Update on grade strike

To: UC Santa Cruz Community

From: Interim Campus Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor Lori Kletzer

As you are likely aware, in an effort to better support our Ph.D. and MFA students and help address the very legitimate financial concerns they have raised, we announced and implemented a number of new campus programs to help alleviate their financial burdens – and we are working together to provide greater levels of support. Unfortunately, despite our best efforts to find an amenable resolution, 54 teaching assistants have continued to withhold fall grade information. As a result, we have been left with no choice but to take an action that we had truly and deeply hoped to avoid. As I previously shared, students who fail to meet their contractual obligations by withholding fall grade information will not receive spring quarter appointments, or if they have received them they will be dismissed from their spring quarter appointments.
We care deeply about our graduate students, value their contributions to our campus through both their scholarship and research, and their work as teaching assistants and graduate student instructors. It is extremely disappointing to us that we have to take such a drastic step, but we ultimately cannot retain graduate students as teaching assistants who will not fulfill their responsibilities. While we have been able to successfully get 96 percent of grades submitted for the fall quarter, we cannot again jeopardize our undergraduates’ education or put them in a position where they may not have the teaching resources they need to succeed throughout the spring quarter.
I want to thank all of you who have had honest and difficult conversations with graduate students about the need to end this unsanctioned strike. Our graduate students are brilliant scholars and, like you, I want to see them succeed at UC Santa Cruz and beyond. No doubt your conversations encouraged some graduate students to return to their important work.
Alongside other campus leaders, I met five times with graduate student leadership with the hope that we could resolve this unsanctioned strike and return to our shared mission of educating undergraduates and conducting research for the good of our society.
While I’ve disagreed with the tactics the graduate students have used to communicate their concerns, I do not want to downplay the gravity of those concerns. The students have highlighted a real need for greater support because of the high cost of housing in Santa Cruz and limited campus housing available to them. As a reminder, in an effort to provide more financial support and predictability for our Ph.D. and MFA students and work toward greater support overall, the campus is:
  • providing an annual $2,500 housing supplement until more campus housing becomes available for graduate students. This support will be available retroactively for this academic year for doctoral and MFA students who resume their TA/GSI appointment obligations for fall, winter, and spring quarters.
  • offering new and continuing doctoral students support packages for five years (two years for MFA students). These packages will have a minimum level of support equivalent to that of a 50 percent teaching assistantship.
  • creating two temporary housing assistance programs to support graduate students through Slug Support.
  • forming a joint Senate-Administrative Graduate Education Working Group to develop a strategic plan for appropriate and sustainable graduate program support.
  • convening a new Chancellor’s Advisory Committee on Graduate Education to examine and make recommendations to improve graduate student support throughout graduate school and beyond as graduate students prepare for a range of careers beyond the professoriate. 
With a clear sense for how many graduate students will continue serving as teaching assistants in the spring, we can now begin planning for how we deliver an education to our undergraduates. As I shared at the Feb. 19 Academic Senate meeting, this is a problem for us to solve. I am committed to working closely with all impacted departments and providing additional resources so that we can continue with our mission. I will soon be visiting impacted departments to join in discussions about our curriculum.
This has been a difficult time for our campus and we have more problems to solve.
We all believe deeply in the mission of UC Santa Cruz and public higher education. We have the privilege to teach a diverse student body and provide them with knowledge and skills that can transform their lives. We have the honor to cultivate scholars who will be the next generation of professors and practitioners. And we, as professors, help reshape our world, whether it’s through ideas, inventions, and discovery.
I look forward to continuing to fulfill our tremendous mission.