On a typical school day, the third floor of the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) Richard Daley Library is so quiet that a bite of a crispy Chik-fil-a waffle fry will resonate throughout the entirety of its book filled corridors. It’s because of this peace and quiet that I frequently choose the third floor to decompress in between classes during my monotonous days on campus.
However, on one late March Thursday afternoon, as I attempted to take a quick nap before my next class, the distant squeals of vuvuzelas and murmuring vibrations of makeshift bucket drums pestered away in my ears.
Was there a soccer game going on? Street performers in the UIC quad? Or were those the sounds of an underclassman uprising?
No. It was the Graduate Employee Organization (GEO) strike.
The GEO strike was a response to failed, extensive contract negotiations between UIC’s upper administration and its graduate employees. It continued for three loud weeks, until April 5, 2019, when a tentative deal was reached and regular academic activity resumed.
A live band also made an appearance during the GEO strike
I understood why the university’s graduate employees went on strike. They did so in order to receive fair contracts that reflected their increasingly demanding work and high cost of living – associated with residing in the city of Chicago. They had every right to fight. Still, I found the strike to be incredibly annoying. Not just because of the noise, but most importantly, I just wanted to know my grades.
Since the strike took place during midterm season – a period which graduate student assistance is heavily relied upon for grading – my grades were delayed. The bothersome feeling of not knowing swelled my unrest as I periodically checked Blackboard during this time with dwindling droplets of hope keeping me sane.
As my frustration slowly simmered and my grades gradually appeared, news of United Faculty’s strike authorization vote on April 11 spelled the possibility of another strike – this time by faculty members. Thankfully, through extensive negotiations a contract was agreed upon and a strike was avoided.
All this commotion made me wonder, why did this have to happen?
There appears to be an issue with where UIC’s upper administration places it’s monetary and educational value. And the repeated mobilization by the university’s educators against the administration highlights that value is not placed with them. Rather, its placed in the continued expansion of the university via the construction and acquisition of new buildings.
Should I ever have the opportunity to speak with UIC’s upper administration, I would say: show the people who make up the university’s academic foundation that they are more important than the buildings that house them. If those individuals are put first, then the creation of new buildings will not only reflect their worth, but it will also promote a welcoming learning environment for new faculty and students as UIC continues to expand.