Protesting the administration

The U cannot survive without its students. So make your voice heard today.

Elissa Hansen

Rising tuition, increasing debt, classes without enough seats, which are taught by harried adjuncts, administrative bloat and budget cuts. These changes at the University of Minnesota affect undergraduates disproportionately. As a graduate student, though, there are plenty of reasons to step out of work during todayâÄôs National Day of Action to Defend Public Education.

We have seen our wages stagnate against inflation for the last four years.

And while the University continues to pay nearly 1,000 graduate students $13,000 a year, often requiring us to take additional jobs to make ends meet, administrative changes to student-instructor ratios have also added more students to our courses. This means we have less time to mentor students âÄî or even to meet with them in office hours. As graduate students feel the squeeze, undergraduates get stuck without the support they need to succeed.

Making matters worse, these short-changed students are being rushed out of the University. Despite the fact that only 60 percent of undergraduates graduate after six years, the University is now threatening to increase tuition for students who take more than four years to graduate. Such a policy pushes students to learn faster âÄî not better or more âÄî and in an environment that provides fewer tenured faculty teaching courses and TAs who are busier than ever. Tuition, as we all know, is skyrocketing: ItâÄôs jumped 134 percent since 2000. The image of the University that emerges from these numbers is one of an institution committed to grabbing as much cash from undergrads as possible and then edging them out, with or without a degree.

Graduate students and undergraduates depend on one another. Not only are we the two biggest groups at the University, but weâÄôre both naturally committed to public education: We are all beneficiaries of the system. The American public higher education system has historically been regarded as one of the best in the world. If we want to maintain our success while building toward a better future, we need to protect
public education.

So we need to work together, despite our increasingly busy schedules. LetâÄôs step out at noon today and join the rally and march at the Northrop Plaza, where students, workers and faculty will talk about ways we can retake public higher education for the public good.

Or you can come participate in the Disorientation Guide to the UniversityâÄôs History, with speakers on the 1969 occupation of Morrill Hall that led to the creation of whatâÄôs now the Department of African American and African Studies, struggles for equal access âÄî including the fight to save General College, which President Bob Bruininks cut âÄî and the AFSCME unionâÄôs efforts to create a more democratic and equitable workplace from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. in Coffman Union, Room 324. Finally, you could attend the free concert and rally to defend public education 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. in Loring Park, featuring Guante and The Usual Suspects, and meet with others from across the city and state who are fighting to save public
higher education.

Let our critical mass remind Bruininks and his colleagues that without us, the University is nothing. We have the right to demand a better place to learn and work, and, together, we have the power to make it happen.

Elissa Hansen is a PhD Candidate in English and Raechel Tiffe is a PhD student in Communication at the University. Please send comments to [email protected]