Graduate student teaching fellows at the University of Oregon have published a letter expressing their intent to strike, starting on December 2nd, over the university administration’s unwillingness to offer the graduate teaching fellows (GTFs) two weeks of paid leave for illness or childbirth. The conflict between the negotiating parties has been exacerbated by the leak of the administration’s plans to break the strike by asking that the courses of striking GTFs be covered by tenured and tenure-track faculty (who may not “unreasonably refuse the request”) and adjunct faculty (who may be assigned work even if they “refused to accept it”), along with its attempts to prohibit the student organization from making use of campus-wide email lists.
A philosophy graduate student who wishes to remain anonymous writes that the administration has engaged in “a campaign of half-truths and outright mendacity,” adding that efforts to acquire the benefits have received support from faculty and staff at the University of Oregon as well as the AAUP. Yet outside help is still needed, says the student, who asks for “Any help you could give us”:
At the risk of mounting an appeal to pity, we are a small, member-run unit (1489 members), up against an admin with a $65M surplus and a battery of lawyers, and we lack the resources to fight the admin on their own ground…. at the moment the administration is threatening the loss of tuition waivers & insurance benefits.
Interested readers should see Corey Robin’s thorough account of the dispute at Crooked Timber, including the names and email addresses of who to contact at University of Oregon. There is a petition here.
UPDATE (12/3/14): “Hundreds of graduate student instructors at the University of Oregon exchanged teaching for picketing Tuesday as part of a strike over stalled negotiations on health benefits. The teaching assistants walked off the job during the last week of regular classes, just before final exams start next week and term papers are due.” Story here.