Grad Student Teachers Use Union Tactic: Withholding Grades


In an effort to get their employer to bow to their demands, graduate student teachers are holding their students hostage by refusing to issue grades at the University of California Santa Cruz.   Jacob Pierce has the story on   Obviously times are not so good for those students who are not receiving their reward for their honest work and money.

It’s nearly 1pm outside UCSC’s Kerr Hall on Thursday, Jan. 9, and the hour-long rally of at least a couple hundred protesters is louder than ever.

Grad students organized this rally in the quad in front of UCSC’s main administrative building, as part of their strike calling for a “cost of living adjustment,” . . .  Many teacher’s assistants and graduate student instructors went on strike over those demands, and they refused to turn in fall quarter grades, which were due nearly a month ago.

As a loudspeaker is passed around at the rally, speeches cover a range of topics. They include calls for increased protection for undocumented immigrants and support for students who don’t have the money to cover basic needs.

The UCSC administrators’ message for the past month is that they are sympathetic, but they won’t sit down with the coalition of striking students until they turn in their grades.

“There’s a subset of grad students withholding grades, which students worked hard for and deserve to know,” he says. “We told grad students on numerous occasions that we’re ready to support them, and we want them to succeed and afford to live in Santa Cruz. But until grades are turned in, we won’t be able to sit down and talk through what ideas we have in mind for providing them with additional support.”

Hernandez-Jason says that, because the grad students called the action, they should end it, so that everyone can move forward with a productive dialogue. The Santa Cruz Sentinel reported last week that 12,000 grades from last quarter are missing.

Film and digital media grad student Yulia Gilichinskaya, who’s participating in the strike by withholding grades from class she taught this past fall, says the coalition of students will wait for the university to say what its offer is before calling off a strike. “Once the university gives an offer, we will take a vote,” she says.

The stand-off began before the deadline for grades. Going back to November, the tension was palpable in an email chain between the grad student coalition and Interim Campus Provost Lori Kletzer about getting together to negotiate. In their emails, some students signed off using phrases like “with hostility” and “with hatred.”

Now at the start of a brand new winter quarter, education grad student Kylie Kenner told her students that she will be grading all of their work. She added, however, that she won’t submit grades at the end of the quarter if the strike is still ongoing. “I would so hope that this would be resolved before then,” she says.

The grad students generally view themselves in solidarity with other on-campus groups, including skilled craft AFSCME workers, who started picketing at the base of campus this month.