Graduate Student Council Debates Walkout

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Post Published: 17 September 2009

GPSC debates walkout – a guest reportBrian Mori is a journalism student here at the University of Arizona. A fortuitous meeting after yesterday’s GPSC meeting led to the publication of this straight journalism – y’know, with coherent paragraphs and normal allusions, instead of lolwuts. Enjoy. 

The University of Arizona Graduate and Professional Student Council decided a Dear John to administration was a better response than Defcon 1, after rumors surfaced of more pending cuts to graduate teaching assistant positions and benefits.The council agreed Wednesday at their meeting in the James E. Rogers College of Law, to postpone all other scheduled agenda items so the Executive Board could draft and send a letter to UA President Robert Shelton requesting an immediate discussion on the topic.“The Nuclear Option,” as representatives and execs called a potential graduate student walkout, was proposed in an anonymous email flyer distributed among public graduate level list-servs Wednesday. Though none on the GPSC could identify where the email originated, they believe it echoed the spirit of similar protests underway at the University of California system.“The second meeting of the year should have a clear agenda set of what our priorities are. I’m concerned we’re going to slip through the cracks,” said Blaney. “The (English Graduate Union) is constantly on the verge of strike, from what I can tell.”Not everyone was in agreement about sending the letter. Interdisciplinary studies representative M’Balia Thomas abstained from voting on the issue.“When I’ve had meetings with the President (Shelton), for example, he listens, he nods, he agrees. But . . . he’s not accountable to us,” Talenfeld said.The GPSC chose to enter executive session following the general meeting so that they could discuss the format of the letter outside the presence of the media.Talenfeld confirmed by phone that a letter was sent to Shelton during executive session communicating that the graduate students want immediate assurances in three areas:-Maintain deferment rates for students who teach undergrad courses-The University will seriously re-consider the Graduate Student Bill of Rights.Talenfeld said he would release the letter to all media for review sometime Thursday.“I just want to be clear that I don’t desire a strike or walk out or anything of that nature. I think it would be detrimental to the mission of the University,” GPSC President David Talenfeld said in a phone interview following the session.The anonymous PDF flyer invited graduate teaching assistants to blow off instructing undergraduate classes Friday and join in a demonstration in front of Old Main. A second campus-wide protest was proposed for September 24 th .Though the GPSC has no official ability to organize a strike without unionizing, representatives from College of Humanities Lucy Blaney and November Papaleo from Social and Behavioral Sciences insisted the council take a stance on health benefits, class load requirements, and a student bill of rights.“I’m not going to lose my health insurance because they want to save four or five hundred dollars a month,” said Papaleo. “There are funds out there that are actually being pillaged from our colleges. I feel like we’re dealing with pirates at this point … What happens now is going to affect me in two years when I’m defending my dissertation.”“I think we need to go to them with suggestions, not the threat of walking out, not with just, you know, here’s a little bit of information about what we do and how we impact the students, but something concrete they can go with,” M’Bailia said.Talenfeld said he would not speculate on what action the GPSC will take if the requests are denied but said during the general session he will encourage the administration to take the graduate students seriously, that he could not stop them from walking out if that’s what they decide to do.


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