Category Archives: academia

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

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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.

Campus strike goes into weekend | Local | The Register-Guard | Eugene, Oregon

Campus strike goes into weekend | Local | The Register-Guard | Eugene, Oregon.

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.” (full story)

The Coltrane Problem: The Crisis in Higher Education, Grad Student Issues (and Their Common Solution)

Why are graduate students at the University of Oregon Ready to go on strike? Read this blog post from Plights of Labor… then share it with others. Thanks!

The Plights of Labor

[The author asserts ‘Creative Commons’ copyright of this article—full rights to share or use in part or whole for noncommercial purposes, with attribution]

While the ‘crisis in education’ in America has been a topic of serious discussion for a long time, its relevance has unfortunately never been greater. Tuition rises, administrative bloat amplifies[i], and universities cut corners cheapening education through growing class sizes and reliance on adjuncts and graduate students rather than tenure track professors[ii].

These changes—universally hurting students alongside faculty, adjuncts, and graduate student instructors but benefitting administrators and often athletic departments—form an educational version (which I will call the Coltrane Problem) of effectively the opposite variant of a classic problem in moral philosophy, known as the Trolley Problem.

The Coltrane Problem (whose namesake and inspiration will become clear in time) provides a specification of an aspect of the crisis in education, illustrated contemporaneously…

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Kentucky Tourism

Well, this is my second time visiting family in the Blue Grass State. I have friends in Ohio and Indiana as well, so this journey from the Pacific Northwest allows me to catch up with a lot of people the old fashioned way (face to face!) Sure that may not be as trendy as Facebook , but I prefer face to face interaction. In addition, we don’t text each other while sitting on the couch. We actually talk to each other. I know I know… I am so 1950s.

Anyway, we have seen some of the basic sights in the area, and yes there is more than just Kentucky Basketball! But it is out of season for horse racing, otherwise we may have gone to see a horse race in the horse racing capital of the world. But we did make it to Berea College and toured part of the campus. For those of you who follow my blog regularly, you know that creating a free college is one of the more dynamic goals I have listed on my bucket list. Berea College is a mostly free college. Students do not pay tuition, but they do pay for books, room, and board. It serves over 1500 students, and is a respected college.

In addition to seeing part of the campus, we also visited some of the art shops run by local artisans.

Old Town Artist Village in Berea Kentucky

One of those artists in Berea Kentucky was Jimmy Lou at Hot Flash Beads. We were given a demonstration of how she created these beads. It was a fun experience because not only did we see the beads being made, we were also able to ask questions about the process.

We also stopped in at a weaving shop, and a glass blowing shop.

weston studio glass At Weston Studio Glass, we were able to talk to Michelle Weston. Just like Jimmy Lou, we were given a demonstration of the glass blowing process and were able to ask questions along the way. It was really a fun experience, and the glass art was exceptional. Each one is individually made, making it instantly unique.

 

And then, of course, we included fishing on our trip. My wife and I are unable to catch fish in Oregon. When we went fishing with her dad in Kentucky, we caught two turtles which we threw back, a tree branch which we threw back, three small fish which we threw back. We caught and kept one decent sized crappie, one decent sized catfish, and one large catfish. So, we will not starve 😉

We have had an interesting difficulty with one-day fishing licenses while in Kentucky. When we were here two years ago, Wal-Mart told us that no one in the state sold one day fishing licenses. We went to a bait shop by the lake, and were sold a one-day license. So this time, we went to the bait shop by the lake for our one day fishing license. And guess what? His machine was broken that day. So we went to Meijer, which was able to sell us a one-day fishing license.

Moral? Um… I guess call around the day you want to go fishing in Kentucky to see which store can sell a one-day fishing license.  Regardless, we enjoyed fishing!

Sunrise: Kentucky Fishing
This is the lake we went fishing on.