UCSD Graduate Students Circulate Strike Poll as Two More Campuses Join COLA Strike

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Photo of students at the first UCSD COLA general meeting at Sun God lawn.
Arlene Banuelos / The Triton

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UC San Diego graduate students sent out a strike poll last night for the Cost Of Living Adjustment (COLA) campaign to help determine whether graduate students at UCSD are willing to strike. If willing, UCSD graduate students would join in the wildcat strike that was started at UC Santa Cruz (UCSC) and has since expanded to UC Santa Barbara (UCSB) and UC Davis.

The strike poll was released hours after UCSD 4 COLA held a general assembly meeting February 26 at Sun God Lawn. Attendants at the assembly shared why they are fighting for a COLA and organizers shared updates on campaign actions at other UC campuses.

“COLA movements have risen across the UC system. Last week, actions took place here and at every UC campus,” UCSD 4 COLA said in its poll. “We are asking whether you are willing to continue this struggle.”

UCSB graduate students with the COLA campaign went on full strike today refusing to hold class or conduct research, while students at UC Davis went on a grading strike refusing to submit grades. These actions are inspired by the wildcat strike at UCSC. Graduate students are united around renegotiating their labor contract to ensure pay meets their cost of living. A wildcat strike includes strike actions such as a labor stoppage that is not authorized by union leadership.

UC administrators have deemed the strike at UCSC an illegal work stoppage. On February 14, after a week of full strike action at UCSC, UC President Janet Napolitano released a letter warning academic workers that they have until February 21 to submit withheld grades or be terminated from current or future teaching employment.

“[H]olding undergraduate grades hostage and refusing to carry out contracted teaching responsibilities is the wrong way to go,” wrote Napolitano in an open letter to the UCSC community. “Therefore, participation in the wildcat strike will have consequences, up to and including the termination of existing employment at the University.”

In response to the UC administrator’s deadline, students with COLA held demonstrations at multiple campuses in solidarity with UCSC students. Last week, COLA 4 UCSD held a grade-in at the administration complex, a rally that briefly closed Geisel Library to the public, and a picket. Graduates students at UCSC continue to withhold fall grades and UCSD graduate students, along with graduate students across the UC system, have pledged to also withhold grades should UCSC students be terminated.

Graduate students at UCSD are being asked to choose between expanding the campaign into a strike or continuing to hold various actions in solidarity. If graduate students want to expand strike efforts, then they will have to decide between a full-on strike now or a rolling strike action. A rolling strike would include certain departments and classes going on strike periodically but not a full work stoppage.

131 UCSD faculty members have signed a letter in support of the COLA campaign by pledging to not take retaliatory actions against graduate students who participate in COLA-related actions. Out of the 131 signatories, only nine are faculty from a science, technology, engineering, or math (STEM) department.

“We condemn any use of threat or bodily harm to students in our UC-wide educational system,” read the faculty letter. “We stand by our UC San Diego Principles of Community, a document that affirms the right to freedom of expression, civility and decency, and dignity and justice.”

The poll closes Sunday at midnight, after which the campaign plans on publicly releasing vote totals.

Jules Brütsch is a Staff Writer for The Triton. You can follow her at @BruetschJules.