On Love – Unrequited, Political and Otherwise … Again: Tackling the Taboo

By James Anderson

For three years in a row now I have contributed a Valentine’s Day, love-themed column to the Graduate Assistants United website.

In my 2014 piece on unrequited love, I referenced Noam Chomsky, Kendrick Lamar, Phil Ochs, Marina Sitrin, Spanish anarcho-syndicalists circa 1936, the ideological embodiment of capitalist cooptation (Steve Jobs) and political scientist James C. Scott, among others. In my 2015 piece I opened by quoting Eduardo Galeano before embarking on a wild and steamy tangent about the history of love and revolution in France, authoring what was in retrospect likely my semi-conscious and probably inappropriate attempt at a poorly-coded love letter.

Needless to say, the theme of unrequited love remains a recurring one in my life. Heretofore, few are lining up to “Dance Me to the End of Love,” to borrow the title of the Leonard Cohen track, and this love drought is despite – or perhaps because of – the multiple off-rhythm renditions of the song I insist each time on performing for my would-be beloved.

This Valentine’s Day thus offers the opportunity for further introspection, self-reflection, self-loathing and conscious use of self-deprecating humor. The latter, I should add, has proven woefully inadequate when it comes to cultivating intimate interpersonal relations but immensely helpful in keeping me sane on days like Valentine’s Day when I otherwise wind up alone diluting my bottle of cheap scotch with a mix of ice and heartache-filled tears.

Modern Valentine’s Day might have become popular, as Tom Chivers noted, in mid-18th century England with the “passing of love notes,” the “precursor to the St Valentine’s Day card as we know it,” followed by Esther Howland of Worcester, Mass., mass producing cards using cheaper lace in the United States in 1847, leading to the present-day commercialized holiday. Yes, the holiday now sees some couples enjoying fine wine and orgasmic Michael Recchiuti chocolates while others keep themselves warm with tear-scotch, but that is no justification for ignoring it.

Painful and problematic as the day is, it also offers us a chance to draw important parallels and broach taboo topics. That sounds sexy anyway. So let’s roll with it.

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From the President

Normally, I use this space to act as the bearer of bad news. This time, however, I have good news to share with the membership: last Tuesday, Chairs and Deans were authorized to begin offering contracts for fall of 2016, in spite of the on going budget turmoil in Springfield.

During a meeting Tuesday afternoon, Chancellor Colwell stated that the Administration had released GA funds to colleges to the order of 75% of the total allocation of fiscal year 2015’s GA budget. In doing so, he stated that he urged chairs and deans to appoint GAs at 50% contracts or, if a 50% was unavailable, make an attempt to find a second 25% contract to bring the contracted student up to 50%.

Further, Chancellor Colwell also stated that the Administration has authorized chairs and deans to appoint GAs for full nine month appointments, rather than on a semester by semester basis. His reasoning for these two pushes is grounded in the loss of 420 graduate students for this semester, and a prediction of even higher losses due to the budget crisis.

While the above is all very good news, there is still uncertainty: the Chancellor was unsure whether or not the proposed 75% accounts for the funds distributed to incoming international students to fulfill their visa requirements, or if the 75% also accounts for assistantships in the summer. GAU is working hard to get up to date information concerning these two items, as we will inform the member body as soon as possible.

That being said, none of this would be possible without the strength of our contract and the collective power of our Union. Our contract requires that Chancellor Colwell meet with us by request to discuss matters of concern to GAs, a requirement that enables GAU to better provide accurate information concerning the employment of GAs here at SIU.

Our contract is what enables us to proved the membership with the protections and benefits, including accurate information concerning our appointments, that we deserve. That being said, we can only maintain these protections and benefits through the strength of our member body. Thus, every victory that GAU wins, is a victory for all graduate students.

Speaking of all graduate students, I would like to take this time to restate GAU’s commitment to stand in solidarity with the struggles of the Coalition of Graduate Workers at the University of Missouri as they struggle for the very same protections that we all enjoy here at SIU.

In solidarity,

Johnathan Flowers