In response to the April 4 sit-in, UW administrators wrote TAA Co-Presidents a letter explaining why the university should deny graduate workers a living wage, mandatory fee relief, and clear workplace policies. In the letter signed by Vice Chancellor Heller and Dean Karpus, the administrators failed to address any issues graduate workers brought up during the sit-in and intentionally distorted their demands.
According to the letter, the recent TA raise to $20k for 50% appointments (minus $1400 in mandatory fees) is what graduate work is worth. It also makes clear that the administration plans to violate the terms of its own Graduate Assistant Policies and Procedures (GAPP) Project Charter, which is tasked with crafting policies protecting graduate workers from overwork, sexual harassment, and other workplace issues.
The administrators deliberately misinterpreted graduate workers’ request for full relief of mandatory fees as cutting off services and refuse to use 0.21% of the university budget to cover those fees. Mandatory fees impose a severe financial burden on graduate workers, and the international student fees ($100 per semester) are charged from all international students for government surveillance.
The response also cuts research assistants, hourly readers/graders, and graduate student lecturers out of GAPP entirely, leaving them in limbo and erode the collective power of graduate workers. The administrators also hinted that they want to cut graduate students out of any future conversations about workplace policies, leaving it up to college deans to set the terms of graduate employment.
This is an outright rejection of the spirit of shared governance that brings so many of students and researchers to UW-Madison, and it is a tacit threat: cooperate on our terms or face the consequences. TAA responded by “grading” the letter from Vice Chancellor Heller and Dean Karpus. Check out how they fare here.