The Office of Sustainability to looking to hire a GA for the spring 2014
term. Please see the below solicitation for more information; the position
is also posted online at:
http://blog.sustainability.uic.edu/2014/01/position-available-graduate-assistant.html

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The Office of Sustainability is piloting a structured internship that will
place students in various campus units to assist in advancing the campus’
sustainability goals. We are seeking a Graduate Assistant to:
·       Provide organizational support for the internship program;
·       Create website content for the program;
·       Develop campus partnerships for internship placement;
·       Assist in curriculum development for the interns;
·       Assist in recruitment of interns.

The preferred candidate will:
·       Have an undergraduate degree in sustainability, an environmental
field, or cultural anthropology;
·       Be proficient in computer applications (Word, Excel, etc);
·       Have excellent organizational and communication skills, both
written and verbal;
·       Be available to work during Spring 2014.

Additional experience as an instructor or teaching assistant, preferably in
the area of sustainability studies, public health, or environmental studies
is desirable. This position is a 25% graduate assistantship (10 hrs/week).

For full consideration, please submit a letter of interest and resume to
Joe Iosbaker at iosbaker@uic.edu with subject line “Graduate Assistant” by
January 28, 2014. Only electronic applications will be accepted.

The University is currently in negotiations with two other campus unions: SEIU, which represents Service and Maintenance, Clerical and Administration, and Technical workers, and UF, which represents tenure and non-tenure faculty. This post will give you a sense of the stakes of SEIU’s contract negotiation; a post to follow soon will cover UF.

SEIU members have annual raises built into their contract. Each year, they receive a 2% to 4% anniversary increase as well as a union-wide cost of living increase. Their “steps,” as they call them, mean that SEIU workers’ wages have kept up with the economy, rather than stagnating. The University is proposing that they do away with the anniversary increase and instead impose merit-based raises. There are three key issues with the University’s proposal:

No oversight. With anniversary increases, workers can reliably expect a 2% to 4% raise every single year. With merit-based raises, no such promise exists. It is not simply that workers might not “merit” a raise (whatever that means), it is that when the University determines which workers receive wages and when they do, it is quite easy for the administration to give no raises, or small raises, citing either poor performance or a tight budget.

Favoritism. Merit-based raises might work in theory. However, they are not applied fairly to all workers, regardless of their quality of work. In a perfect world, good employees would be rewarded for their hard work and dedication. UIC is no perfect world. More likely, raises will be given to employees whose departments are favored by the administration. With no oversight, workers will have no way to fight against favoritism.

Bifurcation. At the same time, the merit-based system will create a two-class union: those employees who routinely earn raises and those who do not. It makes the already difficult process of union organizing and negotiating much harder if the union is under a contract that puts them in two separate groups with two wildly different sets of needs.

Getting rid of the step system is part of a national trend to depress workers’ wages, turning more and more formerly middle class workers into the working poor. With the anniversary raise system, a worker who was hired in 1990 at $8.52 per hour now makes $21.48 per hour, which translates to just under $45,000 per year. While that is a decent wage, it’s worth noting that UIC’s SEIU workers are actually paid less than UIUC’s SEIU workers, despite the fact that cost of living in Chicago is much higher than in Urbana-Champaign. Had the University only given the worker general campus wage increases, she would be earning $13.88 per hour, which translates to $28,870 per year—a low wage for full time work and insufficient to raise a family in Chicago. At a recent negotiation session, UIC’s chief negotiator told SEIU’s team that “none of [SEIU’s] positions are underpaid.” While that statement isn’t exactly true–if workers doing the same job make more per hour downstate, then all UIC SEIU workers are underpaid–it will be patently false if the University succeeds in cancelling SEIU’s anniversary raises.

Furthermore, any attack on a union, whether it take place on campus, in Chicago, in Illinois, or in Wisconsin, Ohio, Nevada, Texas, or Georgia, is an attack on all unions. The degradation of workers’ rights to collectively bargaining threatens all workers, no matter what sector they work in. Nationwide, workers’ wages and rights are being taking away, leading to greater and greater economic inequality. We stand with SEIU not simply because they make our work possible by maintaining our buildings and grounds, managing the massive bureaucratic systems we work under, and ensuring our classrooms, offices, and labs have functional equipment. We stand with SEIU because we stand with all workers. We stand for the right to organize with our fellow workers, the right to collectively bargain, and the right to be paid a living wage for our labor.

When the SEIU wins, workers win. That includes the GEO. SEIU’s victory will directly affect our negotiations. Because the University negotiates separately with each union, individual successes and losses at the negotiating table have a profound effect on other contract battles. For example: when SEIU saves their steps, UF can demand a similar clause be put into their contract; after all, if SEIU gets it, why shouldn’t they? Likewise, when one union wins a major wage increase, it sets the stage for the next union’s negotiating team to start at that level. Our success at the table last year has paved the way for SEIU and UF to have successful campaigns this year; GEO can build on their successes when we head back to the table in two years.

Solidarity is an practical and ideological commitment. Show yours by coming to the UF/SEIU rally on Wednesday, January 22nd, at 9:30 AM, Student Center West. Their fight is our fight.

The Asian American Resource and Cultural Center (AARCC) invites applications for a 25% time Graduate Assistantship (G.A.) for the Summer, Fall, and Spring semesters 2014-2015. The stipend will be for 10 hours per week.  Students must meet the criteria outlined in the Policy on the Appointment of Graduate Assistants. To review criteria or for additional general information on UIC graduate assistantships, see: http://grad.uic.edu/cms/?pid=1000081.This position will begin May 12, 2014.
The AARCC Graduate Assistant will be assigned to work with the Asian American Mentor Program (AAMP), a peer mentor program now in its 8th year.  The G.A. will assist the AARCC Director or Associate Director in supervising the staff of approximately 26 Peer Mentors in working with 60 or more first- year Asian American students at UIC.  The G.A. will also coordinate workshops and events for AAMP starting in summer for Summer College and assist with recruiting incoming 1st year students to the program for the Fall.  Additional responsibilities will include assisting the AARCC Staff with other programs related to Asian American students. Most hours will need to be in the afternoon, with rare early evening hours.
The ideal candidate will have experience coordinating student activities and workshops, leadership training, as well as with counseling, advising, or peer mentor programs.  Applicants should be well-organized, possess strong communication skills, and be able to work effectively with diverse student populations, particularly 1st generation college and Asian American students.  Preferred academic backgrounds include education, psychology, social work, or a related field.
For fullest consideration, please EMAIL* letter of interest and résumé by 9:00 AM on Monday, February 3rd to:
Jeffrey Alton, Associate Director
For more information on AARCC or AAMP, please visit: http://aarcc.uic.edu
*Please note that we will not be accepting any resumes dropped off to our office*

What is a tuition differential?

It’s not tuition. It’s not a fee. It’s an insidious erosion of public education, which is the basis of an informed citizenry and a thriving democracy, not to mention the cornerstone for a viable workforce necessary for a healthy economy.

First the basics: tuition differentials (TDs) at UIC are charged to undergraduate and graduate students in addition to the base tuition rate. TDs are implemented according to degree program—for instance, a full-time MA student in Art History pays $1,808 per semester, a full-time MA student in Healthcare Administration pays $5,046 per semester. Although it is true that budget cuts at the state level have negatively affected the university, UIC has chosen to pass those costs on to its students, making it increasingly difficult for those in the community it serves to afford a college degree.
TDs, because they are assessed by a department or college in concert with the Board of Trustees, are implemented with no input or oversight—unlike all other student fees that go before the Campus Fee Committee, there is no venue for students to express their concerns. Effectively, they are a means for the university to unilaterally increase the cost of education without having to technically increase tuition.

Departments use TDs to raise funds for basic operating costs after budget cuts at the state level. Historically, TDs have been justified to supplement programs with higher costs, such as those that require expensive lab equipment. However, more recently, TDs have been implemented where no apparent special costs are associated with the implementation of the program—this is the case in my department, Art History, a humanities discipline with little infrastructure required. Considering the cuts to education funding impacted by the recent recession, it is not surprising that UIC is looking to raise funds in any way it can. However, increasing fees to sustain basic operating budgets creates a disproportionate burden on students. The increased availability of student loans coupled with the perceived (though increasingly diminishing) value of a college degree has led the University to see its students as their main source of revenue—a vision in contradiction with the ethic of public education as a leg up for the least advantaged. Fundamentally, it represents a shift in public education, and the public sector more broadly, that moves away from the promise of the opportunity of education for all—especially those who have historically had the least access to education.

For graduate employees at UIC, the situation is more complex. To be eligible for employment, a graduate student must be enrolled for 8 credit hours. TDs tends to be proportional to the hours the student is enrolled—a full time student pays more than a student taking one course. (For example, a graduate student in Art History who takes 12 or more credit hours must pay $1,808 per semester; students enrolled for under six hours pays $603. For the full schedule of graduate student tuition differentials, click here.) So for many grad employees, paying a TD is part of the condition of employment. Grad employees who pay a TD earn wages for the work they do teaching classes and in support positions in administrative offices, and then often owe a substantial percentage of those wages back to the University.

In my department, every graduate student is assessed a TD. When I enrolled as a MA student in 2007, the TD for a full time student was $1,095 a semester. I am now a PhD student, and the tuition differential for my program is $1,808, a 65% increase. (Disclaimer: this year TAs in my department received a scholarship, though GAs are still required to pay the TD.) At UIC, the average increase in TDs from the 2009-10 to the 2010-11 school year was $500. Continuing students are required to pay the TD increases, even if they initially enrolled when the TD was lower. This means that enrolling in a degree program that on average requires six or seven years to complete carries great risk, possibly resulting in students dropping out of a program after spending years working towards their degree, teaching classes at the University for less than a living wage, and paying thousands in fees and TDs.

The current minimum wage for GAs and TAs at UIC working a 20 hours per week for 9 months, according the union contract, is $15,565. Subtract from those low wages the fees and TD for my program, and the net income of a graduate student is $10,175 per year—who can live on that in Chicago? According to the University’s own estimate this figure is approximately $8,000 dollars less than the cost of living in Chicago. There is an understanding among my colleagues that off-campus employment, in addition to full time course load and a 20 hour a week assistantship on campus, is necessary but risky. We are rightly concerned that additional employment will be perceived as a lack of commitment to our courses, or to scholarship and will be grounds for losing our funding. But at the end of day, we have to pay our rent and buy food.

The majority of the faculty in my department are against the TDs assessed to their students, and have expressed as much in a letter of solidarity during the GEO contract negotiations. They rightly understand the enormous financial burden that it places on their students—especially since our field, perhaps more than others in the humanities, struggles to reproduce itself with promising jobs, even for its brightest graduates. And even more so, it is difficult to recruit promising students to such a costly program.

TDs are insidious because they represent the erosion of public education, the building blocks of an informed and employable citizenry, a backing off of the promise that higher education should be available to all. In the narrowest sense, for me and my colleagues, the TD reminds us that the humanities are on their way out, that the efficient, corporate driven model of life today has no room for critical thinking or visual literacy, much less musings on aesthetics and culture. For graduate students in every department at UIC, the TD that I pay as an Art History student should be a warning: despite the illusion of oversight that the Board of Trustees represents, one day every student on campus will pay a TD, and we will be told to be grateful that we were even accepted, that we have a chance to earn a degree that may lead to employment (though it likely will not). TDs are insidious because they will bankrupt us and destroy the reputation of our school, but even more so, they will bankrupt public education.

Marissa Baker
Phd, Art History

The Chancellor released this statement today regarding the weather situation on Monday, January 6th: unless you’re a critical employee (e.g. you remove snow or help care for patients) you shouldn’t report to work. For graduate assistants, it will be an excused, unpaid absence according to the University. You may want to contact your supervisor just to give them a heads up but if you have any other questions, feel free to contact the GEO at geo@uic-geo.net. Stay warm and safe!
http://www.uic.edu/uic/studentlife/campus/emergency-information.shtml