This TBT takes us back to a 2010 GEO struggle for tuition waivers for graduate students in Fine and Applied Arts departments

Watch the video to see how the 2009 contract was violated in 2010.

July 2010: The GEO submitted a complaint to university regarding graduate employees in Fine and Applied Arts (FAA). Instead of providing first year employees the usual full tuition waiver, FAA issued in-state tuition waivers plus scholarships. However, the scholarships fell short of the whole difference between in-state and out-of-state tuition, and FAA grads had to pay the difference ($1,050/yr on a $7,000 – 9,000/acad yr income).

What is more, the College refused to guarantee the scholarships. This means they could disappear after 1 year and depts. could have charged the in-state and out-of-state tuition difference (almost $14,000/yr). This is yet another example of flawed budget priorities; the most vulnerable members of the University community are frequently asked to shoulder the burdens of budget shortfalls.

The GEO filed a grievance to address this violation before first year students even arrived on campus. We’ve worked through the three levels that are internal to the university and a binding arbitration. The arbitration is like a court hearing, except the judge’s decision is final; it cannot be appealed.

July 2011: The GEO won the arbitration, but the University did not abide by it at that time.

November 2012: During bargaining, the administration agreed to GEO’s new tuition waiver language and to abide by the arbitrator’s decision as part of the new contract. GEO accepted smaller wage increases and a 5 year contract, instead of a 3 year contract, in return for the continued waiver protection and the pay out of the arbitration decision.

Spring 2013: 266 FAA grad employees received tuition refunds plus interest
The struggle was long but GEO stood by FAA graduate employees and GEO members helped put pressure on the administration by circulating the facts of the contract violation. GEO is in the middle of another grievance for Masters in Computer Science students. Learn more about this grievance and help pressure the University to honor their contracts and respect their graduate students.

Tuition Wiavers Frontline After a Level 3 Grievance Meeting in December of 2014, MCS students and GEO Grievance Committee members

Tuition Wiavers Frontline
After a Level 3 Grievance Meeting in December of 2014, MCS students and GEO Grievance Committee members


MCS students standing strong

MCS students standing strong

For more information, please contact Becky Schumann, at (703)973-7486 or




Urbana-Champaign (August 26, 2015): The Graduate Employees’ Organization (GEO, IFT/AFT Local 6300) is going to arbitration in a case  the University of Illinois.


The GEO first secured a contractual right to tuition waivers for graduate employees through a 2-day strike in November 2009. That strike included more than 1,000 GEO members and supporters. The policy change in the MCS program is not the University’s first contract violation regarding tuition waivers. Shortly after the contract language was secured in 2009 the University unilaterally changed tuition waiver policy in the College of Fine and Applied Arts (FAA). In that case an independent federal arbitrator ruled in favor of the GEO in 2011. The University refused to comply with the arbitrator’s binding ruling and only reinstated tuition waivers for all FAA graduate employees in an agreement made during the bargaining of GEO’s current Collective Bargaining Agreement.


The policy change in MCS is two-pronged. First, the Computer Science Department will not employ these graduate students in positions that come with a tuition waiver. Additionally, the Computer Science Department seeks a cash reimbursement of tuition from any department willing to employ the MCS students. This would cost the hiring department approximately $30,000 per employee. Past practice has been to simply waive the cost of tuition. Many MCS students were extended offers of waiver-generating employment, only to have them rescinded after the hiring department became aware of the the tuition reimbursement policy.


Many MCS graduate students come to the University of Illinois with extensive experience as teaching assistants in both computer science and engineering. For this skill they are offered positions and paid as “hourly” employees for the same work done by other graduate assistants who are receiving a salary, health, dental, and eye care insurance, and a tuition waiver.


“The administration has admitted that they changed this policy without bargaining with the GEO. This isn’t their first attempt to use graduate student tuition as a revenue generator,” said Becky Schumann, GEO co-president and former grievance officer. “GEO will continue to fight for tuition waivers for all graduate students. Tuition waivers are crucial to maintaining accessibility to public higher education in the state of Illinois.” The GEO has also filed a grievance alleging violation of their current contract. An arbitrator will hear that grievance today.


The Graduate Employees’ Organization, AFT/IFT Local 6300, AFL-CIO, The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, represents approximately 2700 Teaching and Graduate Assistants on the UIUC Campus. In November 2009, over 1,000 GEO members successfully went on strike to secure a fair contract and more accessible UIUC. With events like lobby day, the GEO continues to work for high quality and accessible public education in Illinois.


For more information, please contact Becky Schumann, at (703)973-7486 or More information can also be found on our website




Between now and our rocking Welcome Back Party on Sept 4th at Clark Bar, we have two important events!


Sweetcorn festival

This weekend (Aug 28th and Aug 29th), please join us at the Sweetcorn Festival! Come say hello, enter a raffle, hear about our new initiatives AND come take a picture at our Protect Tuition Waivers photo booth.

At the photobooth, we want to get a picture with YOU holding a sign that explains “I need tuition waivers because…”

If you want to learn more about Tuition Waivers, check out this video.

You can sign up to help out at the table here. We need help with the children’s games, the raffle tickets, committee sign up sheets and the photo booth!



The GEO does so many things! Find out more about the GEO at the Info Fair on Wednesday, Sept 2nd in the English Building Atrium from 5:30pm-7pm. The Facebook event is here.

GEO collage

If you want to find out more about:

– What our contract is & How to protect our contract: Grievance Committee

– Efforts to help serve Int’l Grad Students: International Student Working Group

– Our Healthcare protections, needs and efforts: Healthcare Committee

– GEO’s cooperation with multiple social justice groups throughout Illinois: Solidarity Committee

– How to serve as a representative to your department: Stewards Committee

– GEO’s social media, branding and presence on campus: Communications Committee

– Environmental issues: Environmental Committee

– The officers whom you elect: Coordinating Committee

Bring your questions, your interests, your concerns and your convictions!



TBT 1 year ago. Salaita has still not been reinstated.

TBT 1 year ago. Salaita has still not been reinstated.

TBT to 1 year ago when the University of Illinois community was rocked by the Urbana-Champaign administration’s decision to withdraw a tenure-track offer to Dr. Steven Salaita. The administration justified this unprecedented refusal to approve the American Indian Studies’ hire by claiming that Salaita’s private twitter account expressed “uncivil” sentiments regarding the Israeli government’s treatment of Palestinians. Dr. Salaita accepted the position in October of 2013 but was notified of the administration’s decision on August 1st of 2014, the same month in which he was slated to begin teaching.

TBT 1 year ago: GEO distrubuted these buttons to support Salaita

TBT 1 year ago: GEO distrubuted these buttons to support Salaita

We and many others in the UIUC community protested the university’s policing of political speech and complete disregard for the principles of shared governance, academic freedom, and due process. The university now suffers a growing academic boycott and a formal censure of UIUC by the American Association of University Professors. Amidst the recent email scandal and resignation of Chancellor Wise, let’s not forget that the battle for academic freedom, shared governance and due process at UIUC is not over. Dr. Salaita has still not been reinstated and UIUC professors, especially those in the American Indian Studies program, continue to suffer in this chilling environment.

TBT 1 year ago: Our strength is in our collective presence.

TBT 1 year ago: Our strength is in our collective presence.

GEO proudly took part in the protests last year and continues to support efforts that can help right the wrongs of 1 year ago.


Are you ready for fall semester 2015?! We are!

We hope to see you at the party!

We hope to see you at the party!

Come on out to the GEO Members’ Welcome Back Party on Friday, September 4th, from 9pm to 1am at Clark Bar in Champaign! There’ll be music and karaoke all night long, plus free snacks and drinks while they last!

Bring a friend or a few and come out to welcome new members and catch up with old friends!


This #TBT is to an important but unfinished chapter in University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s history. We continue to fight for fair distribution of resources and socially conscious policies that increase higher education access for African American and Latina/o students, faculty and employees.

La Casa Cultural Latina was established in 1974 but in 1992 Latina/o representation among students and faculty greatly lagged behind the 11% Latina/o Illinois population. Additionally, the administration was unwilling to set aside any resources for a Latina/o Studies Program. Undergraduate and graduate students appealed repeatedly to the administration to no avail. With no other options, 150 students occupied Henry Administration Building on May 5th, 1992.

Here is a documentary of the 1992 Protest. Short on time? Begin at 14 minute mark.

Students reported police’s “brutal treatment” and use of stun guns, pressure points and billy clubs. The “unnecessary and excessive force” at this entirely peaceful occupation in protest of University policies. The protest was a peaceful assertion that Latina/o concerns could no longer be brushed aside but resulted in 3 student arrests. They were held overnight.

Police carry MariCarmen Moreno from the building

Police carry MariCarmen Moreno from the building

The IMC reported in 2002 that nearly 10 years after the protest, most of the 13 demands had not yet been met.

Some of the demands included:

  1. Increased Recruitment in Latina/o Communities & Retention
  2. Increased Recruitment & Retention of Latina/o Faculty and Administration
  3. Removal of Chief Illiniwek
  4. Establishment of & Resources for Latina/o Studies Program

Today, we know that recruitment and retention of Black and Brown students still lags behind and resources are not being promised to increase efforts.

The “1992 protest” took place prior to the University’s graduate employee’s most recent labor organization (GEO, established and affiliated with AFT, IFT and AFL-CIO by 1995). Yet, this is the history of a struggle GEO is still invested in today. We stand alongside student groups who fight for equitable resources, representation, and access to the university itself. Racist and classist recruitment strategies, as seen at the University of late, further marginalize African American and Latina/o communities, resulting in a student body that is not representative of the Illinois or the nation as a whole.

For more about efforts Latina/o social justice efforts in 2002. & Chicago Tribune on May 6th, 1992

For more about the current student body demographics.

To compare UIUC demographics to US Census Reports. 

When we compare UIUC student body demographics to census data from Illinois and the entire U.S., we must ask ourselves, each other and especially the University whether enough is being done to close the gap. We think not.


Healthcare, labor rights and our contract can be complicated enough! Now we have several explanatory documents translated for the large graduate employee population who would feel more confident learning about these important issues in their first language.  

GEO’s International Student Working Group thanks our translators! YOU help us be a better GEO together. #‎WeAreGEO‬

Our wonderful translators!

Our wonderful translators!

Thank you,
Alaa, Mona, Sara, Michael, Ann, Melody, Gayong, Lin and soon Fabio
For helping GEO ‪#‎translatelabor‬

International Student Working Group thanks our translators 8/11/15

Some members from GEO’s NEW International Student Working Group


Resources in the following languages will soon be available on our website:

  • Arabic
  • Farsi
  • German
  • Korean
  • Mandarin
  • Portuguese
  • Spanish
  • Turkish

If you want to be part of this working group or want to help us translate important documents for international students then email

We encourage community members to come out for the Friday anti-violence rally in Douglass Park.

From the North End Breakfast Club facebook page:

This is an appeal to our community groups, organizations, churches and concerned citizens to go out this week to engage the youth and young adults of our community, forming the types of relationships that help build our neighborhoods and positively influence lives.

Our goal is “100 Strong!” We envision no less than 100 churches, community organizations, outreach groups, and concerned citizens helping us this week (8/9 – 8/14) to flood the streets of Champaign, Urbana, and Rantoul to reach out to the youth and young adults in our community.

If you have the answers and the resources to offset the amount of violence that has escalated in recent years, your community needs you now!!!

This isn’t just another march, but a symbol of our community taking steps & moving forward, together, to ensure the safety of our children and our neighborhoods!

Will you progress with us?


August is a very busy month for GEO. We can do everything very well when we do it together!

Here are some things you can get involved with:

* Packing Party on Thursday, August 13th at 5pm. There will be food, conversation and hundreds of folders to prepare for the GEO orientations fast approaching! Let’s get ready together!


* Orientations We know GEO members are friendly. We need YOU to help handout t-shirts, buttons and folders at one (or more!) of the many GEO orientations this month!

You DO NOT need to know a lot about the GEO or our contract. There will be people at each orientation who do. Please sign up!

Members last January at orientations. We need plenty more for August!

Members last January at orientations. We need plenty more for August!

*International Student Working Group Meeting The new International Student Working Group is holding an open meeting. If you are interested in the unique issues facing UIUC international grad students, please join us!

The agenda so far:
1. Organizing the Welcome Back Picnic
2. The GEO Sweet Corn Festival table
3. The International Student and Scholar Services Orientation

Many other issues will be talked about. Become part of the conversation and help us be a better GEO. #WeareGEO

TShirt Design jpeg

Due to the great work of the International Student Working Group thus far — GEO has a new t-shirt design! Get one this year!


Throw Back Thursday: The GEO has an amazing predecessor at UIUC! The Assistants Union (AU) was founded in fall 1971 and graduate employee Michael Yaphe served as president. The AU published a newsletter “AU Views” with handwritten headers and impressive boldness. Graduate employees committed great energy of scholars and laborers who knew that they needed to organize to better protect themselves and each other.

Solidarity Committee member, Melody Buyukozer Dawkins holds the two earliest newsletters.

Solidarity Committee member Melody Buyukozer Dawkins holds the two earliest newsletters.

Solidarity Committee member Melody Buyukozer Dawkins holds the two earliest newsletters.

Left: Melody holds the first issue from November 1971 which announces the first general meeting at which Professor Archie Green lectured on the “the subject of unionization of white collar and professional employees — promises and difficulties.” It’s important to remember that professors supported these early motions toward graduate employees’ protections through a legally recognized Union.

Right: Melody holds the December issue with an insightful though short article titled “What to DO About Your Grievances.” Without contractual protection and legal support, graduate employees cared about their fellow assistants. A lot has changed! The GEO has so many resources now! But some elements are similar: “present your complaint and we will decide together what to do about it. All alone, you don’t have much chance of making things right. Administrators are usually too pressured from their higher-ups to devote much attention to the problems of a single assistant. But if you let your fellow workers stand with you, together we will have the strength to put things right.”

Our last issue of the AU is May 1974. You are more than welcome to come to our office on the Second floor of the YMCA to look at these amazing and moving early appeals for justice.