"Why UCSC Graduate Students are on Strike and Why Every Student Should Care" by Katie Silva
If you weren’t aware, graduate students attending UC Santa Cruz are officially on strike.
They’ve been advocating for a Cost Of Living Adjustment (COLA) publicly since November.
Similar to the rest of California, housing in Santa Cruz is expensive and hard to find, and the
graduate students are sick of a lack of support from their university. They have been clear about their need for a payment of $1,412 per month for students to have a place to live, have
food to eat, be able to afford childcare or health care. To put things in perspective, while the
graduate students are paying 2/3rds of their paycheck to housing, Chancellor Larive, alongside making $425,000 per year, receives a $6500 per month housing stipend.
All graduate students provide valuable services to their respective universities, such as
teaching classes, doing research, grading, and assisting professors. The UCSC students have
recognized the value of their labor, and are withholding their work until the university gives
them what they need to survive. First, they withheld end-of-quarter grades at the end of winter
quarter, making it clear through email communication that they wouldn’t publish grades until
demands were met. UCSC chose to ignore their needs, trying to guarantee the strike’s
completion before agreeing to meet with the grad students, thus attempting to take away the grad student’s leverage. The grad students attempted to set up meetings with the administration on their terms, such as on December 10th, but the UCSC admin was nowhere to be found. Continually, the administration has refused to provide the Cost Of Living Adjustment that would make it so graduate students could afford to live in Santa Cruz. The university has also attempted to disrupt the solidarity between graduate and undergraduate students, as well as between professors and graduate students. On February 10th, UCSC graduate students began a full-on open-ended strike.
Over the nearly 3 months that UCSC graduate students have been on strike, college
students have been paying attention. In fact, demands for a Cost Of Living Adjustment have
spread throughout the UC system. Now, UC San Diego, UC Santa Barbara, UC Los Angeles,
UC Davis, and UC Berkeley are all calling for their universities to provide them the support theyneed to be healthy and safe while they pursue their graduate studies. But maybe you’re not a UC grad student; why should you care?
The COLA strikes are significant for multiple reasons. They’re calling attention to the
housing problems in California. They’re calling attention to the colonizer mindset of the
university institutions, which looks to occupying more land and building more dorms. And
while those topics are important, and need addressing, the COLA strikes are forcing the question: Who is college for? If the average graduate student can’t afford their degree, if the
administration isn’t interested in making college more affordable or accessible, if the UC system isn’t interested in supporting every graduate student equally, then who is it for? Who is it that the UC’s want to see in their classrooms? Is higher education only for the primarily white students whose parents can afford to pay out of pocket? Are degrees something that can only be earned if they can be bought? By keeping college inaccessible, who is being kept out? And most importantly, why?
It’s disappointing to know that UC Santa Cruz, a research university located in a
beautiful beach town known for its “hippie values,” isn’t more willing to support all students.
By refusing to meet the demands of the strikers, UCSC is sending the message that they don’t
care about their students, and they don’t want students of color, students who can’t afford to pay out of pocket, students who have children and need to afford childcare. By refusing to meet the demands of the strikers, UCSC is sending the message that they are comfortable standing in the way of students attempting to follow their passions and get well-paying jobs. Seeing this so blatantly spelled out by the actions of one university, we as students at every university, at every level must ask ourselves if our university is also acting like an elitist gatekeeper, and what we will do to affect change in our own institutions.
Want to know more? Check out @payusmoreucsc on Instagram and Twitter!