The Corporatization of the University (Updated)

By November 16, 2009

The Graduate Student Employment Organization (GEO) at the University of Illinois is going on strike tomorrow morning at 8:00 AM. I know this blog is primarily about the study of Mormon History, but inasmuch as almost all of its contributors are involved in Graduate Education I thought they might be interested in the following letter I wrote to my undergraduate students as an explanation for the strike. I think it tries to explain and interrogate the rapid corporatization of universities all over the country. I promise I will write something about Mormon history soon 🙂 We would also appreciate any support from those of you in Illinois.

Dear Students,

If you haven’t heard by now, the strike committee for the GEO has called a strike that will start tomorrow at 8:00 AM. This means that there will be no discussion section meetings in the time that the strike continues. It also means that I will be unavailable for any consultation, help, or communication in regards to the course. I am sorry that it has come to this. I wish that you all did not have to suffer because of the strike. Please remember that we are only striking because of the actions of the University–withholding our labor is the only recourse we have to fight University practices that continue to infringe upon the quality of instruction and  learning here at the U of I. The strike is the administration’s fault. This is not a decision that was taken lightly. The contract for Teaching Assistants ran out in mid-August of this year. The representatives of our Union have been trying to negotiate with the administration about the contract since May, but did not even receive an offer from their side until right before our current contract ran out. Their contract offer for the next three years was actually much worse than our previous contract which was about to end. It offered no raises for the next three years to keep up with inflation and actually included language that would allow the University to issue furloughs, which means that in theory they would not pay us for any work during the Winter and Spring breaks when we are grading finals and entering grades for our students. This means we would possibly be doing the same amount of work for less pay. Also, the administration refused language in the contract that would protect out-of-state tuition wavers which most of us from other places rely on to stay in school. This contract was unacceptable and so we have been working without the protection of a contract ever since–pretty much the entire semester. We have compromised a lot with the University since August, and we have come to agreements on wages, furloughs, and even health care–these agreements have only come to pass because we have threatened to strike. But the administration still has refused to grant us any guarantees in regard to our tuition waivers. I know that many of you struggle to pay rapidly rising tuition rates here at the University, so you might be able to understand why we, as graduate students, value these tuition waivers enough to strike about them. Most of us are from out of state, so we would even have to pay the out of state rate if we were to lose this benefit. We really do not understand why the University will not budge on this issue. Giving us waivers does not cost them anything. Tuition waivers are like scholarships–they don’t generally represent real money. The University simply agrees not to charge us tuition because of the research we do and prestige we bring to the institution. The waivers would only become real money if the University decided to change their policies, and they wouldn’t be so stubborn about the issue if this wasn’t a real possibility for the University. Thus, we are striking to protect the benefits we were promised when we came to the University.

As you all can tell, in classes like EALC/Hist 120 the TA’s do the majority of the work. We are not, however, paid very well for it–especially when you consider that all of us have Bachelor’s and some of us have Master’s Degrees. Also, almost all graduate students are self-supporting which means that our parents don’t give us any money for school. Many, like me, are married and some even have children and try to live on their small stipends. The relationship between the university and graduate students should be mutually beneficial. They promise to provide us with jobs to help support our time here as students, while we provide them with the labor to teach a lot of the undergraduate classes. This isn’t something that just anyone could do. Most professors consider themselves too swamped with the research requirements made on them to achieve tenure to teach any more classes than they already do, thus the TA’s fulfill an essential role. If TA’s wages and benefits decrease, the University becomes less competitive in recruiting the best graduate students to come here. If the quality of graduate students goes down, so will the quality of your TA’s. At the same time that the administration has been fighting us over every single penny, the University has used large amounts of money to pay severance packages to its corrupt outgoing president and chancellor. It has also spent millions of dollars in legal fees trying to defend them and their illegal actions. Even after White and Herman resigned, they received cushy appointments at the University where they receive six figure salaries to teach fewer students than the average TA. And now the University wants to take away what TA’s already have to pay for the mistakes of their administrators. Remember that the money they spent was YOUR money–the tuition that you often have to struggle to put together. We think that the administration of the University needs to change its priorities back to the students, graduate and undergraduate, and so the TA’s and administration are at an impasse over tuition waivers. I feel like my only option is to stand on principle and go on strike. I really don’t want to hurt any of you, the undergraduates, who are the reason the university is here. I hope this email explains the situation and answers any questions you might have. If you do have more questions about the strike let me know, and I would be happy to answer them. If you would like to help us pressure the administration to resolve this issue you or your parents can contact the administration at these two numbers: Christopher G. Kennedy, President MMPI Phone: (312) 527-7890 ex: 7890 Or: Robert Easter, Interim Chancellor and Provost  Phone: (217) 244-4545. I hope to see you all soon, but I can’t promise I will.

Best,

Joel

(Post Update) Lest you think these problems only occur in Illinois, the University of California system has been wrought with turmoil as thousands of graduate students, staff members, professors, and undergraduates came together last week to protest tuition hikes, waiver revocations, and furloughs. Why is it than when the economy tanks, education is one of the first cuts? Every dollar spent for education eventually generates more than four dollars in tax revenue. Is there any better investment for state and national governments? Once cuts do happen, why do administrators turn to the corporate model to make things work? Comments have been closed, and I don’t want a rehash of previous debates. I just thought that people would like to know that our TA strike was not an isolated event.

Article filed under Miscellaneous


Comments

  1. Oh that’s wonderful. You get upset over no pay raises and a possible furlough, when much of the country is struggling to just keep jobs?

    Just where do you think the money comes from? Trees? Unemployment in portions of Illinois are rather high, and you wish to impose higher taxation upon the tax payers, so you can get a raise and not have to suffer from budget cuts?

    This is not the corporatization of the university. This is the survival of a state’s citizenry during a very difficult economic period.

    Other states are having to furlough or lay off lots of state workers, including police, correctional officers, firefighters, social workers, and yes, teachers. What makes you so special that you should not also have to sacrifice with everyone else?

    Perhaps it is more an issue of the power of unions and unrealistic expectations of university professors that is the problem?

    Comment by Rameumptom — November 16, 2009 @ 9:00 am

  2. Great post, Joel.

    Way to keep up your reputation, Rameumtom.

    Comment by Ben — November 16, 2009 @ 9:12 am

  3. Who’s going to pay for my law school? My parents have never given me even one cent to go to college. I have made sacrifices just to get my BA. What about you? You claim you’re entitled to a graduate degree at my expense?

    Sorry, but I just don’t buy it. Go to work or you should be fired. Thousands of people are depending on you–students who have no union to represent them.

    Comment by Tim — November 16, 2009 @ 9:50 am

  4. Wow, JI has more jerk readers than I would guessed.

    Comment by Chris H. — November 16, 2009 @ 10:10 am

  5. I think that these are legitimate considerations, and that one would certainly have to have a much greater familiarity with the facts on the ground to know whether a strike is justified.

    I am curious about a general perspective on what “corporatization of the university” means. A trend to operate more like a business than a non-profit organization? Formalization of operating procedures? Labor / management disputes? Excess of bureaucracy?

    Comment by Mark D. — November 16, 2009 @ 10:18 am

  6. Thanks for posting this Joel. I’ve heard of these problems occuring at other schools, but thankfully TCU (a private school) has been able to weather the storm, and there’s even talk of upping the grad stipends in the next few years. But state schools have been suffering, and I think you’re right to stand your ground, rather than just acquiesce to the administration’s demands. For those who attack the TA’s, where’s the outrage over the ever-increasing compensation for university administrators? Why attack those with little power (TA’s), while giving a free pass to those with great power (administrators)?

    Comment by David G. — November 16, 2009 @ 10:27 am

  7. I’m used to news stories of students striking (often with rioting and other violence) in France, but haven’t heard of it here. How common is it for such strikes in the U.S., at least since the ’60s? (Your situation is different from that in France, or that in the ’60s here, since you’re standing as employees who also happen to be students, rather than only as students.)

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — November 16, 2009 @ 10:34 am

  8. Who?s going to pay for my law school?

    You are Tim, with your 6-figure law job salary you get after 3 years of school.

    A PhD takes 5+ years, leaves you with debt, and maybe lands you a $50,000 job IF you’re lucky.

    Comment by Nitsav — November 16, 2009 @ 10:36 am

  9. 3 and 4 — I’m somewhere between you two, although I hope my comments aren’t quite as rocky as yours.

    I’m taxed to pay for the education of others, and would love to be in school myself, but I can’t afford it and nobody is offering to help (there are funds at the U for single mothers and battered women, but nothing for women who have supported themselves and haven’t drawn on the system before), and I’m even struggling to keep the rent paid these days.

    Under those conditions it *is* hard to be sympathetic in an abstract sense to the idea of anybody who draws on tax funds to be demanding even more, no matter how justly. On the other hand, although I don’t know Joel I do know some of the other JI bloggers, and I want *them* to be in school almost as much as I would like to be there myself.

    So go a little easier on each other, will you? It isn’t a one-sided question.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — November 16, 2009 @ 10:43 am

  10. When resources are tight, it would be idiotic for the weakest members of the system not to use every means at their disposal to protect whatever they can. That’s what unions are for. The other players competing for resources are certainly watching out for themselves first.

    And the issue of out of state tuition waivers is genuinely important. When I was applying to grad schools, the one that didn’t provide a tuition waiver was simply not a credible offer. The U of I has a very talented body of grad students from all over the world, and if the non-Illinois residents had to start paying tens of thousands of dollars a year more, the pool of applicants would decrease pretty drastically in number, quality, or both.

    Plus the U of I GEO did right for my family. When they held a strike for official recognition in ’01, I got to stay home for a couple days (from teaching the German for Grad Students class, so no undergrads were harmed in the process). My wife went into labor about 20 minutes after I would have finished teaching on one of those days, and gave birth about 90 minutes later, barely 10 minutes after making it into a delivery room. So if not for the GEO strike, I would have missed my daughter’s birth, and she could well have missed being born inside a hospital.

    Comment by Jonathan Green — November 16, 2009 @ 10:47 am

  11. Ardis, did you just call my comment rocky?

    Comment by Chris H. — November 16, 2009 @ 10:48 am

  12. Ardis, if want to get a graduate education in history, you should apply to a really great program and make them pay you for the privilege of having your talent. I’m totally serious about this.

    Comment by Jonathan Green — November 16, 2009 @ 10:52 am

  13. Well, calling your readers “jerks” isn’t exactly a high point of enlightened discourse.

    Comment by Jonathan Green — November 16, 2009 @ 10:53 am

  14. Jonathan, I was joking with Ardis.

    Comment by Chris H. — November 16, 2009 @ 10:58 am

  15. When resources are tight, it would be idiotic for the weakest members of the system not to use every means at their disposal to protect whatever they can. That?s what unions are for. The other players competing for resources are certainly watching out for themselves first.

    This. Just last week my own employer announced it wasn’t going to pay salaries until the new quarter. This came one week after a cool $45,000 was spent adding a car to the motor pool that no one drives. “Different pots” was the answer. I’m with the strikers.

    Comment by Peter LLC — November 16, 2009 @ 11:00 am

  16. Nitsav,
    Whatever Tim’s tone, I’d be careful with that “6-figure salary” accusation. If you’ve followed the legal world recently, you’ll find that fewer and fewer law students are facing a world of 6-figure starting salaries. Prospective law students should probably keep that in mind, too, as they consider what to do.

    That said, being defensive about 5+ years to a Ph.D. with a $50,000 salary at the end is also disingenuous–a prospective doctoral candidate knows (or, at least, should know) that this is the case.

    I’m ambivalent about striking grad students; while I understand that grad students who are TAing do a lot of work, schools argue (at least in my experience) that the work is part of the education. (Again, slightly disingenuous–while it is undoubtedly part of the education, it’s also really cheap labor for the school.) I have to admit that, when Columbia and NYU grad students went on strike (at different times), they left a bad taste in my mouth–a lot of them seemed to be more interested in being part of a history of strikers than they were aware of the wrongs being perpetrated by the university. (To which I’d add, What do you mean by the “corporatization” of the University? Maybe it’s got a specific meaning, but it reminds me of the kid I meet in Washington Square Park several years ago who advocated an end to the war in Iraq, a 95% tax bracket for the rich in New York, legalization of pot, and a bunch of other things. I can just see “corporatization” coming out of his mouth during our conversation.)

    Comment by Sam B. — November 16, 2009 @ 11:20 am

  17. “That said, being defensive about 5+ years to a Ph.D. with a $50,000 salary at the end is also disingenuous?a prospective doctoral candidate knows (or, at least, should know) that this is the case.”

    The also go into this believing that they will get a certain level of support.

    Tim’s prospect of making 6-figures largely depends on which law school he attends. So maybe he can share with us his GPA and LSAT score and then we can have a better picture of the situation. 🙂

    Comment by Chris H. — November 16, 2009 @ 11:39 am

  18. Chris, I’d have to be able to get an *undergraduate* education first.

    From comments here, it sounds like grad student strikes are not an especially rare thing. They don’t make it onto the national radar, though.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — November 16, 2009 @ 11:53 am

  19. Chris,
    That is absolutely the case and, not having looked at doctoral programs, I don’t have any idea the level of support universities claim they will provide, nor whether they say that support will be indexed to inflation or cost-of-living or anything like that.

    And, while you are right to some extent about Tim’s prospect of 6-figure income depends on school and GPA, these days, even with sterling school and GPA, he may find his offer revoked or delayed by a year or more. And, as long as Tim didn’t just enter law school this last year, he would have gone in (again, supposing he’s at a top school) with the assumption that a 6-figure salary would magically appear at the end of three years.

    That’s not to suggest that Tim’s inartful denunciation of striking grad students is correct; moreover, it reads like a general conservative response to strikes in general. But strikers often can (and do) shoot themselves in the foot w/r/t public opinion. I’m not suggesting that Joel is doing shooting his cause, but anyone who’s walked around New York and seen the giant inflatable rat, or been in front of the National Press Club and seen the picketers there, knows that it can be hard to sympathize with people on strike, and sometimes strikers seem better at rallying support from their supporters than convincing the fence-sitters or their opponents. (That was my visceral reaction to the Columbia and NYU strikers–they generally didn’t explain their grievances well and, moreover, seemed to assume that everybody was with them. Prior, I wasn’t committed to support or oppose them, but the interactions with the strikers generally left me uncharitably inclined to their cause.)

    Comment by Sam B. — November 16, 2009 @ 11:54 am

  20. I’m not a conservative at all. I’m an undergraduate at the University of Illinois and I can see the facts.

    First of all, I want to be a professor. I will probably never see a six figure salary. Despite this, I will have to take a large debt to attend law school because professional school just doesn’t have the same sort of scholarship opportunity that doctoral programs have. If I’m not teaching law, I will be working in the public interest somewhere. I hope that loan forgiveness and other such processes will allow me to continue working in that sector. If not, I may be forced, absent other choices, to work at a corporate law firm just so that I can pay back the huge cost of my education.

    This university crams its undergraduates into huge classrooms of 500 or more students, while the graduate students have classes with 8-15 people in them. Even 400-level courses here (I’m a senior after all) have 70-400 students in them. The undergraduates are paying the majority of the money in tuition and getting the least benefit. Why would ANY undergraduate support this?

    “A PhD takes 5+ years, leaves you with debt, and maybe lands you a $50,000 job IF you?re lucky.”

    This is also nonsense. I suggest that you research what most people with a Ph.D make–it’s MUCH higher than that (somewhere in the $70k per year range, on average). You are correct, however, in that scholars’ pay is not the same across disciplines, and so there is quite a range. Even the Women’s Studies Professors at this university make $60,000+.

    The GEO is/was demanding a 30% increase in wages, among other things.

    These students are so far from reality that it’s not even funny. But guess who gets totally screwed on this deal? The undergraduates!

    Comment by Tim — November 16, 2009 @ 12:45 pm

  21. It seems to me that we live in a culture of greed the flows from the top down. Posters such as Tim frame this as graduate students harming undergraduates, but really what should be happening is that the undergraduates and graduate students alike should rally together and demand that the president and chancellor of the school give up their inflated cushy salary in order to ensure that students are taken care of. To accuse debt ridden graduate students of selfishness is to stand blind at the much more egregious examples of exploitation afoot.

    Comment by Daniel Ortner — November 16, 2009 @ 12:51 pm

  22. Tim,
    I think you’re talking at cross-purposes with Nistav; it may be true that the average salary for a person with a Ph.D. is $70,000 (although I don’t know). But that average would be skewed by people late in their career, as well as people who went into industry rather than academia. I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that a $50,000 starting salary is a pretty good deal. And, from what people tell me, landing a job in academia isn’t super easy.

    And Daniel, a “culture of greed?” You need to get out more. University presidents make more than professors, who in turn make more than grad students, but no University president I’m aware of (note that there may be some University president somewhere who does) makes an outsized salary, at least not compared to the private sector. Moreover, suppose the president agrees, for whatever reason, to give up his or her “inflated cushy salary”; there is certainly symbolic value to that, but not a whole lot of dollar value. Even assuming the president makes $500,000/year, that adds $5,000/year (pre-tax) to 100 grad students’ stipends. If the school has 200 grad students, $2,500. Etc.

    Comment by Sam B. — November 16, 2009 @ 1:06 pm

  23. $50,000 is pretty competitive starting salary right now for profs in the humanities. Plus you get the knowledge that you beat out anywhere between 100 and 800 people for your job. Other fields pay more simply because PhDs in those fields are marketable beyond the academy and so universities have to offer more to attract them.

    Comment by SC Taysom — November 16, 2009 @ 1:47 pm

  24. Tim, you note that “professional school just doesn?t have the same sort of scholarship opportunity that doctoral programs have.”

    This is because the average law/medical salary absolutely dwarfs the average PhD salary. (Please note, though, that when I talk about PhD’s, I’m talking about those who teach at a University, not industry.)

    I know a guy with a Harvard MA and PhD, and got an offer in the low 40’s.

    The average starting law salary was twice that when I looked several years ago.

    If law or medicine paid 50,000/year, it’s unlikely we’d see anyone do it, since the barrier to entry in the profession is so high. (As is, in my experience with law friends, most lawyers went for law school because of the stability and pay.)

    I don’t want to equate the two professions of law and medicine, though, since anyone can take the LSAT regardless of background and be out in 3 years, whereas medicine requires deep preparation in sciences, 4 years of schooling + 2 years of residency + 2-3 years of further (optional but often necessary) specialization.

    I don’t see anything wrong with society bearing some financial burden for advancing knowledge when the field itself does not pay much. On the other hand, I don’t see why society should subsidize even more lawyers.

    Comment by Nitsav — November 16, 2009 @ 1:57 pm

  25. http://www.phdcomics.com/comics/archive.php?comicid=1086

    Comment by Nitsav — November 16, 2009 @ 2:03 pm

  26. Nitsav,
    Again, I have to insist that law salaries are not the astronomical figures you’re implying. (I know you’re not deliberately misstating salaries; I was an attorney in New York for a number of years, and in the big legal markets, around people at the big law schools, there is an assumption that the salaries will be astronomical.) As a matter of fact, recently empirical research has a bimodal distribution of starting legal salaries, with (in 2006) a median starting salary in 2006 of $62,000 (real money, but not the $160,000 everyone assumes attorneys start at).

    Note that the blog post I’ve linked to was written just before the collapse of the legal market; at the time, starting salaries of $200,000 may have seemed realistic, but today lots of the firms that were, in 2006, in the second spike salary-wise are reducing salaries rather than increasing them.

    As for whether society (or private schools, for that matter) should subsidize the education of attorneys, clearly it should, but probably not much more that it currently does (and maybe a little bit less).

    Comment by Sam B. — November 16, 2009 @ 2:12 pm

  27. That may be Sam. My data is based on looking up law and law schools in one of those job books in a Barnes and Noble a few years ago (2005? 2006?) which listed the average starting law salary somewhere between 85,000 and 92,000.

    Comment by Nitsav — November 16, 2009 @ 2:24 pm

  28. That is, unfortunately, misinformation that prospective law students often wade through. And it is undoubtedly possible that prospective grad students wade through similar misinformation with regard to their stipends, workload, and so on, in choosing a school. In which case, they should certainly work to get what they were led to believe they would get.

    Comment by Sam B. — November 16, 2009 @ 2:50 pm

  29. I earned both my Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees while working full time in the US Air Force. I don’t see why others cannot also work a difficult job and study at the same time. Try being on a remote location (South Korea, etc) and getting your degree accomplished, and you’ll think your problems of TA salary are rather minor. However, I agree with the point that if they are going to furlough TAs that first the administrators and professors should also look at furloughs or pay cuts.

    But I still mainly see things from the viewpoint of the tax payer. These are public schools, not private. They use the sacred dollars of the taxpayer. When the taxpayers are out of work, why should the TAs positions be of greater value suddenly? If I were working at a Walmart in Illinois, should your job as TA require a boost in taxes for me, simply so you can receive a salary and finish your degree?

    Now, do you have the right to strike? Of course you do. And in a good economy, I would agree with you. However, when states are looking at massive losses in tax revenue, they have no choice but to find it somewhere. Certain states are so desperate that they are closing prisons and letting nonviolent criminals go free! Is your position more important than a prison guard’s position? In such tough times, I really doubt that.

    Illinois is so desperate for money that they are offering to take the Gitmo prisoners, in exchange for the federal money to house them. It would mean Illinois would not have to lay off correctional officers. Priorities are an ugly thing during a recession, but they are a reality.

    Comment by Rameumptom — November 16, 2009 @ 2:55 pm

  30. “This is also nonsense. I suggest that you research what most people with a Ph.D make?it?s MUCH higher than that (somewhere in the $70k per year range, on average). You are correct, however, in that scholars? pay is not the same across disciplines, and so there is quite a range. Even the Women?s Studies Professors at this university make $60,000+.”

    Tim, I am a professor (unfortunately not the guy that Nitsav knows who went to Harvard). I am in my 4th year of teaching full-time. I make less than 50k a year. Nitsav has more knowledge about the academic world in his big toe than you will ever have.

    Comment by Chris H. — November 16, 2009 @ 3:38 pm

  31. “It seems to me that we live in a culture of greed the flows from the top down. Posters such as Tim frame this as graduate students harming undergraduates, but really what should be happening is that the undergraduates and graduate students alike should rally together and demand that the president and chancellor of the school give up their inflated cushy salary in order to ensure that students are taken care of. To accuse debt ridden graduate students of selfishness is to stand blind at the much more egregious examples of exploitation afoot.”

    We don’t have a President or a Chancellor right now, because both were forced to resign due to another scandal, and given $400,000 and $240,000 golden parachutes, respectively! And if you think I’m not equally outraged by this nonsense, you’re sadly mistaken.

    “Tim, I am a professor (unfortunately not the guy that Nitsav knows who went to Harvard). I am in my 4th year of teaching full-time. I make less than 50k a year. Nitsav has more knowledge about the academic world in his big toe than you will ever have.”

    I stated that there was a range. I don’t know what you’re teaching, but if your blog is any indication, I suspect there’s not much demand for Rawlsian Mormon studies at most institutions. My philosophy professor makes about $100,000 per year.

    I can say, however, that your salary is well below average for your level of education, and that I made more than that as a mechanic before I quit to return to school and take studying seriously.

    “However, I agree with the point that if they are going to furlough TAs that first the administrators and professors should also look at furloughs or pay cuts.”

    Tenured faculty are likely to be furloughed here next semester. This university is bankrupt, and the state has no money to give us. The figure I’ve heard as of today is that they will be furloughed for 60 days, at least.

    “That may be Sam. My data is based on looking up law and law schools in one of those job books in a Barnes and Noble a few years ago (2005? 2006?) which listed the average starting law salary somewhere between 85,000 and 92,000.”

    The average salary of someone with a JD is misleading. People who work in public interest law or as scholars will never see the salaries that are commonplace at large, transnational law firms. Government lawyers (who are a very large minority of those practicing in the United States) will never see those large salaries, either. Even the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court doesn’t make much more than HALF of what the President of the University of Illinois makes.

    So I still want to know. Who’s going to pay for my law school? I am unquestionably a promising future scholar of the law and have diverse interests in helping persons in need. I have friends who are going to medical school next year as well. Who’s going to pay all of our debt? We are, rolling the dice, as there is no guarantee that we will ever make enough money to even pay our loans.

    The undergraduate students have nothing to gain from this dispute. Our tuition and tax dollars are subsidizing the graduate students’ education. Of all the parties in the university community, we have the most to lose by continuing to allow this nonsense.

    Comment by Tim — November 16, 2009 @ 4:19 pm

  32. Tim, the thing is, you know that law school is expensive, scholarships are few, and the job prospects you’re looking at are few and far between. So the fact that you intend to contribute to society is well and good, but not compelling.

    The grad students at Illinois may be a different question. Because I don’t know what they were promised (or, for that matter, what they were led to believe they would receive), I can’t evaluate the strength of their argument that they deserve more.

    That is, neither law students nor any other graduate students are entitled, as such, to a specific level of support. But if promises were made, there may be an entitlement.

    It’s also worth noting, as a prospective law student, that you still have the choice (a) not to incur the additional debt (either by only going to a school that will provide scholarships or by saving up before starting school) and (b) to go into a more lucrative area of law than you currently intend to.

    Comment by Sam B. — November 16, 2009 @ 4:26 pm

  33. “I am unquestionably a promising future scholar of the law and have diverse interests in helping persons in need.”

    Actually, I question that. So much for the “unquestionably” part.

    Comment by Chris H. — November 16, 2009 @ 4:27 pm

  34. “So I still want to know. Who?s going to pay for my law school?”

    Since you are clearly know more about this than anyone here. Why do you keep asking us?

    Comment by Chris H. — November 16, 2009 @ 4:31 pm

  35. “Since you clearly know more about this than anyone here….”

    Comment by Chris H. — November 16, 2009 @ 4:32 pm

  36. (Psst, Chris — I’m right back of you holding a basket full of rocks. This time, you can keep lobbing them.)

    Comment by Ardis Parshall — November 16, 2009 @ 4:33 pm

  37. Ardis: off to teach Thoreau, no need for the violence. The support is appreciated.

    Comment by Chris H. — November 16, 2009 @ 4:38 pm

  38. Tim, and Sam MB, I really think the comparison to the field of law is pretty unproductive. The generational compact works differently in the field of law. Lawyers assume debt in return for a good shot at a well-compensated job. Historians and other scholars in the humanities assume several years of low wages in return for a shot at a decently-compensated job. That deal has been under a great deal of strain for decades in the humanities. In law, that’s a recent development. But the need for the field of law to figure out how it should function tells us little or nothing about what history grad students at the U of I should be doing right now. The comparison to lawyers, and how much or little they make, is a dead-end sideshow here.

    Tim, as a U of I undergrad, you’re directly affected by the strike, and in a bad way. But your interests and those of the grad students are not quite as opposed as you might think. Do you want the grad TAs to be the most talented people in the world, or the most talented in Chicago? That’s what it comes down to.

    Rameumptom, you may want to check what percentage of the university’s budget comes from state funds. For state flagships like the U of I, that percentage has been dropping for some time now, so that the argument based on the competition for public tax dollars is getting weaker all the time. I don’t know about Illinois specifically, but some “state” flagship schools derive only 15% or less of their budgets from state appropriations. Also it’s commendable you finished an MA while overseas. Here’s what you can’t do with that MA: get an academic job. For anyone who aspires to teach history at the university level, there are currently no options to full-time, 5+ year doctoral study. Doing that on $15,000 a year or so is no picnic.

    Comment by Jonathan Green — November 16, 2009 @ 5:01 pm

  39. Not an academic, but taking advantage of graduate students strikes me as similar to some issues that go on in other professions. Beginning lawyers, before they pass the bar, often have to work ridiculous hours for low pay, to establish themselves with a firm. 100 hour work weeks for medical interns are also not uncommon. There seems to be a habit of abusing aspiring professionals and academics by those already established, almost like hazing, in order to gain admission to the club.

    I don’t know the details of the U of I issues mentioned here, but I support you folks in your strike, and hope you get your out of state tuition waivers. As you indicate, that isn’t necessarily real money anyway. I watch my nephew who is a grad student at Cal-Irvine trying to position himself as the 1 in 700 or 800 applicants for a tenured position somewhere, and can’t believe he is putting his wife and kids through this other than a passion for his studies.

    Good luck, Joel.

    Comment by kevinf — November 16, 2009 @ 5:05 pm

  40. Solidarity!

    Comment by Chris H. — November 16, 2009 @ 5:11 pm

  41. Jonathan, I think this Sam B is different than Sam MB, just FYI.

    And just a general plea for everyone to keep it civil. From Tim and Rameumptum’s initial comments, I could have thought that Joel had personally spit on their grandmothers’ graves.

    Thanks.

    And finally, as a beneficiary of a tuition benefit and a fellowship stipend here at the U, I wish Joel and the union success.

    Comment by Jared T — November 16, 2009 @ 5:17 pm

  42. Jonathan,
    As much as I would like to be, Jared’s right that I’m not Sam MB. And I agree with you that comparison to law isn’t completely apt, although I’m not sure why you commented on that to me–in general, my only appeal to the law has been responsive to others, and has asserted that the assumption that attorneys are well-compensated is unfounded.

    But even though you’re right that law students assume significant debt for a good shot at high compensation, they overestimate the chance that they will receive such high wages. There is no longer any (significant) generational compact. In that respect, analyzing what a grad student has been promised in comparison with what a law student has been promised may well be illuminating to at least part of Joel’s complaint.

    That said, there are certainly broad differences. But, in any event, I wouldn’t have brought up law school as a good comparison for other grad schools, but if it’s being brought up, the unexamined assumption that law school = gravy train needs to be interrogated.

    Comment by Sam B. — November 16, 2009 @ 5:33 pm

  43. (s/b “that all attorneys are well-compensated . . .”)

    Comment by Sam B. — November 16, 2009 @ 5:34 pm

  44. Sorry, my bad. I knew that the two Sams are different people, but managed to suppress that fact. I agree with a lot of what Sam B. was saying, and I’ve seen a good amount of legal downsizing lately among my immediate family members.

    Comment by Jonathan Green — November 16, 2009 @ 6:36 pm

  45. Hi everyone,

    I just got off the picket lines for the first day. We had over 1000 people participate in the strike today. Just a few items of clarification. What do I mean about the corporatization of the university? Land grant universities were founded on the principle of providing a public education and to foster the creation of knowledge for knowledge’s sake. At least that is the myth that they try and perpetuate. Yet as stated in some of the comments above, the percentage of the university’s budget that comes from the state is rapidly declining. In fact, over the past twenty years the percentage of money spent on education in Illinois and California has flip-flopped with the amount of money spent on the penal system. Could there be a correlation? As universities lose funding from the state in ever increasing amounts, they try to gather funds by any other means possible. This is why administrators spend so much time raising funds and receive bloated paychecks.

    As the education process becomes increasingly about making money, the university begins to run like a business. Departments are pressed to bring in funds, mostly through doing government or corporate research. Departments that don’t generate research money, such as the humanities, are continually pressed to cut costs and become smaller while still teaching the same amount of undergraduates their humanities prerequisites because these prerequisites generate tuition funds for the university. The efforts to possibly change tuition waiver policies are another way to gradually sap the strength from humanities and arts research that doesn’t affect the bottom line. What this means is that education and learning no longer occur for their own sake, but only for the sake of generating money. This is the corporatization of the university and it is in full force at most institutions of higher learning.

    As for Tim and his prospects as a lawyer, I actually feel for him. Studying the law, before the economic downturn, has often been an excellent investment. Yet as he points out, it has often generated lower returns for those who decided to go into less generous areas of the law. In part, the problem has occurred because the university admits too many people compared to the job market available for those who it lets in. It is a shady practice, and one that demonstrates the increasing corporatization of the school. Law students pay tuition, and so, are sources of income for the university.

    As for job prospects, a PhD in the sciences is definitely a good investment. Even for professors, the remuneration is excellent–often in the six figures by the end of your career, For those in the humanities, however, prospects are much lower. Only 50% of History PhDs actually get tenure track jobs. That means that students have to be extraordinarily talented or lucky to find a job. The average PhD in History takes seven years in my department. Seven years is a lot different from three years in law school. Starting salaries for Assistant Professors are often below $50,000. I would be happy to make that. They are higher at major research universities like UIUC, but the research expectations are incredibly high as well. Also, the people hired here usually come from the highest echelon of Universities such as the Ivy League schools, Stanford, Berkeley, and the University of Chicago. Graduates from here can generally expect to teach a notch below the research one university level, at least for their first job. What I am trying to say is that graduate education in the humanities is either a locura or a labor of love and sometimes both.

    As for our own situation here, we only asked for a thirty percent raise for those that make the minimum stipend which is about $13,500. We were asking for the minimum to be raised to $16,000. So the presidents salary would have funded quite a few raises. We have compromised at 3% per year. This is only on the minimum wage. Many TAs, including me, will receive no raise this year and minimal gains next year. My tuition waiver has come as a condition of my excellent academic success both as an undergraduate and graduate student. I was promised this benefit as a condition of my decision to come here, and I will not accept its withdrawal simply because the history department doesn’t generate enough revenue in the University’s eyes.

    Strikes are ugly. They are meant to create bad press for the University so that the administration feels pressure to settle. I do not like doing it. I walked a picket line chanting and making noise in the freezing rain for 7 hours today. They are, however, the only recourse for laborers when the administration refuses to compromise on an important issue. The administration wants to pit undergraduate students and graduate students against one another during contract negotiations, but their interests are generally the same, quality education.

    Comment by Joel — November 16, 2009 @ 6:48 pm

  46. Thanks Joel. I’m happy to hear over a 1000 people came in support. I think it’s safe to say you have the solidarity of most of the readers here.

    Comment by David G. — November 16, 2009 @ 7:05 pm

  47. FWIW the Chronicle of Higher Ed (I’d link to it, but it requires a subscription to access the data) posts the average starting salary for a tenure track assistant prof. in history at $50K/yr. A full prof in history makes an average of $80K. In other fields such as law an assistant prof starts at $80K.

    Granted that practicing law is also becoming a saturated market (not to mention the economic downturn), but my sense is that their earning potential over the life of their career far out paces that of an academic. Additionally, for those who are serious about getting out of law or medical school with little to no debt there are a number of repayment programs for public service and working in certain states; and there’s always the military.

    Comment by smallaxe — November 16, 2009 @ 9:36 pm

  48. “Tim, as a U of I undergrad, you?re directly affected by the strike, and in a bad way. But your interests and those of the grad students are not quite as opposed as you might think. Do you want the grad TAs to be the most talented people in the world, or the most talented in Chicago? That?s what it comes down to.”

    Most of them won’t even be staying in this country. Do I want the best students? It depends on what it costs. I’m an economics major and a bit of a pragmatist. I don’t think we should buy the best students at any price, and I’m already convinced that the ones we have are adequately compensated.

    Who loses here is subject to some sort of discounting as well. The undergraduates are losing a LOT today. Whether this contract makes sufficient future gains that it’s worth being the only party who stands to lose something but has no bargaining power remains to be seen. The university and the graduate students have a voice in this mess. The undergrads are affected in the worst way, and yet we get nothing.

    Joel,

    I really feel bad that a democratic vote from your union’s membership has pushed you down a pointless road for which you are likely to receive no benefit. I was out there in the freezing rain today for just a few short hours and it SUCKED.

    Comment by Tim — November 16, 2009 @ 9:55 pm

  49. This post and commentary have made me feel substantial sympathy for almost everyone involved in the highly personal disruptions of recession.[1] I hope we are able as a society to come together to navigate what are likely to be difficult years ahead rather than find ourselves at each other’s throats fighting over the crumbs from life’s table. One of my favorite people reminded us in EQ on Sunday that the notion that we can buy anything with money is a rank lie.[2]

    [1] I guess I’m leaving off Madoff and his chums.
    [2] I’m not waxing (or intending to wax) platitudinous about how people who lose their jobs can grow spiritually from their misery but trying to think more about how a society can accommodate and nurture the important offerings we all have without merely affixing a price tag.

    Comment by smb — November 16, 2009 @ 10:00 pm

  50. Is being “a bit of a pragmatist” the same thing as being a prick. Jared, after that last comment, that is the most civil I could do.

    Comment by Chris H. — November 16, 2009 @ 10:40 pm

  51. Well, I’d like you to try a little harder, Chris. Thanks.

    Comment by Jared T — November 16, 2009 @ 11:31 pm

  52. You all are stellar examples of tolerance.

    Let me explain where I am coming from.

    People like Tim are not interesting discussants, they are the enemy. They do not deserve polite responses, they deserve a blow to the head…especially after the way he spoke to Joel in his last comment. These type of people are why Casey in the Grapes of Wrath continued with the struggle.

    I recommend a good dose of Pete Seeger.

    Pistol-grip pumped.

    Comment by Chris H. — November 16, 2009 @ 11:45 pm

  53. I don?t know about Illinois specifically, but some ?state? flagship schools derive only 15% or less of their budgets from state appropriation

    Technically true, but that is a wildly misleading statistic, without a large amount of context. One of the reasons it is misleading is that it suggests that typical students at public universities are paying nearly all of the cost of their education, when the actual percentage (for undergraduates) is more like 25%. (say $3,000/yr out of $12,000/yr in attributable costs).

    There are a large number of activities that are included in the revenue of a large public university – research grants, research and service contracts, grants to public television and radio stations, donations, gifts, licensing revenue, hospital revenue, and on and on. Many of those things are “renumerative” enterprises. Patient care for example.

    Another reason it is misleading is that it implies that the state is only covering 15% of the cost of the education being delivered. The reason is the same – so many other revenue generating services and activities are included in the budget that the 15% figure is meaningless as an indication of state support for education. Not only meaningless, more like positively misleading. Should the Church include the cost of the books Deseret Book sells on its expense ledger? That is the sort of thing that gives accountants a bad name.

    Take a look at this. That is for the University of Utah.

    Tuition and fees (net of scholarships) for the FY2007 were $152 million out of a $2.3 billion “budget”. State appropriations were $269 million. $227 million in other governmental grants. Patient care – $883 million(!) in revenue. Sales and services $420 million(!), etc.

    Here is the expense chart.

    $264 million on instruction, perhaps $100 million more in overhead allocable to instruction. $618 million in hospital expenses (cost of patient care), $391 million in exotic “other” expenses, $217 million in research, $381 million in public service, out of $2.092 billion total.

    Setting aside the nonsense of placing such things as $618 in revenue generating hospital expenses on the expense side of the ledger for the entire university, if anything it is clear that undergraduate education is a footnote in the activities of a “flagship” state university. No doubt that was much of the reason why (former U.of U. president) Chase Peterson wanted to get out of undergraduate education completely. A distraction and an obstacle to bigger and better things.

    Comment by Mark D. — November 17, 2009 @ 1:31 am

  54. You’re in a tough situation Joel. I really hope it works out in your favor.

    Comment by WVS — November 17, 2009 @ 1:46 am

  55. I finally got around to reading this post and the subsequent comments. I don’t envy your situation, Joel, and wish you and your fellow TAs all the best. Please let us know if there is anything we (non-Illinois residents) can do to support your cause.

    Comment by Christopher — November 17, 2009 @ 1:55 am

  56. Chris H.,

    Your conduct is despicable.

    A wise man legal scholar once told me:

    You hammer the facts if the factors are in your favor;

    You hammer the law if the law is in your favor;

    And hammer the table if you have neither the facts or the law on your side.

    It’s obvious to me as to which one you’ve chosen.

    Comment by Tim — November 17, 2009 @ 3:15 am

  57. Additionally, for those who are serious about getting out of law or medical school with little to no debt there are a number of repayment programs for public service and working in certain states; and there?s always the military.

    Things are getting better for lawyers willing to work for less.

    Comment by Bill — November 17, 2009 @ 5:57 am

  58. Chris H.,

    People like Tim are not interesting discussants, they are the enemy.

    Undergrads are the enemy?

    Seriously?

    Comment by Sam B. — November 17, 2009 @ 7:51 am

  59. Hey everyone,

    Make sure to keep everything civil.

    Tim,

    Once again, it is the University’s responsibility to provide an education for undergraduates–it is only the graduate students’ responsibility to the point that we are employees of the university. When we and the university cannot come to an agreement on a contract, then the responsibility is on the university to rectify the situation. That’s why you pay your tuition to it and not us. Remember, we teach over twenty percent of classes on campus and receive less than 7% of the money brought in from tuition. You also did not engage any of my arguments in a substantive way. You’re welcome in this discussion to the point that you try to engage with the topic directly.

    Comment by Joel — November 17, 2009 @ 8:09 am

  60. Oh, and Mark we don’t have a Medical school on the Urbana campus of the university. I’m off to the picket lines. Hope to see you there Tim.

    Comment by Joel — November 17, 2009 @ 8:15 am

  61. As someone with a PhD in physics, currently teaching at a small liberal arts college, I feel like I can add a couple of comments to the discussion about starting salaries for those who get PhDs in the sciences.

    First, some data. The American Institute of Physics publishes data every year on the state of careers in physics. (I’m sure that similar organizations do the same for other fields, but since I’m a physicist, the AIP numbers are the ones that matter to me.) The main page can be seen at http://www.aip.org/statistics/ ; The data I’m going to comment on is in figure 2 (http://www.aip.org/statistics/trends/highlite/emp3/figure2.htm) and the summary report on salaries (http://www.aip.org/statistics/trends/highlite/salary/salsum06.pdf).
    If one wants to discuss salary variations between institutions or regions within academia, the AAUP salary survey (http://chronicle.com/stats/aaup/) is also useful.

    Looking at the data, the most obvious feature is the huge gap between academic salaries and industry salaries. Figure 2, referenced above, shows starting salaries for faculty jobs between 40 and 50k, while private sector jobs range between 70 and 90k. The reality, of course, is that the majority of physics PhDs headed into academic careers do one or more stints as a postdoc before landing a faculty position, and starting salaries for postdocs at universities are lower (35-45k).

    This leads to the somewhat paradoxical situation that one can get a higher starting salary with a BS in physics by going into industry than one can with a PhD if one goes into academia.

    To the commenter above who made reference to a philosophy professor making 100k/year, I would reply that waving around the salary of a full professor at a Doctoral institution as somehow typical of what people make in academia is a bit disingenuous. At my institution (Baccalaureate, roughly 40th percentile for salary) median salaries for full professors are in the low 70s, and it takes about 12 years from the time of hire to make full professor if all goes well. If we’re comparing academia with law, a full professor at an R1 school should be compared to a partner at a large firm, for example.

    More on the topic of the original post, when I was a graduate student at the University of Wisconsin, we had a similar contract dispute with the administration which also led to a strike. Both the faculty I worked with and the students I was teaching at the time were extremely supportive, but even so, it was a hard position to be in. Best of luck to Joel as you and your colleagues work your way through it.

    Comment by CQM — November 17, 2009 @ 8:32 am

  62. Sam B,

    Not undergrads, but people who speak down to strikers by treating them like the are fools. People who mock stikers and say that it will not do any good. Give up the struggle. In other words…self-righteous anti-union henchman. That is all Tim is. However, he is a great testament to the power of American capitalist ideology. What to we do when we see somebody fighting for an honest wage. We crap on them.

    I will give him credit for his above attempt at poetry.

    Joel, sorry if I have offended you. Good luck on the picket line.

    Comment by Chris H. — November 17, 2009 @ 8:39 am

  63. Chris,
    I don’t see where Tim is a “self-righteous anti-union henchman.” But suppose he is. You see someone fighting for an honest wage; he sees someone trying to take away a good that he has paid for and that he needs.

    The way you’re speaking to him, you take for granted that the striker is deserving of something more than he or she is currently getting. In the current economy, though, that’s a poor assumption. We’re currently facing roughly 10% unemployment, affecting everyone from exploited undocumented immigrants to high-paid bankers. Moreover, lots of people in lots of industries are seeing wage freezes, wage reductions, and involuntary furloughs.

    That isn’t to say that the grad students shouldn’t be looking for a wage increase, or even that they don’t deserve an increase. It is to say that assuming, without demonstrating, as much is a fraught exercise, moreso now.

    In other words, Tim is not the enemy. He’s the one you have to convince. Do grad students merit a wage increase? Maybe. But why them and not social workers? or middle-school teachers? or why not extend unemployment benefits? Because money is fungible, but it isn’t infinite.

    All this is not to say that Joel and his union are wrong. I really don’t have enough information. But your rhetoric doesn’t help his cause—it doesn’t convince people opposed to strikers, and pushes away people on the fence and people who try to balance priorities.

    Good luck, Joel. I wish you and your union and the university the best. And I hope you guys are presenting arguments beyond just dessert/need.

    Comment by Sam B. — November 17, 2009 @ 9:23 am

  64. Yeah, I’m an American capitalist pig because I want to go to class and get what I paid for. Mea culpa!

    Comment by Tim — November 17, 2009 @ 10:01 am

  65. Sam,

    So the issue of an honest wage has the equal moral claim of missing a day or two of class? How many classes does an upper-level econ student take from TA’s? If he is the serious student that he claims to be, he would welcome this time to work on papers and research projects.

    “…you take for granted that the striker is deserving of something more than he or she is currently getting..” Much in the way that you and Tim assume that he/she does not.

    Why is Tim commenting at JI? It is not because he is interested in Mormon history. He has nothing but contempt for graduate students and scholars in the humanities. He is here because he is actively opposing the strike. Look at his blog, he is actively involved in opposing the strike. This is not a quest for truth or fact. The only facts he recognizes are the ones that he makes up.

    “But your rhetoric doesn?t help his cause?it doesn?t convince people opposed to strikers, and pushes away people on the fence and people who try to balance priorities.” You are obviously in need of a shove.

    “But why them and not social workers? or middle-school teachers? or why not extend unemployment benefits?” The only concern you have shown here is for future law students. Oh, no, I hope they do not get their hope for lucre too high.

    Sam, I have chosen a side. By pretending to not choose a side, you have also made a choice (note to Christoper: I can make references to the band Rush and RATM all in the same thread).

    Comment by Chris H. — November 17, 2009 @ 10:09 am

  66. The rhetoric from both Chris H. and Tim has been heated and too often below the belt. The editors at the JI are by inclination going to be a bit more lenient on Chris because he’s commented here frequently and (usually) adds substantively to the conversation. Tim, on the other hand, just showed up for this thread and has made several unjustified comments. Please be aware that our comment policy asks that all participants engage in “friendly discussion” and that the editors will moderate and ban according to our, not your, discretion.

    Comment by Admin — November 17, 2009 @ 10:11 am

  67. Sorry.

    Comment by Chris H. — November 17, 2009 @ 10:16 am

  68. Chris,
    I’m inclined to reply to you as rudely as you have to me, but I won’t (mostly out of respect for the others on this blog). I will, however, respond to you.

    First, I don’t need a shove. I need information, which Joel and Tim have both provided to some extent, but which has been sorely absent from your cheerleading. I have no desire to engage in class warfare; I find it unappealing and unproductive. Inasmuch as I’m a long ways from the U of I, though, and get the bulk of my news from the NYTimes, Slate, and Salon. None of these sources has dedicated any space that I’ve seen to the grad student strike. So I don’t have information to take sides. (Not, I should add, that my choice of sides makes any difference.)

    I agree that Tim has been rude and a lot (though not all) of what he has said has not been helpful. And I recognize that in today’s world, that’s apparently justification to respond in kind. But that turns me off on Fox News, and it turns me off elsewhere. Cries of class warfare, while they may energize the base (see, e.g., Sarah Palin) don’t attract the non-base.

    I certainly do have concern for future law students. I think many of them go to law school with a too-rosy view of what awaits them. I’m not convinced that other grad students don’t also enter grad school with utopian visions of their own possible success, but, not having gone through the various application processes, I don’t know what assumptions they’re harboring and what assumptions they make that are unfounded.

    I do know that one of my best friends from high school teaches high school in California. He, like all California employees, has a mandatory furlough of some certain number of days a month. He love the days off, but not the reduction in salary.

    Ultimately, it seems to me, a strike has two purposes: one is to convince the employer to improve working conditions. The other is to publicize grievances. But, to the extent that strikers alienate the general public, they’re not accomplishing an important part of the purpose of a strike. And sloganeering, absent anything more, isn’t going to convince an un- and underemployed populace that grad students deserve more.

    I’m sorry you see law students as the enemy. And I’m sorry that some (many) come across as self-absorbed. Frankly, far too many are. But, sadly, they’re not alone. There are self-absorbed doctors, teachers, philosophers, actors, etc. But answering self-absorption with self-absorption races our culture to the bottom.

    Comment by Sam B. — November 17, 2009 @ 10:36 am

  69. note to Christoper: I can make references to the band Rush and RATM all in the same thread

    Show me, don’t tell me. I’ve heard it all before. Just please don’t go rollin’ down Rodeo with a shotgun.

    Comment by Christopher — November 17, 2009 @ 10:37 am

  70. Ok, so my attempt was a bit more forced. 🙂

    Comment by Christopher — November 17, 2009 @ 10:39 am

  71. Sorry, I didn’t respond to your first (and most important) issue: the honest wage.

    With grad students, the issue of wages is a tough one. The grad student has to live on the stipend, but is a hybrid employee/student. Should grad students be paid more? I don’t know; I don’t know what they’re paid (although in the comments, Joel provided a baseline that’s lower than what I’d want to live on), I don’t know what they’re promised when they sign up, and I don’t know what the promises for the future are.

    But, because of the hybrid nature, the wage is actually higher than the dollar amount they receive–there is a subsidized education that has to play into it. If you take a $20,000/year free education plus a $13,000 stipend . . . it still doesn’t look like a lot, but that becomes higher than many people make.

    In addition, I don’t know what the cost of living is in Champaign.

    Which is to say, an honest wage is not a simple issue. And I don’t know what an honest wage for a grad student–or for anybody else–would be.

    Comment by Sam B. — November 17, 2009 @ 10:45 am

  72. Sam,

    Fair enough. Our styles are just very different. I have nothing against law students. Most of my students are future law students (and many of my former students are now in law school). I often warn them about the things that you have mention, though at the same time I usually encourage them to go to law school. I am still not sure how relevant that really is to this issue, though I understand why it came up.

    BTW, the shove was meant to be more symbolic and not physical.

    Christopher: Nice. I have screams of “WAAAKE UUUP” in my head. Not sure why.

    Comment by Chris H. — November 17, 2009 @ 10:49 am

  73. Christopher,

    That did not come acroos forced. Some people can reference scripture with ease. I have other talents (all very unemployable).

    Comment by Chris H. — November 17, 2009 @ 10:52 am

  74. Okay, Chris, that’s fair. My students are law students, and many of them were philosophy/poli sci students as undergrads.

    The law school thing is, ultimately, fairly irrelevant, and my sole purpose in pushing it is to suggest that law students are not necessarily the future riche. (As a side note, on a selfish level, I’m glad you recommend law school, but on a less self-absorbed level, please continue to warn them that graduating from law school doesn’t guarantee wealth, fame, and good stuff like that.)

    And I’d sign off with a clever rock’n’roll allusion, but nothing leaps to mind.

    Comment by Sam B. — November 17, 2009 @ 10:56 am

  75. “But, to the extent that strikers alienate the general public, they?re not accomplishing an important part of the purpose of a strike. And sloganeering, absent anything more, isn?t going to convince an un- and underemployed populace that grad students deserve more.”

    This one has resulted in even more than that. By blocking the entrances to student buildings, angering the undergraduates, and holding their education for ransom in order to advance their dispute, my assessment has been that the GEO is relying on pity from the community more than anything else.

    I’m not the only undergraduate fighting back, however. There have been reports of undergraduates heckling the picketers, profanity, disruptions, etc. The University has not provided adequate police protection despite my requests for them to do so. I contacted them with the safety of the picketers and the students crossing the picket lines in mind, first and foremost.

    This is an institution of higher education. It must have some sort of management and control. The students are, unfortunately, at the bottom (with undergraduates such as myself, at the extreme bottom, even though we make up the majority of the university community).

    This strike is counterproductive. The University has no money to pay them, can’t make contractual promises that it may not be able to keep, and considering that full time staff members and even tenured faculty may be furloughed very soon, their dispute is rightly characterized as unreasonable by the local public, who see economic suffering all around them and expect these graduate students to take one for the team.

    I am generally opposed to all uses of monopoly power to gain a competitive advantage against another group. Big labor and big business are really just two sides of the same coin, and it never made any sense to me why one is viewed as a virtue and the other a vice. Each seeks to use the exact same microeconomic concept (monopoly power) to distort the market such that it serves their interest at the expense of consumers. Perhaps I have a different sense of morality, but this is unacceptable to me. I am opposed to both of them using exploitative tactics at the expense of the consumer.

    In this instance, I’m the consumer. My tax dollars and tuition are going to subsidize the education of these graduate students. While I gain some value from having better graduate students, better scholarship, and from my university maintaining its rankings, I lose far more when my teachers won’t go to work. Future undergraduates here lose as well when their tuition rises to further subsidize these graduate students’ higher pay. When one factors in the tuition waiver that all of the GEO members are currently getting, they are compensated at a rate of $20.80 an hour. I don’t know about you guys, but I’ve never heard of any part time job that pays $20.80 an hour while providing a clear path to betterment and higher wages later. If I’d known that I could get paid to attend graduate school, I probably would have gone to college when I was 18 instead of working for several years and returning to school.

    The fact of the matter is that media coverage only shows a very narrow picture of this strike. Over 32,000 undergraduates attend this university, which was founded with federal monies because even 150 years ago, before Social Security, before the “New Deal,” and before the United States was even a first-rate industrialized nation, our government believed, even in the wake of huge debts from the civil war, that middle class people deserved some sort of opportunity to get a college education. Even if I am a “capitalist pig,” I’ve studied enough economics to realize that education is the great equalizer–in both the micro (individual) and macro (society, the whole economy, etc.) sense.

    But at the end of the day, I”m the consumer. I’m the reason this university is here. The graduate students work for me, not the administration, but the payer of taxes and tuition so that this university can exist. I’ll be paying for this college education, most likely, for the rest of my life, as will tens of thousands of my fellow undergraduates, whose ultimate goal is to gain a college education. Without it, not only is their money lost, but any liberating effect that education has is meaningless if they cannot profit from their hard work in education.

    These graduate students, to serve their interests at the expense of mine, are engaging in a ransom. Their degrees–which will make them among the most competitive persons in the work force–and even though they are reaping the benefits of the undergraduates’ attendance (not just in tuition dollars, but in valuable future experience as instructors for which their wages are just a very small portion of their compensation), they still claim that they are entitled to more, and that I haven’t given enough.

    I’m not buying it. $20.80 per hour in compensation is more than anyone needs. This isn’t some selfish university administration denying them “fair pay” and starving them so he can get a bonus. This university faces a budget crisis, our whole economy is in recession (our unemployment rate is now equal to the average unemployment rate in western Europe), and even if we did have more to give, these are people who came here voluntarily and accepted what was offered to them.

    It makes me sick that while I have the same interests as them (to be a scholar) and even though I know for sure that I’ll be attending graduate school next fall (I have already been admitted to four, with many more applications pending), I have to observe them saying that a free ride to a top school PLUS a living stipend for 20 hours of work per week when I am going to have to take tens (or hundreds) of thousands of dollars in debt to achieve the same thing, with NO promise of a salary that will make up the difference (which other posters here have already pointed out).

    It is sickening and wrong, and I won’t stand for it. These people have an opportunity that most, even educated people, can only dream of. And instead of saying “thank you” to the undergraduates and taxpayers who have made it possible, they air grievances based not on exploitation, but by an interest in higher living standards for people who already agreed to forgo higher wages in return for a prestigious degree in what is called “The ancient and honorable community of scholars.” Why should we stand for it?

    Comment by Tim — November 17, 2009 @ 12:05 pm

  76. Thanks for sharing.

    Comment by Chris H. — November 17, 2009 @ 12:51 pm

  77. The students are, unfortunately, at the bottom (with undergraduates such as myself, at the extreme bottom, even though we make up the majority of the university community).

    We’ll see if you feel the same way once you’re a graduate student.

    Comment by Christopher — November 17, 2009 @ 1:05 pm

  78. If y’all get tired of calling yourselves Juveniles, you could rechristen your blog “Tim’s Soapbox.”

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — November 17, 2009 @ 1:08 pm

  79. $20.80 per hour in compensation is more than anyone needs.

    We’ll see if you still feel that way when you’re a lawyer 😉

    Comment by Ben — November 17, 2009 @ 1:15 pm

  80. “The students are, unfortunately, at the bottom (with undergraduates such as myself, at the extreme bottom, even though we make up the majority of the university community).

    We?ll see if you feel the same way once you?re a graduate student.”

    What’s the alternative? A student takeover?

    Comment by Tim — November 17, 2009 @ 1:15 pm

  81. I’ve been mostly silent so far but I have to agree with Tim. Thus far I have worked my way through graduate school. Not making 20. dollars an hour or 13k a year, but making 12k a year working 3 different jobs. These included being a pizza deliver man, and a grave yard desk clerk at a hotel. This is in addition to my full time school work where I completed my M.A. and published several research papers. Oh, and did I forget to mention the time I slept in my car at a conference so I could deliver a paper?

    Relatively speaking the graduate students striking at this school have it easy. I would have killed to have worked half as hard for roughly the same amount of money, (12k for me or 13.5k for the grad students in question), and get a reduced cost in education and much needed teaching experience in the process. So forgive me if I don’t feel your pain. And if that makes me a “jerk” than so be it.

    So my only (semi-serious) question is: if you guys are on strike who do I talk to about getting a job teaching at UofI?

    Comment by Morgan Deane — November 17, 2009 @ 1:27 pm

  82. Ben (#78),

    Please use a different moniker, at least when commenting at JI. We already have a Ben who has been commenting under that name for over 2 years (here and elsewhere around the ‘nacle).

    Comment by Christopher — November 17, 2009 @ 1:41 pm

  83. I would have killed to have worked half as hard for roughly the same amount of money, (12k for me or 13.5k for the grad students in question), and get a reduced cost in education and much needed teaching experience in the process.

    Then you should’ve worked your ass off as an undergrad so that you could get into a school like UIUC as a graduate student.

    And while I’m sorry that you had to work night jobs to pay for your education, forgive me for not buying your argument that delivering pizzas and standing behind a desk at a hotel during the night shift when virtually no one comes in somehow means you worked harder than graduate students, like Joel, who are employed by the University as a TA. Worked more? Sure. Harder? Not even close.

    Comment by Christopher — November 17, 2009 @ 1:46 pm

  84. Morgan, I tried commenting over at Tim’s blog, in response to your comment there, but I was put in moderation. If you hate the JI so much, feel free to never comment here again.

    Comment by David G. — November 17, 2009 @ 2:02 pm

  85. I resent the implication that somehow you guys are entilted to more because you position demands it.

    You people grade papers and teach survey courses (both easy activities despite the sometimes high number of people) and you do so at far higher wage than normal people working arguably harder jobs. Insert any demanding job outside of academia and your wage is already comprable to theirs, and your perks (reduced tution, schools health care etc.) are easily more worthwile than theirs. This is despite that fact that I and many others would argue that your jobs are easier. Then you get mad when the school wants to descrease the perks of your pampered lifestyle during a time of extreme financial hardship for many other people. You know only get mad, but seem to call anybody who disagrees with you lazy and or stupid. (But thats so much more scholarly than “jerk” right?)

    I worked more and harder as a graduate student than these whiny GTAs in the strike, and your response only confirms my belief that this is about some people with an entitlement complex more than a legit grievance. Nelson Mandela would be so proud of you guys for standing up to the man to end the exploitation of…highly paid and “harder” working GTAs.

    Comment by Morgan Deane — November 17, 2009 @ 2:10 pm

  86. Thanks David. I forgot the first rule of the Bloggernacle was never talk about the Bloggernacle. If you don’t like my comment you can feel free to ignore me. Heaven forbid that you and others spew any insults, tell me to get lost, or in general confirm my negative perception of some people here.

    Comment by Morgan Deane — November 17, 2009 @ 2:21 pm

  87. You people grade papers and teach survey courses (both easy activities despite the sometimes high number of people)

    No. Like gardening, cooking, or shooting free throws, teaching well is harder than it looks.

    There’s a Nibley quote about getting up early that’s relevant here.

    Comment by matt b. — November 17, 2009 @ 3:13 pm

  88. Well,

    It looks like the strike will be over by tonight. The administration caved into our demands–mostly because we copied and pasted a press release from the provost into the contract. It has been a madhouse here with hundreds of classes canceled and over a thousand marchers participating. After settling, we all marched together across the Quad. It was spectacular theater, and should be featured prominently in the press here tonight. I don’t want to engage very much with most of the comments except to say that I’m sad that we live in a society where different types of students have to feel like they’re competing against each other. This is another manifestation of the corporatization of the university.

    I also agree with Matt that good teaching, though not usually physically strenuous, can be difficult in other ways.

    The strike worked primarily because it generated lots of bad press for the University and because so many classes were canceled. The purpose of the strike was to remind the administration how important we are to its proper function. The thing that Tim just didn’t understand in all of his comments was that salaries had been settled before the strike had even occurred. We were just looking for protection of tuition waivers–something we already receive. I’m glad he talked to the police and university administrators–that only served to help our cause. I do hope that no one else here has to go through a TA strike because it is not a fun experience. But it was successful in helping us win a moral victory against the administration and against the continuing corporatization of state universities all over the country. As evidence that this is not just a Illinois problem, workers, students, and professors should be going on strike at Berkeley tomorrow. They have the right idea. All of us. Students and faculty have to fight to make sure that society makes a greater commitment to education. It is a great social investment.

    Comment by Joel — November 17, 2009 @ 4:14 pm

  89. Thanks for the update, Joel; I’m really pleased that it turned out well.

    Comment by Ben — November 17, 2009 @ 4:22 pm

  90. “Students and faculty have to fight to make sure that society makes a greater commitment to education. It is a great social investment”

    Amen.

    Comment by Chris H. — November 17, 2009 @ 4:25 pm

  91. Awesome, Joel. We’re happy for you.

    Morgan, no one has insulted you, at least here. It is you who have said the JI reminds you of everything you hated about grad school. Furthermore, your comments about teaching not being hard and TA’s being nothing but whiners are also ill-informed and out of line.

    Comment by David G. — November 17, 2009 @ 4:27 pm

  92. Awesome, Joel!

    Morgan, what David said. Where has any JI admin on this thread insulted you? You come back to the “JerK” comment, but that wasn’t one of us, ok? Rather, we’ve been pretty consistent in repeating for at least three times to keep the discussion civil and we’ve allowed Tim and people like you to voice your comments here, which most of us find insulting ourselves. So, what are you talking about?

    I’ll be the first one to say that my own responses on different threads has not been consistent, sometimes I feel to be nice and strive for civility, other times I’m not civil. But that the tension exists, for me, means someting. Plus the fact that here at the JI, like in so many other venues, each commenter is different and we come from a diversity of backgrounds and views. So, please, keep that in mind and please refrain from making sweeping generalizations about the blog.

    Comment by Jared T. — November 17, 2009 @ 4:39 pm

  93. Hooray, Joel. Wonderful news!

    Comment by Christopher — November 17, 2009 @ 4:42 pm

  94. Christopher- noted, though JI Ben links back to JI in his sig and I don’t.

    And if we’re going to play the “how long one’s been around and commented” game, I think I have JI Ben beat. (Guest blogged at T&S back in 2004, and have contributed regularly at several places since.)

    But no one likes an evil doppelganger, so I’ll try to remember to differentiate my sig when I comment here.

    Comment by Non-JI Ben — November 17, 2009 @ 4:48 pm

  95. And congrats Joel and the others in the 3 family and 1 student ward at UIUC.

    Comment by Non-JI Ben — November 17, 2009 @ 4:49 pm

  96. Joel,

    Most of us think that your tuition waiver is part of your compensation. Your union has told us that it costs the university nothing. I’m sure you know that is straight political spin at the very least. I think it’s a total lie.

    Comment by Tim — November 17, 2009 @ 5:02 pm

  97. Morgan and others who have commented on my blog.

    I’m sorry that I wasn’t here to approve them immediately. I was at class after I got through the picket lines, where 50% of my classmates didn’t make it. They are approved now and anyone else is welcome to comment. I don’t moderate comments for content, only to prevent bots and spam. All comments left by actual people are approved.

    Comment by Tim — November 17, 2009 @ 5:04 pm

  98. “Your union has told us that it costs the university nothing. I?m sure you know that is straight political spin at the very least. I think it?s a total lie.”

    Tim, your side lost. Do not frett, this is America. The strikers usually lose. You will have many happy days in the future.

    If only this was the good old 1880s. Then they could have sent the police in with sticks and ended this oppression of the U of I undergrads. Sigh. Strikes are no fun without state violence against the workers.

    Comment by Chris H. — November 17, 2009 @ 5:19 pm

  99. My side lost the instant the strike began. I am an undergraduate student, and my tuition is guaranteed not to go up next semester.

    The real losers, however, are next year’s incoming freshman. They will have to pay higher tuition because of this.

    I have never advocated strike breaking and I did not ever suggest that they didn’t have a right to strike.

    I will say, however, that it was counterproductive. They lost their health benefits (which the university already agreed to a full subsidy of before the strike even began). They didn’t get the wage increase that they wanted. And from what I understand, no legitimate change in the policy towards out of state fee waivers has actually happened, but union negotiators are happy with the language, which one article today suggests that this entire thing could have been about one word.

    Either way, they are worse off for having struck. They really got nothing, nothing has changed, they have made fools of themselves and disrupted undergraduate education, and staff members and non tenured faculty will suffer for their greed.

    Enjoy your hollow victory. My only dog in this fight was wanting to get what I’ve paid for. I lost the minute they walked out.

    Comment by Tim — November 17, 2009 @ 5:44 pm

  100. David G: In my comment about everything I hate I was referring to elitism and pretentiousness that often comes academia. Unfortunately, your “doth protest too much” complaints (3 times now on two different threads) tends to confirm my belief that at least some of you have an inflated regard for your opinion.

    If I’m wrong I am glad to be, but the overwrought responses to criticisms of the OP’s complaints, the almost immediate implication that I was too stupid or lazy during my education (comment 83)combined with a hyper defensiveness from several more people reinforced that generalization.

    I agree, Jared, that I used too broad a brush in my criticisms and I apologize for that. Despite my over generalized comment I read and enjoy a variety of blogs including this one. I’m truly sorry I let a couple of my pet peeves make some very impolite and broad statements.

    Comment by Morgan Deane — November 17, 2009 @ 5:50 pm

  101. It saddens me that this post got 100 comments and the post on the disbanding of BYU’s Women’s Research Institute received only a couple.

    Comment by Amanda H. — November 17, 2009 @ 6:32 pm

  102. Be of good cheer, Amanda. As people keep assuring me, the comment count has little to do with the greatness of a post or the significance of its topic — in fact, the fewer the comments, the greater the likelihood that a post has been appreciated, touched lives, and made a difference in the world.

    What? That doesn’t comfort you either?

    Comment by Ardis Parshall — November 17, 2009 @ 6:41 pm

  103. Tim,

    Our contract when from a regressive contract proposed by the University to a progressive one. We didn’t get everything we wanted. Unions never do. You ask for more than you want in order to get something fair. Compared to what the University initially offered us, it is a great contract. You should try and bill the University for your lost time.

    Amanda,

    I also bemoan that this post has received more attention than the equally important Women’s Research Institute post.

    Comment by Joel — November 17, 2009 @ 7:16 pm

  104. Thanks for your comments, Tim. I have to agree with you, especially your comments in #75.

    The graduate students may have won this battle, but they (and other union influences) are losing the war.

    Comment by clayton — November 17, 2009 @ 7:45 pm

  105. Amanda,

    I made a comment with question over at one of the recent WRI posts at JI.

    Comment by Chris H. — November 17, 2009 @ 8:05 pm

  106. “You should try and bill the University for your lost time.”

    Actually, I should sue the union for battery (considering the strikers actually put their hands on me when I went to cross the picket line today in order to attend my class) and sue THEM for my lost time. They’re the ones responsible for this strike, NOT the university.

    “The graduate students may have won this battle, but they (and other union influences) are losing the war.”

    I might agree with you, but the problem in this instance is that this is personal to me, as these people were denying thousands of people the education for which they have already paid. I know that unions are on the decline. People finally woke up and realized that big labor and big business are in cahoots anyway.

    It is atrocious and shameful that this is even allowed in a modern society.

    Comment by Tim — November 17, 2009 @ 9:16 pm

  107. “It is atrocious and shameful that this is even allowed in a modern society.”

    Genocide? Rape? Female Genital Mutilation? Poverty?

    Nope. A two day distruption of Tim’s undergraduate class schedule. After all, they did make physical contact. Classic.

    Comment by Chris H. — November 17, 2009 @ 9:21 pm

  108. Most of the comments on this thread have been pretty lamentable. But just to antagonize the likes of Tim and Morgan, I will now in my most sneering, academically whiny keystrokes deliver some condescending remarks straight from the ivory tower. I give you Lucretius (De Rerum Natura 2.1-14), in Latin, because that is what jerk-face academics learn on your wasted dime:

    Suave, mari magno turbantibus aequora ventis
    e terra magnum alterius spectare laborem;
    non quia vexari quemquamst iucunda voluptas,
    sed quibus ipse malis careas quia cernere suavest.
    suave etiam belli certamina magna tueri
    per campos instructa tua sine parte pericli.
    sed nihil dulcius est, bene quam munita tenere
    edita doctrina sapientum templa serena,
    despicere unde queas alios passimque videre
    errare atque viam palantis quaerere vitae,
    certare ingenio, contendere nobilitate,
    noctes atque dies niti praestante labore
    ad summas emergere opes rerumque potiri.
    o miseras hominum mentes, o pectora caeca!

    Man, I love me some Lucretius! Still relevant after these many years.

    And good work, Joel. As a comrade in arms at a university to the north of you, I feel for you and hope that U of I gets its act in gear.

    Comment by oudenos — November 17, 2009 @ 9:46 pm

  109. Translation please?

    Comment by Mark D. — November 17, 2009 @ 10:09 pm

  110. I like Latin by the way, and what little I have learned is anything but a waste of time.

    Comment by Mark D. — November 17, 2009 @ 10:10 pm

  111. Non-JI Ben,

    And if we?re going to play the ?how long one?s been around and commented? game, I think I have JI Ben beat. (Guest blogged at T&S back in 2004, and have contributed regularly at several places since.)

    I’m aware of your blogging history. My impression is that you were regularly commenting around the bloggernacle under other monikers (i.e. with your last initial at T&S or as “M* Ben” at M*) until you started working for Patheos a few months ago, at which point you began commenting simply as “Ben.” Am I mistaken?

    Comment by Christopher — November 17, 2009 @ 10:20 pm

  112. Consider me agonized oudenos. Or, translated into Ivory Tower: Xianzai dangran wo quanshan dou bu shufu.

    Comment by Morgan Deane — November 17, 2009 @ 10:26 pm

  113. Mark D.,

    Here is an old-timey translation for you (W.E. Leonard).

    ‘Tis sweet, when, down the mighty main, the winds
    Roll up its waste of waters, from the land
    To watch another’s labouring anguish far,
    Not that we joyously delight that man
    Should thus be smitten, but because ’tis sweet
    To mark what evils we ourselves be spared;
    ‘Tis sweet, again, to view the mighty strife
    Of armies embattled yonder o’er the plains,
    Ourselves no sharers in the peril; but naught
    There is more goodly than to hold the high
    Serene plateaus, well fortressed by the wise,
    Whence thou may’st look below on other men
    And see them ev’rywhere wand’ring, all dispersed
    In their lone seeking for the road of life;
    Rivals in genius, or emulous in rank,
    Pressing through days and nights with hugest toil
    For summits of power and mastery of the world.
    O wretched minds of men! O blinded hearts!

    Comment by oudenos — November 17, 2009 @ 10:27 pm

  114. Haven’t been very consistent, have I? 🙂

    There’s a dissertation topic for somebody- “Identity Formation in the non-Real Sphere: Representation, Duplication, and Confusion”

    Comment by Non-JI Ben — November 17, 2009 @ 10:31 pm

  115. Chris H.,

    Now that you’re finally void of any real argument, you’ve gone from annoying to condescending and irrelevant.

    Comment by Tim — November 17, 2009 @ 10:38 pm

  116. Morgan,

    I resent the implication that somehow you guys are entilted to more because you position demands it.

    And I resent the fact that you think you’re better than me because you delivered pizzas.

    Then you get mad when the school wants to descrease the perks of your pampered lifestyle during a time of extreme financial hardship for many other people.

    Pampered lifestyle? Really? Because we didn’t deliver pizzas we lead a pampered lifestyle?

    I worked more and harder as a graduate student than these whiny GTAs in the strike

    How on earth would you know this?

    If you don?t like my comment you can feel free to ignore me.

    Morgan, we are the creators, administrators, and authors of this blog. Not you. We make the rules around here. Not you. Please respect that fact and observe our comment policy.

    the almost immediate implication that I was too stupid or lazy during my education (comment 83)combined with a hyper defensiveness from several more people reinforced that generalization.

    I’m sorry for my suggestion that you are stupid or lazy. It was, of course, merely a reaction to your own suggestions that TAs at UIUC did not work hard as pizza delivery boys.

    Comment by Christopher — November 17, 2009 @ 10:39 pm

  117. Now that you?re finally void of any real argument, you?ve gone from annoying to condescending and irrelevant.

    As have you.

    Comment by Christopher — November 17, 2009 @ 10:42 pm

  118. Thanks, oudenos.

    Comment by Mark D. — November 17, 2009 @ 10:54 pm

  119. Argument? Nope, I am just mocking you. It is way too easy, but still enjoyable after hours. I hope none of those mean grad students touch you for the rest of the week (unless you really like that kind of thing).

    Ok, you are right. I am annoying.

    Comment by Chris H. — November 17, 2009 @ 11:22 pm

  120. This year’s academic job list looks like for English: In the entire country, there are openings for 9 medievalists, 14 Renaissance scholars, 7 eighteenth-century scholars, 6 Romanticists, 7 nineteenth-century scholars, and 12 twentieth-century scholars.

    I’ll note that the average school teacher makes more money than the average attorney. Which is why legal services positions have such heavy application rates for jobs paying $40k a year or less with no benefits.

    Legal employment is tri-modal. The high end (which has lost some of its luster) which picks up about 10% of the law school graduates, starts with a peak around $140k.

    The next bulge has a peak around $60k — and is flooded with applications.

    The bottom bulge, which is under reported, but large enough to pull the entire field’s average pay to under $40k, is somewhat lower.

    It was that way when I graduated in ’82 (at that time the average pay was under $25k for all lawyers).

    I had some analysis I can’t remember, but it goes to the fact that as in many other fields, those at the top are learning to leverage their positions to get paid a great deal more than those at the bottom, which is causing problems all the way around.

    But academic employment is especially hard hit.

    Comment by Stephen M (Ethesis) — November 17, 2009 @ 11:31 pm

  121. In my experience Christopher, the teaching portion of my work load is easier and pays more. And I sure as hell never made 20 dollars an hour delivering pizzas (maybe I should have shaken my booty some more), let alone got any benefits. Thus, in my experience my teaching position is not only easier, but far more productive in providing for my family.

    Perhaps I am too grateful for doing what I want to do and not being in so many crappy ‘pay the rent’ jobs to notice how hard teaching is supposed to be. Perhaps I am so grateful to finally have a job in my career field that I don’t whine about the perks I supposedly deserve. Perhaps I’m too stupid to know that I suck as a teacher! But I am sublimely grateful for the opportunity to teach and don’t mind the lack of perks at this point in my career. At this point actually, I consider the relatively large pay check and the peace of mind it gives my family a great perk!

    Most of all, I’m sorry you don’t recognize the opinion of somebody with a great deal of life experience (9 years in the military, deployments, death, working through school, several tough breaks, yada yada yada); due to that life experience I get a little less demanding and impatient over tuition waivers and such. I’m also sorry I failed to explain where I am coming from, which makes me disregard the grave causes of this strike.

    So relax. From my perspective I think you have it pretty good, and I will draw certain conclusions about people who want to complain about being in a better situation than me (through more money, better benefits, funds for research etc). I can express them more tactfully, but I still believe them. I hope that explains my position a bit better, good luck in your studies.

    Comment by Morgan Deane — November 17, 2009 @ 11:37 pm

  122. Thanks for the more conciliatory comment, Morgan.

    I am curious about your repeated suggestion that graduate students are “whining” about their situation. Is this a reference to the strikers at UIUC? Does a strike, in your thinking, equate with whining? Or are you referring to commenters here? If so, can you please provide examples so that I can better understand your point?

    Comment by Christopher — November 17, 2009 @ 11:47 pm

  123. You all realize, don’t you, that you’re sounding very much like your fathers in this who-suffered-most contest? “I walked six miles uphill (both ways) in the snow to deliver pizzas!” “Well, when *I* delivered pizzas, I had to cross a croc-infested swamp, and …” It’s very entertaining.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — November 17, 2009 @ 11:48 pm

  124. That was my third draft, you should have seen the first two. 🙂

    I seem to get the whining idea from a couple of factors. First, as I said earlier, the benefits that the gtas get at U of I seem pretty good. So good in fact that I would take them right now over my adjunct position (acceptance in the PhD program would be nice too of course). So it bugs me that people want to strike for slightly better benefits, when even their “reduced” benefits already seem like a pot of gold compared to my past two years. So yes I think the strike is a whine. In a perfect world I would go back and respond with more emphathy.

    Adding to that were some rude comments towards a few of the people that I agreed with, (see comments 1-10 or so). I aslo felt like several of the comments suggested that teaching is a huge burden. As I mentioned before, I’m so happy to have my adjunct position that I feel blessed, excited and relieved to do it. To have people strike over benefits when they already have an awesome jobs seems ungrateful to me.

    Plus those “tough breaks” I mentioned were in regard to grad school acceptance. Its a long story but I still feel shafted, and I feel like I had to claw my way back into acceptence, and you correctly identified a chip on my should about it.

    I fully realize I don’t know everybodies(sp) situation here, and like Ardis said, maybe somebody had to deliver pizzas by foot running through monsoons while translating Virgil with their free hand and then they got in a mining cart and battled the evil dudes henchmen as he broke the damn and then you had to save the annoying Chinese kid…

    I should also tell you about the six stages of Morgan chatting: 1: I comment forcefully 2: People don’t like it 3: I double down 4: I get body slammed or group tackled, 5: I comeback with a better tone with the same point 6: We all have a group hug and talk. I rarely comment on blogs around here but thats how it goes.

    But now I’m rambling horribly. Hope that answers your question a bit more.

    Comment by Morgan Deane — November 18, 2009 @ 12:16 am

  125. Good stuff, Morgan. FWIW, I’m not a Mormon–my friend linked me to this blog. He is.

    Comment by Tim — November 18, 2009 @ 1:32 am

  126. Thanks Morgan and Tim, it’s made for a lively discussion. Now if we could just get Chris H. in on the group hug …

    Comment by Steve Fleming — November 18, 2009 @ 1:49 am

  127. Hugs all around Steve.

    Comment by Chris H. — November 18, 2009 @ 6:47 am

  128. Wow, 128 comments (and counting). We usually only get this type of traffic when we blog about race or Glenn Beck. I guess labor disputes get people riled up too.

    Comment by David G. — November 18, 2009 @ 7:25 am

  129. Thus, we are striking to protect the benefits we were promised when we came to the University.

    I think that is the point that got overlooked in much of the above debate and discussion.

    Comment by Stephen M (Ethesis) — November 18, 2009 @ 8:05 am

  130. May I suggest something? We might see the tuition waivers as an attempt to make graduate school more diverse and equitable. The tuition at the public university where I am a graduate student is $36,000 a year. As someone from a lower socioeconomic background, I could never afford to pay that outright and the likely salary I would make after graduate school would never allow me to pay it back if I had to take it all out in loans. No tuition waiver, no graduate school for me.

    Also, I have some friends who have full-ride scholarships to law school, and yes, their scholarships come with a small stipend. Should law schools offer more scholarships to make it possible for more low income students to attend? Perhaps, but let’s not pretend that every student who is at law school is paying their way.

    Oh, and since this has turned into a “how far can you spit” contest, I have worked as a maid, at a fast food restaurant, and as a forest ranger (just for a summer). My parents also both work at a factory, and my mom used to make me take out the kitty litter and occasionally clean the toilet. It was gross and brutal labor. I now make my husband do it.

    Chris H. — Thanks for making that other post.

    Comment by Amanda H. — November 18, 2009 @ 8:11 am

  131. If you are going to make $100,000+ as an lawyer, You are either going to have to be Machiavellian, or have some great skills others don’t. It is also helpful to be in the room where a lot of cash is flowing thru people’s hands. Law pays well, if you also are a good business person and have people skills.

    Comment by Bob — November 18, 2009 @ 10:19 am

  132. Uh, Bob, that comment would have been timely, oh, 70 or 80 comments ago. Maybe. Besides, can’t you see we’re all hugging now, our status, income, and professional differences forgotten? Awwwww…

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — November 18, 2009 @ 11:21 am

  133. Cumbaya, Cumbaya

    Comment by Joel — November 18, 2009 @ 12:11 pm

  134. “Thus, we are striking to protect the benefits we were promised when we came to the University.”

    If that were true, your strike was all for nothing. You don’t need to have a union or a strike to fight for something that is contractually guaranteed to use as an individual. Additionally, even if you couldn’t force the university into binding arbitration, you could use your union’s resources to sue the university if you were denied your contractually entitled benefits. A judge would have to be a fool or a madman to NOT grant injunctive relief, especially if this action was a class action, which would be expected if you really all have been guaranteed a tuition waiver for the duration of your time here.

    So, if your own statements are true, this strike was for nothing. Additionally, if the tuition waiver was already a matter of contractual entitlement, you had more to gain by accepting Saturday’s contract offer than the one you have on the table right now.

    Comment by Tim — November 18, 2009 @ 1:20 pm

  135. #132: Somebody needs her nap.
    I thought it went well with #120.

    Comment by Bob — November 18, 2009 @ 1:28 pm

  136. Apparently Tim didn’t get the memo about the group hug.

    Time to give it up, buddy. You’ve used our blog for your soapbox long enough.

    Comment by David G. — November 18, 2009 @ 1:30 pm


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