COLUMBIA — Graduate students held a grade-in Thursday at Jesse Hall in conjunction with graduate worker unions across the country.
On Wednesday, Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin guaranteed health insurance subsidies for graduate student workers. At the grade-in, some of the students said they had heard of the statement but that they were unsatisfied.
"On the one hand, I'm glad to hear it, but on the other hand," said Eric Scott, co-chair of the Forum on Graduate Rights's organizing committee. He then held up a hand-lettered sign which said, "Why didn't you tell us first?"
Throughout the day, graduate students held office hours and graded papers in Jesse Hall.
Aleksandra Kinlen, a second year doctoral student in the Department of History, sat on the floor and graded 98 midterms. Kinlen said she hadn't received any official university email informing her of the insurance guarantee.
"I have no idea what's going on," she said.
The subsidies were originally canceled Aug. 14 and were then temporarily reinstated Aug. 21. Loftin formed a graduate insurance task force in August and asked it to make a recommendation to solve the health insurance issue by Nov. 30.
Rachel Bauer, a member of the task force, said Thursday that she and other graduate students on the task force that she spoke to were not notified before the chancellor spoke Wednesday. Bauer said she thought the statement was made on an understanding of the task force's preliminary, informal recommendations.
Scott said the Coalition of Graduate Workers, the unionization organization formed out of the Forum on Graduate Rights, is effectively a member of the National Educators Association's Missouri chapter. Scott said that the Coalition of Graduate Workers is in the process of formalizing its agreement with NEA and becoming an official union.
The grade-in was held in solidarity with a nationwide campaign called #WeAreWorkers, Scott said. #WeAreWorkers was organized by graduate students workers from different unions, from schools across the country.
Graduate student workers at Columbia University have been organizing a union since January 2014.
"It just made a lot of sense (to unionize). I had just started teaching (a semester before), and it's very clearly work," said Alyssa Greene, a fourth year doctoral student and a teaching fellow at Columbia.
Columbia University's union, the Graduate Workers of Columbia University, is a part of the United Automobile Workers labor union, but because of labor laws governing private universities, they are not recognized by Columbia University's administration.
Greene recommended that graduate students at MU keep organizing.
"Your (chancellor) saying he'll reinstate insurance isn't the same as making a contract," she said. "A personal guarantee isn't enough. If you were in an office in a corporation, and your boss stopped by and said he'd give you a raise, you'd want to see it in writing."
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