GEO strike on the horizon poorly reflects University

By Lucas Oswald, Columnist

An unexpected danger looms on the horizon for many of us, one that has the potential to greatly hinder the learning of almost every student on campus.

For nearly 200 days, the Graduate Employees’ Organization has worked under an expired contract with University administration. After lengthy negotiations, a fair resolution still eludes both parties and frustration runs rampant among the ranks on each side.

On Monday, the GEO filed an intent to strike notice with the Illinois Education Labor Relations Board, attempting to force the University’s hand in bringing a contract to the table that benefits the hundreds of graduate students at the University.

After a bargaining meeting Tuesday, the University has not only yet to offer a reasonable contract — leaving a full-on strike a distinct possibility — but the administration’s bargaining team also called the police on over 100 GEO members who had assembled outside the meeting place to protest. Such blatant aggression against their own students shows an administration unwilling to cooperate, leaving the GEO little choice but to strike.

A strike would leave nearly every course on campus bereft of its principle educators, as graduate student teaching assistants and lecturers will be forced into action by University hands, thus needing to abandon their classrooms.

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Many courses would stumble to an abrupt halt without their TAs to grade the coursework, answer questions from lectures or tutor pupils who have fallen behind. These graduate students provide the backbone of such courses, and they are the bridge between teacher and student that is necessary for basic academic success.

In many cases, discussion sections and office hours, run by graduate student employees, are where the real learning takes place, where the fog of discrepancy and misinterpretation is cleared and where deeper meaning is assigned to material. Too often, professors find themselves unable to answer every question in a large lecture hall or are ineffective in explaining something every student is able to comprehend.

Confused students must then either turn to their neighbor — who has not for a second lifted his or her eyes from Instagram — for a questionable answer and a shrug of indignation or to use time with TAs to receive a more reliable response. To any good student, the TA becomes an indispensable resource.  

Stripped of their TAs and course aids, many professors may also falter without the guiding hands of the GEO members to lead them in the darkness. Just as the lack of governors would make a president’s reign nigh impossible, the lack of graduate students to oversee professors’ courses will result in a frenzy.

The University has a duty to all of its students to provide for us the best education it possibly can. That is its purpose; that is what we pay hefty sums for it to achieve. With that said, coupled with the obvious disaster that a GEO strike would rain down upon the education of University students, is it not, the responsibility of the University to avoid a GEO strike, at least within the limits of reason?

Why should the administration refuse the GEO’s requests for better pay, for better treatment? Is it not also within the University’s charge to ensure that the provided graduate students do their job well? Few incentives inspire good work better than good, fair compensation.

The University must see that only with content graduate students can it perform its obligation to us, the students, and to our proper education. Thus, this columnist can only conclude that the administration has tightened its purse strings for personal gain, throwing its students to the howling wolves.

Lucas is a sophomore in LAS.

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