On May 17, 2007, graduate students, who are also teaching assistants at UC Santa Cruz, held a rally and sick-in, along with other employees, to let the University of California know that we are sick of attacks on our health care. Hours after the demonstration at Kerr Hall, Lisa Sloan, Dean of Graduate Studies, announced that next year’s Graduate Student Health Insurance Plan (GSHIP) will maintain the current level of coverage. This victory was achieved in combination with an email campaign to UCSC’s Executive Vice Chancellor (EVC) David Kliger and other efforts backed by UAW Members for Quality Education and Democracy (UAW-QUAD) at UCSC.
Read about the history of cutbacks and increased premiums:
Most graduate students are enrolled in the Graduate Student Health Insurance Plan (GSHIP). According to the contract between the TA’s union (UAW) and the university, 100% of the GSHIP fees are remitted for TAs. The benefits from the union contract are shared by all grad students, who get the same coverage when they buy in to GSHIP.
So what’s the problem? Well, our union contract guarantees that the university will pay the costs of GSHIP, but it doesn’t guarantee anything about what kind of care will be provided under GSHIP. In fact, UAW has no control over the coverage, premiums, or any other aspects of GSHIP. The Graduate Students Association (GSA) also has no control over the coverage, although they discuss proposed benefits packages with the administration. All decisions about the details of GSHIP are made by one man: Executive Vice Chancellor David Kliger.
On June 12, teaching assistants and other members of UAW Local 2865 held a grade-in at the Baytree Plaza at UC Santa Cruz as part of a statewide action to highlight our demand for better protections against excessive workload. The action was successful and turned out over a thousand TAs, readers, and tutors across seven UC campuses. The willingness of Local 2865 to take action around important issues is a vital part of negotiations. In the bargaining session that took place June 18 and 19, progress was made towards adding protections against discrimination on the basis of pregnancy or gender identity.
For context, be sure to read:
Leveraging the Academy: Suggestions for Radical Grad Students and Radicals Considering Grad School
by Chris Dixon and Alexis Shotwell
These features have been exacerbated by the neoliberalization of the university and the increased casualization of its workforce. That is, universities are increasingly run on a profit-making model, and a rapidly growing number of university employees are part-time, sessional workers with few rights. Campus workers — from custodians and dining hall workers to clericals and non-tenure-track faculty — are doing more labor for less pay in more precarious circumstances. Marc Bousquet has beautifully analyzed the place of graduate employee labor in this context. In “The Waste Product of Graduate Education: Toward a Dictatorship of the Flexible,” Bousquet argues that the grad school system isn’t primarily about producing PhDs for an imagined market in tenure track jobs. Rather, it is aimed at extracting teaching labor from not-yet-degreed graduate student employees, who will too often later become part of the casualized adjunct pool.
Crossposted at Indybay.org.