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Statement of Support for the UC Graduate Student Workers Strike

Published onMar 03, 2020
Statement of Support for the UC Graduate Student Workers Strike

The directors of punctum books, Eileen A. Fradenburg Joy, Vincent W.J. van Gerven Oei, and Dan Rudmann, hereby declare their support for the ongoing – and strengthening – graduate student workers strike at the University of California.

By democratic decision (see here for a full timeline), the graduate student workers of UC Santa Cruz decided to withhold their labor, including grades, in late February, a gesture that was swiftly followed by graduate student workers at UC Santa Barbara and Davis.

Their demands, which were supported by the UCSC Faculty Senate, comprise:

Cost of Living Adjustment for every graduate student, regardless of residence, visa, documentation, employment or funding status, to bring us:

  1. Out of rent burden

  2. Without raising tuition or campus fees

  3. With a guarantee of non-retaliation

Instead of entering into a negotiation with the strikers, the University of California, headed by President and former Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, has retaliated by firing dozens of grad students, consciously putting their livelihoods, families, and (for internationals) visa status at risk.

Meanwhile, the militarized UC campus police was deployed to break up peaceful grad student protests.

Grad student workers protesting at UCSB. Source:

In our view, the grad student strike is a direct result of the austerity regime imposed on higher education throughout the Western world, in which the fundamentally human search for knowledge has been made fully subservient to the metrics of short-term profitability, fed by a short-sightedness that effectively threatens not only science as a project, but also the planet as a whole.

The massive deployment of graduate students to fill the large voids left in the Humanities and Social Sciences departments wrecked by budget cuts and the “reorientation” to the professional market has not only placed an irresponsible amount of duties tantamount to a fulltime tenured position on the shoulders of those who are only starting to discover their path in academia, it has also made them an absolutely irreplaceable cornerstone of the neo-liberal university, obsessed as it is with pushing through an ever increasing number of undergrads for ever increasing tuition fees toward an ever more uncertain future.

This precarization of academic labor, which finds its counterpart in the abolition of tenure and outsized reliance on adjunct staff, often working multiple teaching jobs to make a minimal wage, has now started to eat away such a large part of the university, that the current grad student workers strike can only be seen as an utterly logical symptom of an education system in decline.

New ways of teaching, new ways of studying, and new ways of scholarship are called for, which can only emerge inside the university if it decides to rethink itself with the input of faculty and students rather than accountants and management consultants.

punctum books supports any and all of these efforts to rethink the university, including the UC graduate student workers strike. We believe that it is our responsibility as a publisher to speak up for the scholarly community – and what better community than those who desire to make out of scholarship a decent living, nothing more and nothing less.

How can I help?

Everyone can make a donation to the strike fund of UCSC.

If you are University of California faculty, please support the strikers by co-signing the letter to UC President Janet Napolitano.

We call upon all our authors and members of our Editorial Advisory Board within the UC system to support and assist the striking grad students in any way possible.

More information on the strike

Header photo: Marching down Western Dr. UCSC Picket, Week 1. Photo by Ali Fuat Yuvali.

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