SANTA CRUZ, Calif. (KION) After a group of graduate students began withholding grades in an effort to demand higher pay, UC Santa Cruz said it would begin firing student teachers who continued to withhold them.
Graduate students said a new wave of firings has started, even though the country is now in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The students said dismissal notices went to several students who withheld grades Tuesday, but not just to those who withheld them as part of a strike. They said students who did not get grades in on time due to stresses brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic also got dismissal notices.
“In the midst of a global pandemic and a faulty and fundamentally misguided transition to online education, the University of California has begun a new wave of discipline against graduate and undergraduate students associated with the wildcat strike. It is horrific for the university to fire workers for striking for a living wage under any circumstance. By doing so in the midst of the most deadly pandemic in living memory, the administration is now acting like the lives of its student-workers truly don’t matter," said Veronica Hamilton, the Santa Cruz unit chair of UAW 2865.
KION reached out to the university, and spokesperson Scott Hernandez-Jason said some teaching assistants have withheld grades again for the winter quarter.
"We acknowledge the anxiety and real-world impacts that a few individuals
can create. It’s disheartening to see that a number of our undergraduates
are without winter grades. After meeting with and hearing the concerns from many of our undergraduates and parents, we understand the frustration that exists," Hernandez-Jason said on behalf of the university.
The university said it has placed eight students who have withheld winter grades on leave while the school takes steps to end their spring teaching appointments. Hernandez-Jason said the university decided to take action because the teachers assistants have continued to ignore their contractual obligations to give undergraduates a summary of their academic performance.
"We ultimately cannot retain graduate students as employees who will not fulfill their responsibilities and threaten our undergraduates’ success," he said.
Hernandez-Jason said the university appreciates the graduate students who have submitted grades.