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Editorial | What you need to know about the GEO protest

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Editorial | What you need to know about the GEO protest

Co-President of the GEO Gus Wood speaks in front of Illinois grad students during the GEO rally on Sunday.

Co-President of the GEO Gus Wood speaks in front of Illinois grad students during the GEO rally on Sunday.

Ethan Scholl

Co-President of the GEO Gus Wood speaks in front of Illinois grad students during the GEO rally on Sunday.

Ethan Scholl

Ethan Scholl

Co-President of the GEO Gus Wood speaks in front of Illinois grad students during the GEO rally on Sunday.

The Graduate Employees’ Organization began striking today, 196 days after its contract ended. The Daily Illini is not taking a stance on the issue because the editorial board is primarily undergraduates who are not directly involved in the ongoing negotiations. Undergraduate students on campus should not be expected to support or to disavow the strike; however, they should be informed on their rights and what to expect within the coming weeks.

Here’s what you need to know before you’re called out for unknowingly crossing a picket line.

The latest

The strike began at 8 a.m. Monday on the Main Quad and is expected to go until 5 p.m. each day until a contract is reached.

Buildings surrounding the Main Quad, including the English Building and Gregory Hall, are all subject to be picketed.

The background

University officials and GEO members began negotiations for a new contract almost a year ago on March 30.

Despite multiple bargaining sessions, the GEO went to work Aug. 15 without a contract. Since then, the organization has held events throughout the year to promote its cause, including a sit-in protest in October and a tutor-in held in December.

The GEO filed an intent to strike Jan. 29, giving the group legal permission to strike.

There have been 26 bargaining sessions between the GEO and the administration, with the most recent session on Sunday.

Your rights

It is up to your instructor to inform you if class is canceled, relocated or continuing as usual. The University’s policy is to continue as normal through a strike.

“As a student, you have a right to attend the classes for which you pay tuition. Picketers have the right to talk to you as you enter or leave, but they cannot interfere with your passage,” said Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and Provost Andreas C. Cangellaris in a Massmail to undergraduate students Sunday night.

It is legal for strikers to peacefully picket academic buildings, as long as they do not disturb classes or block entrances. Any attempt by a protester to intimidate, threaten or coerce students is not permitted, including verbal remarks and physical harassment.

If you approach a picket line, the strikers may calmly inform you of what’s going on. A picket line is a show of solidarity, but it can put students in an uncomfortable position.

Crossing a picket line indicates to the strikers that you don’t support their cause.

However, students don’t have control over where their classes are scheduled, and not all professors cancel class in picketed buildings. This forces students to choose between siding with the picketers or getting the education they’ve paid for.

Questions regarding classes taught by teaching assistants should be taken up with the department head, who governs course grading and protocol during a strike.

Full details regarding strike protocol and negotiations can be found University’s Human Resource webpage. More information about the GEO can be found on its website.

The Editorial will be updated as the campus strike continues.

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