Thursday, April 29, 2004

tales from the barricades

A couple of the sociology department graduate student bloggers have provided reports from the picket lines (
here and here). Sounds gruesome. Meanwhile, here is an example of the press releases that are being sent out by Republican legislators. Regardless of whether actually going through with the strike ends up actually achieving any additional benefits beyond what the TAA was offered by the state before the strike, I certainly admire the courage and perseverence of the students who were out there all day long, especially those that were out there even though they had voted against the strike.

Of course, being a faculty observer of all this, but not that terribly far removed from my own graduate school experience, makes me wonder what I would have done had something like this happened where and when I went to graduate school. I am fairly positive that I would have earlier voted for the strike but then voted against it at the final vote. I think I would have shown up for the picket lines, although I wouldn't have been very plucky. I might have volunteered to be a lone person standing by some side door in the back of the building that never gets used anyway, or something like that. I doubt I would have been a very good chanter, except maybe I could make up chants for other people to say. But after this point, if I wasn't an enthusiastic supporter of the strike myself, I suspect the thrall of solidarity would end. If I had been a TA in a situation like this, no way would I grade strike, especially if I felt like a lot of the people who were more supportive of it were not responsible for grades themselves or were otherwise better insulated from the consequences than myself (which is suggested in one of the abovementioned student posts).

Indeed, I have to confess, if things really do move ahead to a grade strike, I will probably be begging various TAs in 7110 and thereabouts not to go along with it. So I suppose this is a forewarning, then; please know that I have no motivation other than that I will likely be much worried for you.

(Incidentally, at Indiana, where I went to graduate school, an argument that the department has persistently used to deter--not always effectively--sociology graduate students from being more active in the effort to organize a union is to point out how much better the sociology graduate students have it than the graduate students in other departments at Indiana, saying essentially that unionizing might make the average graduate student at IU better off but would make the graduate students in sociology worse off. Sociology at IU was on the same floor as history, and you could just see from the withered lot of those students that sociology was much better off than it could be. Anyway, at least while I was there, this argument, despite some individual dissension, was remarkably effective in preventing anything from getting going in sociology. I have no idea whether it is still being used at Indiana, and, if so, whether it still works wonders.)

(Incidentally incidentally, the issue while I was at Indiana that did get the graduate students somewhat stirred up toward mobilizing was the awful health insurance plan we had. There were these small yellow cardboardish-plastic signs nailed to Bloomington offering health insurance for whatever itinerant pedestrians were sufficiently dawdling and squinty enough to read them; this was the same company the state contracted to provide the graduate student health insurance.)

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