GEO 2015 – 2016 Election: Candidate Statements

GEO Co-Chair

Damola Oduwale

My name is Damola Oduwale a graduate student in Resource Economics. Prior to coming to UMass Amherst in Fall 2013, I have worked in the private sector with an active Worker’s Union. As an undergraduate student, I was a member of the National Association of Nigerian Student (NANS). A robust and active student organization that was at the fore-front of advocating for the reversal of unpopular policies in the Nigerian University systems. I have had the opportunity to work in a team to achieve stated goals, and to work independently to meet expected targets. These experiences have given me the opportunity to contribute to the social capital of the society through my community-based services.

I am stepping forward to serve in the position of Co-Chair of our local union (GEO-UAW 2232). Among my many other vision for our local Union, I hope and promise to:

– Work with the members and other officers to rejuvenate the union with new perspectives and approach to activism for an optimal student employee’s welfare. My training in General Management and Welfare Economics adequately prepares me for this role.

– Work with administration to strengthen the existing relationship of mutual respect and understanding. I will engage administration on issues of wage discrimination and the respect of contractual agreements.

I envision a new approach to student labor activism; I envision a responsive and pro-active union, one that is admired and respected.  I will reach-out to all strata of student population to solicit for more participation and involvement in GEO activities, as a firm believer in the “power of large numbers” for effective advocacy. I will advocate for a more transparent hiring and evaluation process for members, a robust grievances resolution channel, propose a form of assistance and support system for members without assistantship in a given semester. Above all, I will passionately commit to serve our common good.

I humbly request for your vote for the post of GEO Co-Chair so that together we can make our Union great.

Thank you for your vote!



Damola Oduwale


GEO Co-Chair

Avery Fürst


My name is Avery Fürst, and I am a graduate student-worker with a MA in Labor Studies and am currently pursuing a graduate certificate in Social Justice Education. I have been in GEO leadership for the last two years serving on the Organizing Committee and the Bargaining Committee. Prior to my involvement in GEO I was a lead figure in the activist scene on campus fighting for social justice for student-workers through my involvement in the Student Labor Action Project (SLAP) and the Residential Assistant Union (RAU-UAW 2322). In my former role as the co-chair of the Resident Assistant Union within UAW 2322, I was a lead organizer in the campaign that led to a 33% wage increase – over $1 million concession from the university – and movement towards job security for Resident Assistants.


Within GEO I’ve held multiple elected positons including Bargaining Committee co-chief negotiator and GEO’s current Mobilization Coordinator. As Mobilization Coordiantor I have been committed to engaging members in a multitude of ways. I put together a diversity of events ranging from mobilizing the stewards network to the Selma movie night this past spring. I also did outreach for events such as CeCe McDonald’s speech, the GSS-GEO Social earlier this semester, and the Relax-in Day for GEO members during finals. When contract bargaining was in full swing, I worked hard to keep members abreast with bargaining updates and to organize actions like the Halloween rally concerning workload, the February sit-in of Goodell, and the March action at the bargaining table around healthcare.


I am running for GEO Co-Chair to continue being responsive to our members’ needs, to engage with their interests and passions, and to increase member participation in the union. My goal is to strengthening our union by increasing the number of involved GEO members. Member participation, member leadership, and GEO members feeling connected to the union is really important to me. I want to build community within GEO by organizing socials, events, and actions that speak to our members’ interests and concerns. I would like the union to be second home for our members.


My overarching goal is to activate members to act collectively for their own interests and to improve the conditions of our lives as graduate student-workers.


Sincerely and always in solidarity,

Avery A. Fürst



Steering At-Large Candidate

Neelofer Qadir


I am running for the Steering-At-Large position for 2015-16 after serving as an interim member to the Steering Committee during Summer 2015 and a one-year stewardship in the English work unit (2014-15). I’ve been a member of the Union since Fall 2009 and I was active in the discussions within the English department when the Writing Program moved from a 1-1 teaching load to a 2-1 teaching load. I’ve also collaborated with Union leadership and our department/work units’ stewards in my role as co-chair of the English Graduate Organization (2010-12).


During my time as a steward, I worked with several GEO members to organize a campus-wide rally against racism and police brutality. This kind of social justice work, with a particular focus on racial justice, led me to working with the Black Caucus this summer. I worked with the Caucus to develop a proposal for a short-term position as well as a full academic year position for a Caucus Coordinator. Both positions have been funded successfully by the Joint Council of UAW Local 2322.


Serving on the Steering Committee during the summer allowed me to gain knowledge of the Union’s finances, day-to-day workings, and both short and long-term goal setting. I’m energized by the new leadership’s vision for and commitment toward building a stronger social justice union and I am eager to collaborate in that vision and commitment. As a rank-and-file member running for the Steering-At-Large position, I’m dedicated to connecting with fellow members, learning the needs of different work units across campus, and bringing those varied perspectives to the decision making processes of the Steering Committee.


GEO Nominations Close Tomorrow (Wed. Sept 16)!

Dear GEO Members,

Tomorrow (Wednesday, Sept. 16)  is the last day to nominate yourself or someone else to fill an open GEO position. The co-chair position is a 20-hr assistantship–perfect for a colleague who is ready to leverage their passion for supporting grad students into funding for the year! Any of these positions are great resume builders and an excellent way to give back to your grad student community. Please see the original call for nominations below for more info.

In solidarity,
Carly Houston Overfelt
On behalf of the Elections Committee

Dear GEO Members,

Nominations are currently open for a few elected GEO positions, and we
need a full crew going into the new academic year! Please see below
for nomination calls for each position, including information about
each position and the nomination/election process for that position.
Any full member in good standing may nominate themselves or another
member in good standing for any of these positions.

Nominations are now open for:

* 1 GEO Co-chair (20 hr. contract)

* 1 Steering Committee Member At-Large (volunteer position)

* 1 GEO Representative to the UAW 2322 Joint Council (volunteer position)

**GEO Co-chair (1)**

Information about the Co-chair position:

Responsibilities will include but are not limited to: organizing and
overseeing the election of Stewards in departments and/or work sites;
chairing Steering Committee meetings and general
membership meetings and ensuring agendas are set for both; and acting
as primary GEO representatives to the Joint Council of Local 2322 and
therefore attending Joint Council meetings. Except where otherwise
noted, the co-chairs shall be considered to be the official
representatives of GEO to the Administration and in all external
relations; sign agreements between GEO and the University (with
approval of the General Membership and/or Assembly of Stewards); serve
as liaisons for the Steering Committee to the Staff; ensure GEO
representation at Central Labor Council meetings; speak on behalf of
GEO to media, the University, etc., and manage the production of media
and publicity; act as primary liaisons between GEO and other Unions;
oversee publication of GEO newsletter and web page; organizing
Standing Committees; and assist the union in achieving its overall
mission in the workplace.

Nomination process:

Nominate yourself or someone else in writing to the Steering
Committee. You can email this nomination to
Nominations are due September 16th. The election will be held at the
first GEO membership meeting on October 1st.

**Steering Committee At-Large Member (1)**

Information about the Steering Committee:

The Steering Committee shall be responsible for the day-to-day
operation of the unit including, but not limited to: the direction of
the day-to-day operations of the organization; the oversight of the
staff; preparation and submission of all proposals, budgets, budget
requisitions and budget modifications to the Assembly of Stewards for
approval; coordination and oversight of standing committees; the
appropriate maintenance of the health of the organization; management
and execution of the budget; all correspondence and relations between
the leadership, the Assembly of Stewards and the membership; and all
external relations excepting those duties specifically proscribed for
other committees (such as the Bargaining Committee).
The Steering Committee shall meet at least two times a month during
the academic year. The committee shall meet once a month at other
times. Additional meetings can be called as needed by the officers.

Nomination Process:

Nominate yourself or someone else in writing to the Steering
Committee. You can email this nomination to
Nominations are due September 16th. The election will be held at the
first GEO membership meeting on October 1st.

**Joint Council Member (1)**

Information about the Joint Council:

The Joint Council includes proportional representation from the
various shops in our amalgamated union, the UAW 2322. As one of those
shops, GEO elects and sends its own representatives to the Joint
Council meetings, which are held once a month, and rotate between the
UMass campus and the 2322 office in Holyoke.

Nomination Process: Please come to the first GEO membership meeting
this semester on October 1 to nominate yourself, or issue a statement
to be read on your behalf.

If you have any questions regarding the elections or nominations
processes, please do not hesitate to email the Elections Committee at

In Solidarity,

Carly Houston Overfelt,
on behalf of the Elections Committee

Don’t Forget to Enroll in the Student Health Benefit Plan!

Dear GEO members,


For the Fall 2015 semester, the Health Insurance Enrollment Deadline will be the Add/Drop date: September 21, 2015.  All enrollments need to be in by that date. This needs to be done every semester for family plans, and any time the student has less than five credits that semester or if they are on Continuous Enrollment. 

**You must be enrolled in Continuous Enrollment by September 21st or more than 5 credits in order to receive health insurance***

Only students with 5+ credits in a semester are automatically signed up for the SHBP.

Remember: If you are not enrolled for at least 6 credits you must enroll in person at UHS before September 21.

If a student has 5+ credits in the Fall 2015 semester, and they do not want the SHBP, they need to do the online waiver process.  The waiver website opens July 26th and runs through September 21st.  That gives the students about two months to waive the SHBP if they do not wish to have it.  Here are the instructions on how do their waiver:

Go to;

  • Select the Health Waiver page link;
  • Click the Online Waiver Site link; and
  • Complete and submit the waiver form.


Go to;

  • Start by Selecting UMass Amherst from the drop down box;
  • Next click on the “Waiver” tab located in the center of the page;
  • Enter your Student ID and Date of Birth, click “Continue”;
  • Complete all information as directed; and “Submit”;
  • Your request will NOT be completed until you:
    – Check the box confirming that your information is correct;
    – Provide your electronic signature; and
    – Click the Submit button.

If you have any questions and/or concerns please don’t hesitate to reach out to us.


In solidarity,

GEO Leadership and Staff