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.

Read more of this post

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.

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.

Read more of this post

Bargaining Update

Your GAU bargaining team has been meeting regularly with the administration. It has been a difficult environment in which to bargain with the collapse of the state budget under Governor Bruce Rauner. Nevertheless there has been progress made and we are fairly close to finishing.

After consulting with the officers and department stewards of GAU your team presented a package proposal to wrap up all the remaining issues in one shot. We presented ours February 11.

As part of the package considering the financial state of the university we asked for no raise and instead focused on fee relief as that has consistently been what you have said is the most important issue. On March 10 we received a response from the administration which was their package. The good news what that it was clear they were making a serious effort to come to an agreement with us, however there is still some distance to go.

The main remaining issues revolve around the cost of fees, funding caps on the number of semesters GAs are funded, how summer tuition waivers work, and vacation leave (as for 12 month appointed GAs it may be hard to get time to visit their families at home – especially for international grads).

-GAU Bargaining Team

Letter from the President

Dear Members,

In an e-mail sent by Chancellor Colwell Wednesday afternoon, GAU was provided with details concerning budget scenarios should the state fail to pass a budget for fiscal year 17 until after the November election. Those preliminary details are as follows.

  • The elimination of more than 180 faculty, administrative professional and civil service staff positions
  • The elimination of 300 student employment positions
  • The merger of four colleges into two colleges

Additional clarification was provided by President Dunn in his System Connection newsletter including reduction in graduate assistantships as part of the elimination of student employment positions, reduction in funding for research programs including grant funded programs, and the complete elimination of state funded travel. PDFs of potential cuts as outlined in the system connection are attached to this message.

50% cuts PDF

25% cuts PDF

Concerning the implementation of these changes, the Chancellor stated the following:

“…should we find ourselves in the unwelcome position of having to implement any of these reductions, we would do so in compliance with contractual and collective bargaining agreements. Further, no specific colleges have been targeted for potential merger, as this would require larger campus discussion, and I want to stress that the merger of colleges would not directly translate into the elimination of academic degree programs.”

Upon receipt of this information, GAU has reached out to both President Dunn and Chancellor Colwell to obtain specific information concerning the impact of these budget scenarios upon the graduate student population and the implementation of the proposed cuts should these cuts be implemented. GAU will provide additional information concerning this situation to the membership as soon as it receives it.

Specifics of the scenarios are expected to be shared during President Dunn’s testimony in Springfield, along with the leaders of other Illinois colleges and universities, 9am on Thursday. You can view the testimony at the General Assembly’s website at http://www.ilga.gov/senate/audvid.asp The Appropriations II Committee, where President Dunn will be listed as 212.

Additionally, several assistants have voiced concerns to GAU about potential reductions in GA workload which would require a reduction in appointment. Upon raising this matter with Chancellor Colwell, who charged Provost Ford with investigating the situation, it was later clarified that contracts would be awarded at the usual amount of 10hrs/week for 25% and 20hrs/week for 50%. With regards to the award of contracts, Provost Ford stated the following.

“…I confirm that both the GAU and the administration have an interest in providing contracts in practice in either 25% or 50% amounts.  Unusual percentages are provided only under exceptional circumstances and typically only with special permission from the Graduate Dean and usually with information to the GAU.”

In my column in last month’s advocate, I indicated that the Chancellor urged Chairs and Deans to appoint assistantships at 50% where possible, and make a good faith effort to secure additional funding for those students who would be funded at 25%. While the Chancellor did make this suggestion, interpretation of how assistantships are awarded is largely up to the department in question in accordance with the requirements set in our Collective Bargaining agreement. In light of this, some departments are making the decision to fund GAs at lower percentages in order to provide more funded positions.

Finally, I would like to clarify information provided in last month’s advocate concerning the funds released to colleges for their GA budget for FY16. As stated, colleges have been granted funds for FY16 equal to 75% of FY15’s GA budget. However, we have now learned that this 75% amount includes funding provided to incoming international students to meet their visa commitments, and this figure pertains only to Academic Colleges in Academic Affairs. We have further learned that funding for summer 2016 is included in this 75% amount and is up to the discretion of the individual department.

If you have any questions, concerns, or comments, you can email us at gau.siuc@gmail.com or comment on either this post or our Facebook page.


In Solidarity,

GAU Executive Council

John Flowers, President
Natalie Nash, Vice-President for Membership
Kevin Taylor, Secretary/Treasurer
Joon Kang, Grievance Officer
John Barnard, Stewards Council Chair
Jim Podesva, Bargaining Unit Chair



Farce v. Fact in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association

By James Anderson

The outcome of a case being heard by the United States Supreme Court could determine the fate of organized labor.

With Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, the Supreme Court will decide on two matters liable to impact the ability of unions to remain viable, capable of protecting workers’ rights.

Rebecca Friedrichs, described as “a dissident teacher in Southern California,” appears poised to continue a trend of severing the land of palm trees and exorbitant rental rates from its counter-cultural history with her legal affront on organized labor now being considered by the nine most influential justices in the US.

The Supreme Court justices must decide whether a decision from the 1977 case Abood v. Detroit Bd. of Ed. should be overruled, thereby invalidating public sector “agency shop” arrangements. Those arrangements are what currently permit the CTA and other unions to collect “fair share” fees from all employees at a unionized workplace whether or not those employees opt to become members of the union. Under the present system, no educators are forced to join a union, but all receive the benefits of union representation as required by law. Those opposed to paying additional dues and joining a union currently do not have to.

Read more of this post