Photo Credits: CAITLYN SAMPLEY / AGGIE FILE
University’s reaction to COLA strikers unjust, unwarranted
Last week, 54 graduate students at UC Santa Cruz were dismissed from or did not receive their appointment to teaching assistant, graduate student instructor, tutor or reader positions for Spring Quarter due to their involvement with the Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) strike. The Editorial Board condemns the UCSC administration’s decision to dismiss these students. We support the strikers, and we urge others across the UC to show solidarity with those choosing to take a stand for a reasonable standard of living.
Misunderstandings of the justification behind the COLA movement could create rifts between undergraduate and graduate students across UC campuses, so understanding the necessity of the demands is essential for creating a united front to support fellow students. We strongly encourage all graduate students across the UC to consider joining their peers — regardless of whether or not they feel connected to the movement, they should recognize the power of a unified strike.
The COLA movement is rooted in the fundamental need for a liveable income. Many of these students allocate over 50% of their income toward housing, and struggle to afford other basic necessities. Some, especially those living in high rent areas, have experienced this disparity more than others. As their contract dictates, graduate teaching assistant salaries are the same at each campus across the UC system, so even while the cost of living has increased in the areas around some UC campuses, wages do not always adequately account for these increases.
In Davis, where the vacancy rate is infamously and abysmally low, graduate students in the COLA movement at UC Davis decided to withhold grades for Winter Quarter. The fact that a cost of living adjustment is relevant not just for workers at UCSC but also for those at UC Davis underscores the importance of this movement.
Instead of meeting strikers at the bargaining table, the administration has turned to threats and tactics of division to both dilute undergraduate support for graduate students and dismantle the movement itself. In the Notice of Intent to Dismiss sent to the 54 graduate students, UCSC the strikers’ “conduct has harmed graduate students and disrupted University operations.” The graduate students at UCSC, however, have reiterated their intention to cater to students in need of urgent grade submissions. Strikers understand the impact of their actions and have proactively created various resources, including a website featuring an FAQ for undergraduates.
Graduate teaching assistants are an integral part of undergraduate education in the UC system. They teach, host office hours, grade assignments and serve as a sounding board and a resource for undergraduates. It is important to note that, while teaching assistants are still grading exams and assignments, inputting those grades is the only labor that they are withholding.
The UC’s refusal to negotiate with the strikers will ultimately do harm to the institution as a whole. We strongly urge UC administrators to refrain from dismissing additional graduate students involved in the COLA movement and we implore UCSC administrators to reinstate the 54 graduate students who received a notice of dismissal.
Written by: The Editorial Board