Budget Disaster

Good Afternoon

In light of the ongoing budget disaster, and in response to the March 29th System Connection from President Dunn, Chancellor Colwell has released a statement detailing the possible budget cuts that SIUC will have to take in order to meet the target goal of $30 million in reductions recommended by President Dunn. GAU has obtained additional information indicating that the $30 million number has been derived from an additional $11 million in reductions on top of the already planned for $19 million in reductions this year.

First, allow me to be clear: there are no plans for any GAs to be laid off. Our contract does not include a clause authorizing furlough days or layoffs. While some departments may attempt to save money via the non-renewal of GAs, departments cannot lay off GAs who have contracts due to financial need. Further, GAU interprets Chancellor Colwell’s statement concerning the sweeping of funds, that “it will not include graduate assistantships that are currently filled, even if they will be filled by a different student next year,” to mean that there will be no reduction in the graduate student funding for next year, though there may be a reduction in available positions. We are communicating with the Chancellor to confirm this.

Second, Chancellor Colwell’s message states, “we must reduce academic administrative costs through college or department mergers or other means.” While the Chancellor states later that his message does “not address the elimination of academic programs, since savings from program elimination will be generated more slowly,” the possibility of mergers may impact assistantships going forwards. GAU is currently monitoring this situation and the potential effects it will have on our assistantships: when we have any information concerning this matter, we will inform the membership.

That being said, what can we do?

As members, you can reach out to your colleagues in and around your departments and provide them with the information above. You can also attend the Board of Trustees Meeting this Thursday, April 6th, at 10am in Ballroom B of the Student Center. The agenda for the meeting is available here. You can also attend the town hall meeting with our local representatives this Saturday. You can also attend the meeting of the Graduate and Professional Student Council this Tuesday at 7:15, in Activity room A and B of the Student Center, where this will be an item of discussion. Finally, you can also attend the administration’s information session, April 13th at 3pm in the Illinois room of the student center.

More crucially, you can encourage your colleagues to join the Union. I know this has been something that we have asked of you before, however, never before has the Union needed your support as much as it does now. Without membership, many of the things that the Union does for you, and all graduate assistants on this campus, would be impossible. Without membership, we would be effectively crippled in our attempts to defend you all against the budget situation.

As a Union, GAU will be reaching out to Chancellor Colwell and President Dunn to gather as much information as possible in order to keep all of you updated. Further, we are in the process of scheduling meetings with Chancellor Colwell to ensure that any plan of financial action is in complete accord with his responsibilities under our contract. We are also going to be coordinating with the other Union bodies for a concerted defense of all of our rights as members of the SIU community.

In Solidarity,

Johnathan Flowers

President, Graduate Assistants United


On Love – Unrequited, Political and Otherwise … Encore: Leonard Cohen and Elizabeth Gurley Flynn Dance to the Rhythm of Abolition Democracy

The GAU website and newsletter platform provide individuals the opportunity to engage in incisive argument, advocacy, deliberation and dialogue regarding a wide array of topics potentially of interest to readers. The views expressed in this essay do not necessarily reflect the views of Graduate Assistants United. Some of the perspectives and analyses featured in the following article almost certainly do not reflect all the diverse views of the many Graduate Assistants who are represented by the union at SIUC, nor do the opinions and anecdotes advanced below represent the positions of any other members of GAUnited.

By James Anderson

Since the last time I penned another piece in my ongoing series of Valentine’s Day confessionals, Canadian singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen died.

Cohen, posthumously deemed the “poet laureate of the lack,” was 82. An accomplished poet and novelist at an early age, he did not start seriously performing music until his early 30s. Entering the music scene with a maturity and lyrical sophistication few ever develop, he was renowned for seamlessly fusing allusions to the divine with innuendos apropos of sexual euphoria in his lyrics.

Perhaps his most famous song, “Hallelujah,” illustrates that theme. “I remember when I moved in you,” he sings in a version of the song performed live in London, “and the holy dove, she was moving too / And every single breath that we drew was Hallelujah.” The song moves rhythmically back and forth between spiritual intimations and insinuations of ecstatic intercourse. The song evokes the procession of prayer while simultaneously progressing toward climax and release, reflecting the sexual experience. However, “Hallelujah,” is also about the glory of romantic intimacy even when it exists only as memory, long after the rhythms of two bodies moving together has fallen off beat – or, as with some of us, when the ecstatic awkwardness has returned to a solo and (quite literally) single-handed affair aided only by the painful memory of previous bodily interactions.

It is that embodied, sensuous and super-sexual, yet simultaneously transcendent, power of love –unrequited, political and otherwise – Cohen’s lyrics alert us to.

“There’s a crack, a crack in everything; that’s how the light gets in,” Cohen reminds us in the song, “Anthem,” which is quoted at the beginning of the PhD dissertation I defended last May, despite there being no love lost between me and most of the professorial class in the college at SIUC I then belonged to.

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Bargaining Update

Your GAU bargaining team is negotiating for a new Collective Bargaining Agreement – which covers all GA working conditions at SIU.  The team has been bargaining for quite for close three years, unfortunately due to the state budget crisis we have been in a bit of a holding pattern.

The bargaining team has been working and had some successes.  We have agreed with the university to including non-discrimination language in the contract.  We have clarified how vacation works – giving everyone on a yearlong appointment 12 days – allowing international students or those with families far from Illinois the ability to go for a visit.  We have created new language to protect letters offered to incoming GAs offering multiple years of funding.  We also are fairly close on an agreement to be able finish the contract but then be to bargain for salaries if the state gives a budget to the university.

We are still bargaining on other matters.  The biggest issues remains fees – we have gone back and forth with the administration many times, but they argue against doing anything about them, especially given the budget.  We are also working on GAs having work more hours than for which they paid, the number of credit hours you have to work to be eligible to be a GA, and having departments determine GA’s eligibility for assistantship rather than the central administration.

We are hoping we can wrap up bargaining this semester.

Bargaining a contract is important to GA working conditions.  The union’s recent success in bringing back 75% appointments in large part to the efforts of previous bargaining teams which gave us good language to grieve.

If you want more information about bargaining or want to come observe a bargaining session, please let us know.  Or you can come see us during a happy hour.

GAU Reaches two settlements

Graduate Assists United (GAU) has reached two settlements to grievances what we wish to share with you.

The first concerns a rule put in place by the administration that restricted GAs from holding appointments greater than 50% (0.50FTE – 20 hours a week). This violated the GAU contract, specifically section 5.3, and the union grieved. Shortly before arbitration of the grievance, the administration agreed to eliminate the rule, and go back to the old system of GAs being able to have up to 75% appointments.As part of this settlement, a GA from the College of Liberal Arts was paid for a semester 25% appointment.

The second settlement concerns a GA in the College of Education who was told he had a summer appointment and started working at the beginning of the summer. He was told he would be given a contract to sign shortly, however, after working for nine days he was told to stop working.  A few days later the department told him it had made a mistake and he would not be employed during the summer. GAU grieved and signed settlement where the GA was paid for the nine days and guaranteed a 50% appointment in the Spring semester (he did not have an appointment for Spring).

For those of you who heard a reports of a new university fee, GAU was monitoring this. The fee, intended to support the construction of new residence halls, would not apply to all GAs; only those in university housing would be affected. As the plan for the construction of new residence halls was tabled at the Board of Trustees meeting December 8, the fee will not be applied until the plan is approved. The plan, and the fee attached to it, may be taken back up in February.

Election results and Happy Hour

GAUnited would like to announce the results of our Officer Elections that we held at the end of last week.

Your new Officers for next year are:

President: John Flowers
VP Membership: Rory Leahy
VP Communications: Andrew Gillespie
Secretary / Treasurer:  Greg Carter
Grievance Officer: Linden Reid
Stewards Council Chair: Carlos Medina
Thanks to all of the Officers from 2015 – 2016 for your service and congratulations to all of you who are graduating!
But wait, there’s more!

We will be holding a final Happy Hour of the year tomorrow at Pinch Penny Pub.

GAUnited Happy Hour
Where: Pinch Penny Pub
When: Tuesday, May 03, 8 p.m. – 10 p.m.

Come out and meet the membership both old and new!!!

In Solidarity,

Non-Tenure Track Faculty at University of Illinois Strike to Stabilize Positions, Picket on Campus to End Precarious Employment

By James Anderson

In between late-night alcohol binges at Kam’s, visits to Papa Del’s for indelible slices of blended Sicilian and Chicago-style pizza, flâneur-like walks down the bustling semi-urban atmosphere of Green Street, and journeys east of campus to the Independent Media Center fashioned years ago out of an old post office for the purpose of empowering community members to communicate their own counter-power, undergraduates at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign might have encountered something a little out of the ordinary in April.

Students likely saw a strike.

Hundreds of non-tenure track faculty at UIUC walked out of their classrooms, vacated their labs and otherwise withheld their labor power on Tuesday, April 19, and Wednesday, April 20.


Members of the Non-Tenure Faculty Coalition Local #6546 at U of I organized the two-day strike to put pressure on the university administration, which has thus far refused to negotiate key bargaining items the union considers essential. The NTFC Local #6546 – affiliate of the Illinois Federation of Teachers, the American Federation of Teachers and the American Association of University Professors – has been bargaining a contract, or trying to anyway, since October 2014, three months after the union was officially certified.

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Making a Militant Labor Movement to Beat Back Bureaucratic Business Unionism

By James Anderson

During a recent interview with a recruiter from UNITE HERE, the union representing just under 300,000 blue collar workers, I was both shushed and set straight about the current state of the labor movement.

A UNITE HERE recruiter and Harvard alumnus – institutional affiliation I thought instructive, not to mention illustrative of class hierarchies within the very vehicles ostensibly tasked with advancing the struggle against those hierarchies – informed me during the interview, without a hint of compunction, that the union is pretty “top-down” and rather “bureaucratic.” Her words.

The union is a democracy like the United States is a democracy, she said after cutting me off and interrupting me several times in true Ivy League fashion. The statement, declared without a hint of irony, should not have surprised given how Harvard feeds the plutocracy.

Now, “the United States is a democracy” only in the sense that – as a 2014 study from another Ivy League institution, Princeton, co-authored by a scholar at Northwestern – it is really not. Far from affording people a meaningful say in the decisions affecting them, which is what democracy is all about, the system resembles an oligarchy, mainstream political science research has asserted. The wealthy wield inordinate influence over formal political institutions. Class shapes the electoral arena and policy.

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