GEO protest interrupts Chancellor’s State of the University address

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Lika Lezhava

Graduate Employees Organization members protest outside the Illini Union after they interrupted Chancellor’s State of the University address on Thursday.

By Lika Lezhava, Staff Writer

Chancellor Jones’ State of the University address was held in the Illini Union on Thursday at noon.

As Jones was introduced to the stage, a group of Graduate Employees Organization members stood from their seats, raising signs and chanting, “What’s the state of U of I? Stealing checks from you and I!” and “Contract now!”

“We’re here again, showing our strength, showing that we’re not gonna take this,” said Juan Vanegas, graduate student studying psychology and GEO member.

After a few minutes of chanting, the group was asked to leave. GEO then continued their protest outside the Union. 

“We attended the State of the University — the chancellor’s address to share our concerns, to share our demands, for a fair contract, and they immediately shut us down and had us leave,” said Megan Mericle, graduate student studying Writing Studies and GEO communications co-chair.

According to a press release they sent out after the protest, GEO “is currently negotiating a comprehensive contract that will affect 3,000 workers.” 

“The University has continued to tell us that we need to focus on economic items, that we can’t be focusing on access to child care, or issues of equity,” Mericle said. 

Additionally, GEO will have its 16th bargaining session with the University on Friday. 

“We’re still coming to the bargaining table — we’re still making movement on our side,” Mericle said. “We’re just waiting for the administration to come and make movement on their side to show that they’re listening to our concerns and that they really accounted for all the issues in our contract.”

Mericle also said that GEO believes graduate employees shouldn’t have to “pay for their work,” referring to some graduate employees getting pay deductions. 

“We’re really hopeful, and I think through our power and through our combined efforts, we’ll see movement,” Mericle said.

 

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