Midnight Deadline Looms For Striking UC Santa Cruz Grad Students

Feb 21, 2020

The deadline for UC Santa Cruz graduate students to turn in missing grades is midnight Friday. It appears the wildcat strike is only ramping up.  

Campus administration is sticking with their plan. If striking students don’t submit grades by the end of February 21, the administration says the students will be dismissed from their spring quarter appointments. 

According to the university, about 200 graduate students are still withholding grades. The wildcat grading strike began in December. About two weeks ago, graduate students escalated their actions into a teaching strike. They’ve been picketing at the base of campus for nine days now.

The striking students are calling for a cost of living adjustment, about $1,400 a month, or COLA. Phrases like “Cola 4 All” can be spotted on picketing signs.

UC Santa Cruz graduate students are calling for a cost of living adjustment, or COLA.
Credit Gina Barba

“The housing crisis isn't going to get better anytime soon,” Veronica Hamilton, a PhD student in psychology and one of the strike leaders, said Tuesday. “And so it's time to take a multi-pronged approach, not just building more housing, but actually addressing the problem as we live with it now. And that means changing our material conditions.”

While UC Santa Cruz has proposed some financial concessions, the grad students say it’s not enough. With the clock ticking down to midnight, supportive undergrads and faculty members held a “doomsday” rally Friday. Hundreds marched from the center of campus to the picket lines and took over the intersection at the main entrance.

Hundreds of supportive undergraduate students and faculty members gathered at the center of campus Friday, then marched down to the picket lines.
Credit Jared Rankin
At the base of campus, the students took over the intersection in front of the university's main entrance.
Credit Gina Barba

Graduate students at other University of California campuses have also been standing in solidarity, including UC San Diego and UCLA. UC Berkeley held a #COLA4ALL rally Friday and students at UC Santa Barbara occupied their administrative building.

Sheila Kulkarni, a UC Santa Barbara PhD student in chemistry, said they’re trying to pressure their university leaders to speak up against the firing threats against UC Santa Cruz students.

“They're sticking their necks out so that they can live a better life and that extends to us,” Kulkarni said.

The UC Santa Barbara grad students have their own COLA demands. They’re calling for an extra $1,800 each month to bring them out of rent burden.

Last week, UC President Janet Napolitano wrote a letter that expressed sympathy about the high cost of housing, but also said participating in the strike would have consequences. 

Senator Bernie Sanders, the frontrunner in the Democratic presidential nomination race, responded via Twitter and Instagram.

“UCSC grad students are fighting to have their labor rights acknowledged. I strongly urge the president of the UC system to stop threatening them, especially immigrant students, for organizing," Sanders wrote.

Napolitano issued another statement Friday, inviting leaders of the UC Graduate and Professional Council to join her for a discussion on a variety of issues, including housing.

UC Santa Cruz graduate students are meeting Friday evening to finalize their next steps.