The quad has always been a place of action on campus, but the recent Graduate Employees’ Organization strike has given these familiar early-springtime temperatures a different feel. With the GEO asking for protection of tuition waivers, an increase in graduate student minimum wage, and more, if not full, healthcare, it could be a while until we see another peaceful morning on the quad.
For some, the strike comes as no surprise. Olivia Welshans of the Daily Illini, reported on November 1 of last year that “Graduate Student workers could go on strike”, pointing out that the long process of agreeing on a contract “raised tensions across campus.” The Chicago Tribune, who’s office is 140 miles north of the quad, even reported on February 8th that the strike date had been set for February 26th.
For others, however, the picketers come as a very shocking and unpleasant sight. Around this time every year, students and faculty can regularly spot students clad in orange t-shirts, walking backward while giving campus tours to potential incoming students. For those high-school seniors, every detail of a campus visit is taken into account when decided where to enroll in the fall.
Ashley Ball, a senior at Glenbrook North High School in Northbrook, Illinois, is concerned about what the strikes mean about the future stability of the university and its staff.
“I’m just worried about issues such as this that could drive good teachers away from the U of I,” Ball said in an interview. “I’ve wanted to go here for a long time, but the strike just has me concerned.”
On-campus, current students are much less worried about what the strike means going forward; they’re just ready to get back to class.
Nathan Bannon, 19, is an undeclared freshman who is trying to transfer into the college of engineering. For him, the strike was a little more personal.
“My sister is a graduate student so I think they should be paid accordingly to the effort they put in,” Bannon said.
Classes have not yet been canceled, with the possibility of professors moving their classes to non-picketed buildings.