The Daily Illini

Undergraduates affected by possible GEO Strike

Students+walk+down+the+stairs+in+Lincoln+Hall+on+Tuesday.+
Students walk down the stairs in Lincoln Hall on Tuesday.

Students walk down the stairs in Lincoln Hall on Tuesday.

Angela Kerndl

Angela Kerndl

Students walk down the stairs in Lincoln Hall on Tuesday.

By Samantha Boyle, Staff Writer

Undergraduate students may be affected by the potential Graduate Employee Organization strike as classes are cancelled or relocated.

Discussion classes taught by teaching or graduate assistants involved in the GEO have the possibility to be canceled starting Feb. 26. Classes held in buildings surrounded by picket lines may be cancelled or rescheduled to a different building, depending on the instructor, Jessica Greenberg, director of undergraduate studies, said at a GEO meeting Feb. 9.

Bruce Kovanen, grievance officer for GEO, said teaching assistants will also not be grading assignments, answering emails or holding office hours while they are on strike.

“Every undergraduate is taught by a TA at some point during their time at UIUC, so they are acutely aware of how much our labor contributes to their education,” he said.

Teresa Greppi, a Ph.D. candidate in Spanish Literature and Culture and a TA who will participate in the strike, said she hopes undergraduates consider their own personal values and how they may or may not align with the GEO or the administration.

“I hope that if (undergraduates) hadn’t already been considering it, that they understand how vital graduate labor is to their experience at U of I and more fully question exactly how their tuition money is spent,” Greppi said.

Kovanen said some undergraduate students have been supportive of the GEO and the strike. If a contract is reached before Feb. 26, the strike will be called off; however, if not, it will last until an agreement is reached between the the GEO and the administration.

University spokeswoman Robin Kaler said the administration is continuing to bargain “in good faith” and is hopeful an agreement will be reached before the strike.

“At a university of this size, we are always preparing for possible disruptions, but we remain hopeful that we can continue working through the mediation process to achieve an agreement and avoid a work stoppage,” she said.

Greppi said undergraduate involvement is valuable because it would help sustain the GEO’s morale as well as show solidarity to their cause.

“I will support (the GEO) because it is their right to strike,” Samantha St. Leger, freshman in Media, said.

However, St. Leger also said that students may face more pressure if classes are going to continue to get cancelled, and deadlines may be harder to meet.

“I am sure many TA’s will accommodate that and understand,” she said. “It could result in some courses being lightened and work being taken down, it probably just depends on the teacher.”

A GEO meeting Feb. 9 allowed undergraduates to have their questions answered about how they may be affected or what they could do if they want to be involved with the strike. Some questions brought up by undergraduates included why the administration will not reach a fair contract and how undergraduates can join the picket line.

Greppi said she sees the fight for graduate employees as a fight for quality undergraduate education as well.

“We are striking to ensure better working conditions because our working conditions are undergraduate learning conditions,” Kovanen said.

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