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Since some of you asked that I elaborate, here’s the deal:

We want three things: 1) tuition waivers for all TAs, 2) decent health care, and 3) a reduction in the number of courses English graduate students are required to take (30 hrs for the MA, 60 for the PhD).

The English department employs far and away the largest body of graduate students in the university. We teach around 120 sections of Freshman Composition a semester and run something like 3000 students a semester through the program. Before now, our needs/wishes/desires have always been mediated (and diluted) by the larger political body for the graduate students here at the University. This is particularly problematic for us, considering that we effectively forfeit whatever political power we would normally have by moving through these traditional channels. We plan on trying to act as an independent political body, since that’s effectively what we constitute.

What we want to do is offer up a multi-pronged attack so that we can leverage our size.

First, we’re formulating plans to take over the larger graduate student association by stacking our department members in high-ranking positions. This should be no problem, considering most of the time they have difficulty finding people willing to fill the posts.

Second, we want to coordinate our efforts with the department itself (since it’s most definitely not the enemy/problem here) to see what is fixable and what isn’t. We’d like to coordinate any appeals made to the dean’s office with similar appeals made by the department and with the graduate faculty council. But we want to meet with the dean ourselves and represent our own interests. This is crucial.

Third, and this is the trickiest part, we want to attempt to raise the profile of this issue. We’re talking with a couple of writers for our student paper, and we’ll talk to some folks from the Tulsa World and the local paper here in town, about running a handful of stories in an effort to put some public pressure on the dean’s office to give us decent health care. When you tell a reporter something like “The janitors get better health care than Composition instructors,” their eyes light up.

We’re currently in the process of amassing information from other Big XII schools, trying to see who offers tuition waivers, who offers health care, who’s unionized and who’s not. We have to be very careful about how we raise the specter of unionization. Our department would certainly be supportive of any efforts on our part, but the problem here is that this is a right-to-work state, and we could all essentially be fired. In addition, since composition is the bread and butter of our program, and is the only reason the university deems of valuable at all, we run the risk of the university/board of regents doing something drastic like eliminating composition altogether.

The real danger here, though, is that all of this might spin off into a larger debate about the state of education/education funding in the state, and if that happens, we’ll be completely forgotten. We need to figure out a way to raise the issue without having people lose sight of it.

So that’s that. Any ideas?

Oh! There is a very good chance that the English department TAs might kick all of this off by panhandling on our library steps–a couple of posters suggesting that we’re so woefully funded that we’re accepting donations from students and faculty, some tin cups, some guitars.

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Written by srogers

July 2, 2011 at 2:03 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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