body made up of directly impacted community members” be “fully and sustainably funded” and be “based on foundational values of consent and self-determination.”

On March 29, GEO went on strike demanding the university for “a living wage and safety and dignity in the workplace.” After nearly five months, UMich presented its “last, best, and final offer” to which GEO authorized its bargaining team to arrive at a tentative agreement with the university, a press release read

Other planks of the university’s final offer include a 20% salary increase over the next three years for Ann Arbor campus employees, paid leave up to 12 weeks for employees who are “birthing parents,” expanded gender-affirming benefits, and decreased annual out-of-pocket maximums on mental health and physical therapy co-pays. 

The offer also forms a three-year pilot program, providing up to one semester of funding for an employee to transfer out of an “unhealthy working relationship” including those that are “abusive, discriminatory, and/or harassing.” 

In July 2022, the Michigan Court of Appeals upheld a lower court decision that forbids firearms on the University of Michigan’s campus based on it being a “sensitive place,” Campus Reform reported.

[RELATED: U Washington will reduce armed police presence by 20 percent, hire unarmed safety officers]

In 2020, GEO extended its strike after demands to cut campus police funds by 50%, and end ties with Ann Arbor police and ICE weren’t met. As a result, UMich issued a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction to stop the strike, Campus Reform reported.

Campus Reform has reached out to UMich and the Graduate Employees Organization for comment. This article will be updated accordingly.