First off–to the faculty, undergraduates, and 130 graduate students (more than 30% of the members at Santa Cruz) who came to bargaining: thank you so much for showing your support and solidarity. It really feels like the campaign is escalating nicely and solidifying around quality and access issues.
We negotiated over our 3 central issues in the two days at Santa Cruz (Quality of Education: Class Size and Compensation; Student-Family Support; and Non-Discrimination in Access to the Workplace). We included some of the more poignant student testimonials below in italics. You can also read on to find out how to get more involved and details of bargaining proposals so far.
BTW: Melissa Etheridge retweeted the song we sang to try and get management to face 100+ of us at one point in bargaining; they were hiding up on the fourth floor, so we sang “Come To My Window.”
The next bargaining session will be November 5th at Berkeley. We will discuss connections between declining graduate support and declining quality of and access to education. You are all invited, at 10am to 2070 Allston Way, Suite 205. RSVP to attend bargaining in Berkeley here.
Quality of Education Issues
According to the Academic Senate Report our support lags behind our competitors by between $2,697 and $4,978/ year. Because of this, 2010 was the first year that more than 50% of those accepted into UC graduate programs went elsewhere, where they could find better funding. This means a reduction in quality for graduate and undergraduate education in the UCs. We proposed that we negotiate over how to close the gap between our institution and our competitor institutions. In our next session at Berkeley we will be digging deeper into the specific data that makes for this gap.
Management’s initial response was to suggest they might be fine with plotting ourselves at 10% below the public sector universities in the study–which would likely be news to the Academic Senate and a UC that takes pride in our status as one of the top universities in the world, as we students do. Management’s latest proposal was a 2% raise for each of the next three years, which would likely have us falling farther behind our competitors.
Living off a TA salary is nearly impossible in Santa Cruz, unless you live like I did, without electricity and water in the woods… Because of not being able to make ends meet, I’ve taken leaves of absence to reduce cost of living and get employment elsewhere. I am not on normative time as a result. I would have liked to have finished, but I had to look for work elsewhere. Also, the leaves of absence and not being on normative time and debt burdens makes it hard to perform as a grad student and instructor, so the quality of education suffers because of the lack of compensation.
A list of things TAs reported doing to make ends meet: debt, multiple credit cards, payday loans, debts for glasses or car repair, summer loans for conferences, 40,000 dollars of credit, stealing from supermarkets, from Whole Foods, from clothing stores, stealing meals from college dining halls, service work, bartending, taxi driver, winery, waitressing, tutoring, babysitting, dogwalking, working in a sex toy store, RA, statistical consulting, administrative work, copy editing, thriftiness that risks health, dumpstering, recycling, used books, no books, library books, group Costco memberships, only eating ramen or burritos for months, literally going hungry, illegal drug economy, partner’s money, family wealth, avoiding crucial medical procedures, keeping score for university basketball games, selling things one would have rather have kept, selling family jewelry, selling furniture, flea market sales, selling precious books and other family heirlooms, substandard and illegal housing, such as living in a walk-in pantry or garage. Sleeping in an office or lab for months, working a job as live-in caregiver, renting out room on air b and b.
With class sizes increasing, and students encountering three-hundred person classes with one TA, we proposed an article giving TAs a voice in determining class sizes at the department level. We have not yet heard a response.
One of the classes I TAed for last year had 430 students; there were 3 TAs. Because there was such a high number of students compared to the TAs, we didn’t really give them any assignments. Assignments are ways of fishing out the problems before the exams, but because we didn’t have the time to, lots of the students failed. And also because the class was so large in a class with few proctors, a lot the students cheated and then failed the exams. Now I’m one of three TAs in a class of 350 people, so the situation is getting a little better…. However, when students turn in papers, I have three minutes to find the key words.… I’m going to give them my all but I am only one person.
The response to budget cuts has been to double our workload and increase class sizes…. Undergraduates are not even learning basic stuff. There is a complete disconnect between what they should be learning, and just regurgitating useless info. This is doing particular violence to art. I was forced into a position where I was gonna fail about 30% of my students.… There is no reason for this institution to exist if it is not doing what is meant to do: teach.
In Physics, I am the only TA for a 100 student class. It is really hard to give any real 1 to 1 attention.
From an undergraduate: The first year I had a TA and did well.… My classes have gotten bigger and bigger and now our classes are taught in two rooms with no TA. I don’t know what we’re supposed to get out of that…. I’m living in a degree mill.
Childcare and Leaves
We continued to push for the childcare subsidy to include children over the age of 6 and for leaves to be workable for folks having children in the middle of a semester or quarter.
There was no subsidy for my children when they started kindergarten. The price for care was half of my take-home pay as a TA: $850, which is cheap for Santa Cruz. We need to do something to address this. Kindergarteners can’t take care of themselves.
We continued to push for gender-neutral bathrooms at convenient locations throughout all campuses. While nearly all of our proposals involve minimal funding requirements, this is an exceptionally cheap fix with a large payoff in quality of life.
I teach 3 back-to-back sections. I get a 20 minute break. If there is not a gender-neutral bathroom in my building, it can take 10 to 20 minutes to get to the nearest one. With a 20 minute break, that is not enough time to use the restroom and to prepare for my next section. It forces me to have a dereliction of my duties. If I decide to just not use the restroom, I have to wait, 3 hours of not using the restroom. This is a health concern. These are issues of dehydration or urinary tract infections.
The average adult urinates between four and eight times a day and defecates up to twice each day. Still, not all people here have equal access to restrooms. Families with small children, those with disabilities, caretakers of the elderly, and LGBTQ individuals often walk by restrooms thinking “Is it safe to enter?” LGBTQ individuals are especially burdened with harassment and bullying in gender-segregated restrooms. A 2002 San Francisco Human Rights Commission survey found “50 percent of respondents had been harassed or assaulted in a public restroom.”
Read UAW 2865’s report on the current state of the UC, entitled “Towards Mediocrity.”
Sign these petitions in support of specific bargaining demands:
Demand gender-neutral bathrooms.
Details of Bargaining Proposals So Far
Discipline and Dismissal
Key issues of our campaign:
TA / Student ratios
Non-Discrimination in Employment
Eliminate 18 Quarter Rule (12 Semester)
Grievance and Arbitration
Health and Safety
Parking and Transit
Union Access and Rights
Issues that neither side has proposed changes from current contract language:
Defined Contribution Plan
Labor Management Meetings
Management and Academic Rights
Training and Orientation
Workspace and Instructional Support
Description of Duties Form
Summer Session Side letter
Healthcare Committee Side Letter
Other issues on the table:
Employment Files(s) and Evaluations
Panel of Arbitrators