On April 26, Co-Presidents of the Teaching Assistants’ Association (TAA) attended a meeting with university administrators calling for them to commit to supporting graduate workers and international students at UW-Madison. The meeting was proposed in a letter from Vice Chancellor Heller and Dean Karpus after informing the TAA that our call for fair pay, fee relief, quality policies, and representation in shared governance was being rejected.
During the meeting the Co-Presidents informed the administrators that additional TAA graduate workers wanted to join and opened the door to let the workers in. As they walked in, Dean Karpus tried to push a graduate worker out of the office before leaving the meeting and calling the police. Vice Chancellor Heller and Director Sheehan left when graduate workers started telling stories about their working conditions at the university. The police declared the gathering unlawful and arrested and removed graduate workers who stayed in the room.
University administrators’ actions during the meeting and their responses to graduate workers’ requests for meaningful dialogue are disappointing. Instead of improving our working conditions, they pushed us aside and called the police on us. Instead of responding to our requests, they published a press release full of inaccurate and misleading claims.
We ask the administration to engage in good-faith discussions and adhere to shared governance by not making unilateral decisions about our employment policies. Administrators cannot continue to push around graduate workers, cannot continue to put graduate workers into poverty, cannot continue to discriminate against international students, and cannot continue to put graduate workers at risk by letting them work without any consistent policies.
Our demands are reasonable: Commit to…
- Paying graduate workers a living wage
- Providing full relief from mandatory fees for graduate workers
- Ending the discriminatory international student fee
- Approving clear, consistent and quality policies for graduate workers
- Training administrators on policies for graduate workers
- Creating a standing committee that includes graduate workers for improving our policies
These demands are echoed by resolutions of support from the Faculty Senate, from the Associated Students of Madison, and from the voices of hundreds of graduate workers and allies who attended the peaceful sit-in on April 5. The TAA will press onwards until the university administration takes responsibility for graduate working conditions, and takes meaningful steps to provide fair pay, fee relief, quality policies, and representation in shared governance.