Striking graduate students reportedly forced University of California-Santa Cruz administrators to cancel classes for a day on March 5. A total of fifty-four graduate students have been informed that they will be fired (or not eligible for hiring) in the spring semester over withholding undergraduate students’ grades, Campus Reform reported.
The university’s message to students, faculty, and staff was that the residential campus was “significantly impacted at this time.” The protests carried into the following day at the main campus entrance. The university said that regular on-campus transportation services were running, but public transport buses were not on a regular bus stop schedule due to the protests’ disruption.
The protests were part of a larger strike by graduate students, who chose to protest allegedly-low cost-of-living adjustments. The students protested on-campus, but also withheld undergraduate students’ grades as teaching assistants since December 2019. Of the initial two-hundred striking students, only fifty-four withheld grades heading into early March 2020. Overall, the striking students withheld grades for almost three months, which could affect undergraduates’ course planning and other activities.
The December 2019 protests later evolved into a labor strike that spread to the University of California’s Davis and Santa Barbara campuses. Yet the Santa Cruz campus was the only campus to fire the striking employees. But according to the agreements between graduate students and the University of California system, they have a no-strike contract that they chose to violate. Also, the administration warned the striking students that if they continued to withhold grades, the administration would be forced to fire them.
The graduate students sought between $1,400-$1,800 in extra funding each month to help make ends meet, depending on the campus location.