As social media flooded with posts from students about cancelled classes and discussion sections, the GTFs’ first day of striking is over.
Today several members of the Graduate Teaching Fellows Federation arrived on campus to protest their case.
Picketing was especially popular, as the GTFs gathered in front of various buildings, such as Willamette Hall, the Prince Lucien Campbell Hall, Colombia Hall, Condon Hall and Friendly Hall.
GTFs signed up for different picketing shifts and marched for hours, taking turns leading chants. Coffee and lunch were provided on location, but picketing continued through everyone’s lunch breaks.
Matthew Hannah left picketing after his first shift from 8 a.m. until 12 p.m. to work on his dissertation, but said he planned to return and stay as many hours as he could.
“I think that the more people we have out here showing that we’re angry and we’re not gonna take it anymore, the better off we’ll all be in the long run,” Hannah said. Hannah is committed to finishing his work as a graduate student, but is just as committed to picketing alongside fellow GTF’s in the below 40 degree weather.
“Ironically, whatever contract we get won’t benefit me, because I’m leaving,” Hannah said. “But I still believe in the cause and am definitely committed to fighting for my brothers and sisters.”
While the GTFs have begun to strike, the administration’s focus is on the undergraduates, according to Senior Director of Public Affairs Communications Tobin Klinger.
“This is a time of year when you have finals that are going to need proctoring, you’re gonna have grades that are going to be submitted, you want to make sure those things happen so that financial aid can be secure, so that people can graduate depending on where they’re at in their academic career,” Klinger said. “So we’re focused right now on implementing our contingency plans so that we meet the needs of our students.”
On the picket line, GTFs have similar concerns.
“I’m an instructor, I have students,” said English GTF Robert Zandstra. “I’ve got a writing class that I would love to continue teaching and helping them learn and giving them the grade they deserve.”
The classes that striking GTFs normally teach will be taught by the professor of the class or other faculty, according to the administration.
“I feel like I’m the only person who can finish out the term with my students,” Zandstra added. “At the same time, the university doesn’t give us graduate students the resources to do so.”
The most recent proposals have been two weeks of “flex-time,” which would allow GTFs to take off two weeks of guaranteed leave and making up that time at some other point, and a medical hardship fund. Neither proposal has been agreed upon by the two parties, leading up to the GTFF to strike.
The administration and the GTFF will resume mediation on Thursday Dec. 4. Until then the GTFs are prepared to continue striking.
However, both parties are hopeful that a resolution can be made so that the GTFs can resume their work.
“The university remains optimistic that mediation will bring about common ground, that we’ll be able to finalize a deal and keep moving forward,” Klinger said.
Hannah also is hopeful that a resolution will be made with the administration, saying, “It definitely takes a toll in the cold, so we’re hoping that they settle with us soon and give us a fair contract and that we can go back to work.”
Follow Francesca Fontana on Twitter @francescamarief