You may have seen the email this morning from John Loya, Vice Chancellor for Human Resources and R. Michael Tanner, Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs, regarding contract negotiations between the GEO and the UIC administration. We are writing to clarify some of their points.

Through the use of federal mediation, the union and the university have come to agreement on several important provisions, including clearer and more timely appointment letters, improvements in class size contract language, and more transparency in departmental appointment and re-appointment criteria. We’re happy that we have come closer to agreement on many of these outstanding issues. The university’s recent offer of greater subsidies for health care is also step in the right direction, but we are well aware that these subsidies cannot provide greater economic security if the administration retains the right to offset them by diminishing our tuition waivers and increasing tuition differentials.

Given that reality, we wondered why Loya and Tanner’s email mentioned nothing about the key outstanding issues that the GEO is negotiating for: tuition waiver security, and a say in tuition differentials. After a year of negotiations, the UIC administration must know that these are the major issues for GEO members, and that waivers and differentials remain the issues that GEO members are considering striking over.

Given that securing tuition waivers would cost the university nothing, their appeals to the University’s financial hardship are disingenuous at best. In fact, we are well aware of the university’s hardship, and this is the reason that it is so important for us to protect what we have now.

The university’s most recent proposal on waivers and differentials would be a step backward, and would make our waivers less secure than they are, and do nothing to give us a say in tuition differentials. If we accepted their proposed contract language on waivers and differentials, departments would be able to grant partial waivers, limit waivers to certain classes of students (such as only granting waivers to PhD students), or otherwise restrict waivers in ways that would threaten our future here at UIC.

The GEO bargaining team remains committed to reaching an agreement with the university which includes tuition waiver protection and gives us a say in tuition differentials on Monday.

Remember that we will deliver this message at our RALLY on Monday at 8:00 AM on the campus side of Student Center East. We know 8:00 is an early time for a rally, but this is our last opportunity to keep grads at UIC off the picket lines and in the classroom, so please come ready to chant and cheer in support of a contract for grad employees which includes tuition waiver protection and gives us a say in tuition differentials. Invite your undergraduates and faculty members to rally with us.

Also come to the EMERGENCY STRIKE MEETING today at 5:00 PM in SCE room 302 to cast your vote on whether GEO members will go on strike next week. Online voting will be available this afternoon, with instructions forthcoming.

We’ve been asked a lot why it is so important to secure tuition waivers and put an end to increasing tuition differentials in our contract now. The reason is simple: if we don’t secure these things in the contract now, we will not have the ability to protect GEO members from any attempts to cut tuition waivers or increase or implement new tuition differentials in the future.

Q: What if we agree to a contract that does not protect tuition waivers?

The university will have a free hand to change its waiver policy and cut waivers however, and wherever they want, and at any time.

Q: But they wouldn’t cut our waivers, right?

Last year, at UIUC, the administration proposed that all graduate employees with less than a 33% appointment would lose tuition waivers.

The UIUC GEO successfully fought back by organizing and by winning a contract that protected tuition waivers. The proposal UIC presented on waivers during mediation on March 26 would serve only to make waivers less secure than they are now.

Q: What about tuition differentials?

The administration has not yet provided us with a counterproposal regarding tuition differentials. They have simply rejected our proposal. This means that the university can continue to implement and increase tuition differentials at any time, with no input from graduate students. The GEO believes that graduate students should have a say in tuition differentials. A contract that guarantees tuition waivers but allows the university to increase differentials arbitrarily and with no warning poses an economic threat to graduate students who are trying to complete their education at UIC.

Q: How will UIC attract quality graduate students if they cut tuition waivers and increase tuition differentials?

If the university decides to cut tuition waivers, it might not be an “all or nothing” affair. They may grant 80% waivers, hoping that graduate employees would pay 20% of their tuition so they don’t have to transfer to finish their degrees. They also might grant all incoming graduate employees full waivers, and then only partially waive tuition in subsequent years, a practice that may encourage top-notch graduate students to finish their education elsewhere. Or they might only grant tuition waivers to PhD students, which is a practice some departments have already instituted. Additionally, tuition differentials could prevent students from finishing their education at UIC because they can be implemented or increased at any time, with no warning.

The truth is that we don’t know the administration’s plans regarding tuition waivers and differentials. We only know that during nearly a year of contract negotiations, the UIC administration has not agreed to secure tuition waivers or give grads a say in tuition differentials. Because of this, we’re worried that the administration does have some long term plans to cut or reduce tuition waivers and to continue increasing tuition differentials.

No matter their plans, the only way to protect our education is to protect our tuition waivers right now and to fight for a way to give graduate students a say in what happens with tuition differentials.

Q: The GEO said that the UIC administration’s proposal about tuition waivers make waivers less secure than they are now. Why?

Currently, tuition waivers are given to all graduate employees holding between .25% and .67% FTE appointments. At mediation on March 26, the administration proposed tuition waiver language that would allow individual departments to set the terms of those waivers. Additionally, for the first time, they proposed that tuition waiver policies could “vary” between departments, meaning that, unlike now, it would be possible for departments to supplement their budgets by introducing fractional tuition waivers.

Graduate employees now know that if they get a waiver, it will be a full waiver. If we agree to the administration’s proposal introduced on March 26, it would open the door to partial waivers, waivers only for certain types of students, or the abolition of waivers in certain departments.

Q: What’s next?

Thursday, April 1, 5-7 pm in SCE 329: Attend the GEO’s EMERGENCY STRIKE MEETING to decide whether we will continue to fight to secure tuition waivers and do something about skyrocketing tuition differentials.

Monday, April 5, 8-10 am outside of SCE: Attend a RALLY DEMANDING A FAIR CONTRACT that will occur in conjunction with our mediation session that day.

In the meantime, we must keep up the pressure to grant graduate employees a fair contract immediately. That means sending letters to the administration (use our online form at, coming to our planned rally on the 5th, and talking with your colleagues to encourage them to do the same.

To help in other ways, contact Jes Cook, GEO Organizing Chair, at or Jayson Anton, Strike Committee Chair


The GEO has set aside this significant amount of money in order to provide financial security for graduate employees in the event of a strike. Any card-signing member of the GEO would be eligible to benefit from the Strike Fund should the university attempt to dock pay for missed hours of work. The GEO is considering a strike at this point because the UIC administration has proposed changes to contract language that would allow departments to set tuition waiver and differential policies themselves, which would open up the possibility for departments to offer partial waivers, limit waivers to certain types of students, or otherwise deny graduate employees their full waivers.

In addition, the university has refused to add language to our contract limiting tuition differentials, which have been eroding our waivers and stipends for years. The GEO demands that the university guarantee economic security for graduate employees by agreeing to secure tuition waivers, and put an end to skyrocketing tuition differentials immediately.

Remember to attend the GEO’s EMERGENCY STRIKE MEETING this Thursday, April 1, 5-7pm ROOM 329 SCE. We will present the responses we have received from the administration on Wednesday and vote on whether those responses are acceptable. In the meantime, get a GEO “Ready to Strike” button from your departmental steward (or drop by 310 S. Peoria, Suite 305), and sign our petition to the Board of Trustees demanding a fair contract now.