In my previous message, I said that my inaugural piece would likely be the last piece for the semester. Apparently I was incorrect: this aptly titled “year in review” will be my last piece prior to the close of the semester, so I ask a brief indulgence.
At the risk of stating the obvious, this year was extremely difficult, not just for GAUnited, but for SIUC as an institution. Between contract freezes, the elimination of GA lines, and the need for “belt tightening” across the University due to the ongoing budget situation, there is no one on this campus that the budget situation has not affected.
Fortunately, your union has been hard at work defending the rights of graduate student workers across the campus through advocating for graduate students to administrators, reminding them that the elimination of graduate student positions is not a solution to the university’s budget woes. And it has worked: the upper administration has heard the message loud and clear.
Specifically GAUnited has been instrumental in pushing the university to repeal its contract freeze, pushing the administration to continue to offer contracts to international GAs, and pressing our new interim chancellor to admit, publicly, that the elimination of GA positions is off the table as a solution to the current budget crisis.
GAU has also made significant headway in several long standing grievances over the course of this year. While specifics of the grievances, naturally, cannot be discussed, you may rest assured that your union is working hard towards a successful resolution that upholds and maintains your rights as graduate student workers.
Finally, GAU continues to work hard in bargaining your new contract, one which will provide expanded protections for all graduate students across the SIU System. Unfortunately, contract negotiations are a slow process, and it is one that is made more difficult by our current budgetary situation.
The above is but the silver lining to the cloud that the current budget situation has cast over our university. While GAU has made progress in defending your rights in this difficult situation, unless we see a resolution in the budget stalemate, GAU and the university itself may be placed in an even more difficult situation than it finds itself right now.
Further, while GAU has been able to advocate for the offering of contracts by the administration, and has been given assurances that the elimination of GA contracts is not the solution to this problem, GAU is unfortunately unable to prevent the university from eliminating the programs that provide some GAs with their employment. This is coupled with the uncertainty surrounding the release of state grant funds to projects and GAs dependent on them.
Thus, while GAU has managed to gain, and hold, some ground during these difficult times, there are still more difficulties ahead of us. And this is why we need you, our members. As we have seen at Mizzou and other campuses across the country, a united front of students can make incredible gains, and a united front of students supported by a union can do even more.
A union’s strength lies in its member body, more so in an active member body, and the more of your voices that we can make heard, the stronger your union will be. All of this is to say that we need the support of you, the members, if we are to succeed in defending your contract, in bargaining a new contract, and securing your rights as graduate student workers well into the next semester.
Without you, a union is nothing.