UCSB COLA Strikers Share Insights Under Storke Tower

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Photo by Graeme Jackson

Edward Colmenares
Isla Vista Beat Reporter

As the Cost-of-Living Adjustment (COLA) strike carries on under Storke Tower after beginning Feb. 27, some UC Santa Barbara (UCSB) undergraduates are agitated over consequences they may face if a compromise between graduate students and administration is not quickly met.

The strike began at UC Santa Cruz, according to the COLA website FAQ sheet, in response to the UC system’s continued “apathy” towards providing livable wages for graduate students working as teaching assistants.

Taking a direct approach, teaching assistants have cancelled sections and stopped grading altogether to actively protest in their effort to be valued as integral members of the UC system deserving of higher, livable wages. 

But with less than three weeks left in the quarter and no sign of strikes ending soon, UCSB students are anxiously questioning if their academic or financial status, among other things, will suffer as a result of the strikes.

The Bottom Line attended the first day of the protest to gain first-hand insight on the doubts and hopes of teaching assistants, UCSB faculty, and undergraduates alike.

Teaching Assistants (T.A.s)

Although many teaching assistants are abstaining from general grading, they are not disregarding undergraduates, especially those who require special assistance.

“We’re doing anything to sort of support students at risk, especially people who need their grades to keep their academic standing, so for all of those, exceptions are in place so we are really doing anything to not let this affect adversely our students,” said Nicholas, teaching assistant in the physics department.

“I’ve personally decided to keep teaching while withholding grades, so I’m trying to impact my undergrads that I teach as little as possible … they’ve had classes cancelled because the T.A.s have refused to show up or assignments have been essentially clustered together because the T.A.s aren’t grading them,” said Joshua, teaching assistant in the chemistry department.

“Ultimately, as graduate students, we don’t want to impact our undergraduates but we also have to send a message to the university … Also, it depends how long the strike goes on because if it lasts the end of the quarter, it’s possible UCSB grad students won’t be submitting grades,” said Caroline, graduate researcher in molecular, cellular, and development biology.

Faculty

Many professors and faculty are working in solidarity with both striking graduate students and undergraduates. However, not all faculty may be prioritizing these interests.

“We have an academic responsibility to our undergrads, but we also want to be in solidarity with graduate students … What that looks like, we don’t know yet, but we are committed to making sure that undergraduates’ education is not compromised because of the strike,” said assistant professor Charmaine Chua, department of global studies.

“Every faculty member is going to make arrangements. Especially thinking about critical cases, people who need to graduate, so that they are not impacted by this,” said associate professor Juan Pablo Lupi, department of Spanish and Portuguese.

“There is conspicuous absence, as far as I can tell, of faculty from the natural sciences,” said professor Wolf Kittler, German and comparative literature departments.

Undergraduates

While undergraduate students worry about their classes, many are still in support of the strikes. 

“I’m currently on academic probation. My T.A.s informed us that they’ll be withholding grades which could affect GPAs for students like me in my position … I completely agree with the movement. I don’t think the ownness has to be on the T.A. to produce that grade if they’re not getting paid,” said Esteban, third-year undergraduate student.

“I get financial aid, so if I don’t get my grades … I don’t get to go to college anymore. I kinda need them to release stuff. That’s why I’m here to support them,” said Miguel, third-year undergraduate student.

“[T.A.s have] been really informative towards us … ‘If you need your grades let us know in case of financial aid or graduation’ … They’re here to help us, and they don’t want to harm us in any way,” said Rebecca, second-year undergraduate student.

As the protest progresses and more classes are cancelled, The Bottom Line will bring the student community regular updates on how the strike is affecting both the undergraduate and graduate students here at UCSB.

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Edward James Colmenares is a second year Sociology and Spanish double major pursuing a career in either news journalism or plumbing. In his free time he likes to skate, journal, and meditate.