I just sent this letter to President Napolitano and Board Chair Perez.
President Napolitano and Chairman Perez:
I’m a faculty member in Pennsylvania who has been following the situation at UCSC (and now Davis and Santa Barbara). Yesterday, news broke of the termination of 54 graduate workers because of their participation in the strike.
The union I belong to, APSCUF, sent you a statement on Thursday in which we pointed out, among other things, that firing striking graduate students accomplishes nothing useful. It doesn’t get the work they’ve been withholding done any faster. It doesn’t make housing more affordable for the people you hire in their places. It serves no purpose whatsoever except to be punitive. Worse, you’re punishing people whose concerns you’ve agreed with but refused to redress, and firing them seems like an effort to erase the problem rather than fix it.
I can assure you, having participated in a strike, that nobody takes the decision lightly. It’s a terrible thing to have to do. Furthermore, while I recognize that they are violating policy, the fact that they have to violate policy to do it should be reinforcing the desperation they’re feeling rather than, well, whatever you’re attributing to them that makes you treat them as disposable.
Therefore, I’m writing–as an individual faculty member, not claiming to represent my university, my system, or my union–with these calls.
First, rescind the firing letters. That was a terrible mistake. You are damaging the lives of people who have worked hard to redress a serious issue, and dismissing them accomplishes nothing.
Second, work in good faith with the students to solve a serious problem that you, as leaders, have the power to address and so far just haven’t. The simple fact of the matter is that the labor situation for graduate students at these universities is untenable, and nothing will change that except supporting them better.
I sincerely hope you can understand why your decision to fire 54 students who are desperately trying to improve their working situation so that they can serve your institution better is Orwellian and needs to be reversed. And I hope you’re noticing that national and international press are covering the situation. We’re all looking to you to do the right thing.
Seth Kahn, PhD
Professor of English
West Chester University of PA