From the GEO press release:
The strike committee of the Graduate Employees’ Organization (GEO), American Federation of Teachers/Illinois Federation of Teachers Local 6300, AFL-CIO, The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC), has authorized a strike against the Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois to begin at 8am on Monday morning. After six hours of negotiation on Saturday afternoon, the GEO and administration bargaining teams managed to reach mutually agreeable terms on all aspects of the GEO contract except tuition waiver security. The administration’s refusal to guarantee the continuation of its current tuition waiver practice not only means that the majority of graduate employees could be forced to pay thousands of dollars in additional tuition charges, but also indicates its plans to implement such a change. By making graduate education untenable for all but the most affluent students, the administration is abandoning its responsibility to ensure access to the highest level of public education for all. This is contrary to the University of Illinois’ mission as a public land grant institution. By calling a strike, the Graduate Employees’ Organization is holding the University of Illinois administration accountable to its stated commitment to excellent and accessible higher education.The arrogance and contempt in the University’s refusal to guarantee tuition waivers might not be immediately evident to a reader outside academia. Briefly: a graduate assistantship typically provides a tuition waiver and a modest (or very modest) salary. To refuse to guarantee tuition waivers is to threaten that graduate employees may have to underwrite their studies with their salaries (and with their savings, and with loans, loans, loans). That refusal thus threatens to remove the very possibility of graduate study, as the GEO says, “for all but the most affluent students.”
The University’s latest effort in brinksmanship and intimidation follows months of stalling in negotiating a contract. (The stall is a favored administrative strategy at other schools too.) The GEO is fighting the good fight in its effort to make the University of Illinois treat its graduate employees with dignity and pay them a living wage. I hope the GEO wins.
[Update, November 17, 2009: GEO FTW!]