Tag Archives: education

How Did These Graduate Students Improve Their Working Conditions? They Went on Strike!

(from the Nation, by Michelle Chen) On their campus set amid the idyllic northwestern woodlands, graduate students at the University of Oregon stepped out of their classrooms and onto a historic picket line last week. The union, representing some 1,500 graduate teaching fellows, went on an eight-day strike and emerged Wednesday with a final deal, embattled but triumphant.

The agreement, now set for a final vote, fell somewhat short of their central request for paid family and medical leave. Instead, the university will establish a “hardship fund” to support graduate students who need time off to tend to healthcare needs, including students who are not employees or union members. From a fund of about $150,000 ($50 per graduate student), students will apply for grants “up to $1,000 in the case of serious medical issues and $1,500 in the case of the birth, adoption or foster care placement of a child.” Click here for the: Full story at the Nation, by Michelle Chen

Stranger than Fiction – University of Oregon’s Graduate Students on Strike

Friends… I know you follow this blog for fiction writing, foster care, and or marathon running. Well… sometimes reality provides great inspiration for fiction writing.

The University of Oregon Graduate Teaching Fellows Federation (GTFF) is on strike. They have been on strike since December 2nd. The sticking points in negotiation are two weeks of paid leave.

This is the first graduate student strike in the history of the University of Oregon. What makes it stranger is the bizarre comments made by the administration. Scott Coltrane, interim President at the University of Oregon, has said two-weeks of paid leave is not possible… even though he built his career on advocating for parental leave.

Corey Robin wrote: The GTFF demands are modest. Indeed, Eugene, where the University of Oregon is located, is mandating sick leave benefits for all workers across the city. But because university employees are exempted, the GTFF must bargain for them.

(An irony at the heart of this labor dispute is that the interim university president, Scott Coltrane, is a sociologist whose work is focused on family leave. He has been featured in The Atlantic, on NPR and was even at the White House last June to speak about the importance of parental leave policies. Such are the corporate institutional imperatives of universities today that his administration feels compelled to oppose such policies for graduate employees. )

The strike could end up making a mess of final exams,and final papers. As well as making a mess of campus.

The Daily Emerald reports:

The GTFF strike could result in a quite stinky campus. If an agreement isn’t reached between the Graduate Teaching Fellows Federation and the university, University of Oregon’s garbage will not be collected.

The Teamsters Local #206 union, which includes Sanipac drivers, issued a 72-hour notice that it will not cross the picket lines.

It gets stranger, friends. The University of Oregon is willing to go so far as to compromise the integrity of the grades and diplomas it issues.

In the Register-Guard story, Diane Dietz writes...The United Academics, which represents 1,800 UO faculty, is protesting administration plans to — in some cases — assign final grades in GTF-led classes based on student work turned in up to Dec. 1.

“(The administration) politicized the grading system at the University of Oregon in order to limit the tactical leverage of the GTFF. They compromised the core academic integrity of the grading process in order to win in this labor battle,” said Michael Dreiling, sociology professor and president of the United Academics. “They’re using it, at minimum, as a power play or a point of leverage — to say you can’t win this strike. We’ve got grades covered.”

John Protevi’s blog had a strong statement in an open letter to the University of Oregon (you should definitely read the entire letter):

I urge you to give the graduate students what they’re asking for, cease the morally repugnant behavior, and manifest a little integrity.

Will athletes be academically eligible with the “integrity” of these grades compromised? Will diplomas hold the same value? Give strong consideration to what is happening at the University of Oregon… because this educational crisis is not an isolated incident. If tuition continues to rise for college education, where are these tuition fees going if not to pay the teachers? At least the football stadium looks amazing.

Currently there is a moveon.org petition urging the University of Oregon administration to abandon its stranger than fiction campaign against the graduate teaching fellows. I encourage you to sign it and share it with others.

Crash Course On Socializing At A Scientific Conference Dinner

drishism:

Great tips I hope to use when I attend academic conferences in the future to present my research!

Originally posted on The Thesis Whisperer:

This post is by Julio Peironcely, founder and editor of the Next Scientist blog. Julio is a PhD student in Metabolomics and Metabolite Identification at Leiden University, The Netherlands and has been blogging and using social media for several years, both for fun and for professional purposes.

This post developed out of a conversation on Twitter about the difficulties of socialising at academic conferences, particularly at the dinner.  I was thrilled when Julio sent me this post which is a comprehensive set of advice which anyone, scientist or not, can benefit from. Take it away Julio!

conference dinnerYou didn’t meet anybody new at the last scientific conference.

You paid high registration fees, travelled to the other side of the world, listened to boring talks, nobody came to your poster.

At least you met interesting people at the conference dinner, didn’t you?

Well, it’s kind of hard when you are…

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Warning: Health Risk for College Professors

So, this week a couple of my professors were discussing chronic back pain. They said this was a common ailment faced by academics because of the constant sitting/writing/reading. One of them now has a desk that allows him to stand up all the time because sitting down hurts too much.

I was surprised to learn this, and honestly had not considered physical health risks associated with being an academic. Some of the risks associated with office work seem easily applicable for academics:

1.) Carpal Tunnel – Writing constant articles, books, book chapters, conference presentation reports, emails, etc.

2.) Lower Back Pain – Sitting while writing, reading, and grading.

3.) Bacteria on the Desk – Many professors probably clean their desk, um… never?

4.) Other Joint Problems – Sitting constantly.

5.) Eyestrain – Reading and grading tests, reading student essays/papers, entering grades into a spreadsheet, reading journal articles and books, writing journal articles and book. I actually experienced this my first term in grad school because I had to read between 400 to 600 pages a week for my classes, not including grading.

6.) Stressful Situations – Decreased college funding, students trying to negotiate for a higher grade, low professor salaries for the hours actually worked, trying to get tenure, and larger class sizes (lecturing to 400 or more students), etc.

In addition, many professors (and students working on their dissertations), can have stretches of work weeks where they spend more than 8 hours a day working. Long work days have been linked with heart disease because of the stress and poor diets.

I am training for a marathon, so that helps somewhat. And my next term I only have one class which will free up time to work on my masters paper. But my lunchtime meals could use improvement for health reasons. So, what health risks are associated with your job? Are you even aware of health risks associated with your job?

Obama Won – Now What about Education?

I did not cheer or dance when Barack Obama was announced as the winner last night. I was not overly thrilled with Mitt Romney or Obama.

Colleges still face large tuition fees and students graduating with larger and larger student loans. I feel like this trend is similar to the high gas prices faced across the country. When gas prices started to go up, people thought maybe it was just a phase and that prices were going to come back down. Now… I do not hear anyone talking about gas prices coming back down. Unfortunately, I feel this is the same thing for colleges and college books.

There are some universities offering large online classes for free, but these classes are currently not for credit. I am not sure what that means for the future of education. Will colleges shift to free online degrees? I am not against online courses… but it is much easier to cheat online. That is the only negative thing I can really say about online courses. That, and you know… interacting with people.

I want college tuition rates to come down. I want student loans to become a thing of the past because students no longer need to borrow to attain a college education. However… I have not seen anything from either major political party which positively impacts the education issue. What do you think should be done to control or eliminate college tuition rates? It is really helping poor people to graduate with college loan debt and no job? Is it helping poor people to graduate with college loan debt but get a job that cannot pay off their student loan debt?

I wish the United States had more than two main political parties. I saw parts of me in the Republican Party, and parts of me in the Democratic Party… and parts of me in the Green Party. I want the government to spend less. I want better environmental controls for factories. I want less jobs being sent overseas. And I want better education for grades kindergarten through college.

We need change we can believe in… not smoke and mirrors that promise a new direction yet stays on the same path.