Dear President Killeen,

I was struck by your decision to stop by and visit with the NTFC members working outside your office. You may be wondering why the NTFC members are striking again. After all didn’t negotiations just start today? Being from SUNY and new to UIUC, you may not be familiar with our history with crooked administrators.

Former UIUC President Michael Hogan raised his salary to more than $100,000 dollars more than his predecessor. He alienated faculty by increasing the role of University administration. Hogan resigned in 2012 after over 200 professors, including endowed chairs and distinguished professors called for his removal. He was followed by Robert Easter, known as “the accidental president.”

Our troubles didn’t end there. Last year, Phyllis Wise resigned amid a controversy over the use of her personal email for University-related communications, in violation of Illinois law. This was following “external issues” that had plagued the end of her tenure. Steven Salaita had been preparing to move to Illinois to join the faculty at UIUC, but was informed by Chancellor Wise in August of 2015 that his position would not be recommended for approval by the Board of Trustees. This resulted in censure by the American Association of University Professors and national embarrassment.

The Athletics Department has also been subject to scandals. Former head coach Matt Bollant was accused of abusing female basketball players verbally and harassing them. Although parents submitted letters describing the abuse, the Office of Diversity, Equity, Access, and Human Resources found no violation of laws or University policy. Similarly, after allegations of abuse by players, former football coach Tim Beckman was fired. Although Beckman was fired for forcing injured players to play, UIUC had to pay him $250,000 because he was “wrongful[ly] terminated.”
These scandals aren’t only present at the executive level. The GEO has been meeting about two different arbitrations this year. In one of the arbitrations, the arbitrator ruled that the University needed to provide the GEO with reasons why appointment letters were sent beyond the deadline in the contract. However, in a meeting with the GEO, Craig Hoefer, a University counsel, stated, “Even if we were able to issue you all the letters there’s not going to be much in the way of damages.” Late appointment letters mean that graduate employees face months of uncertainty about their employment, leading to stress; however, all Hoefer sees it is a financial decision that affects the University’s bottom line. Late appointment letters also make it difficult to make financial decisions like signing a lease and may make it difficult for international students to get a visa.

Similarly, NTFC is asking for multi-year contracts for stability for their members and their families, as well as their students. Although the University claims that multi-year contracts are already University policy, most NTFC faculty who are eligible do not have multi-year appointments. Likewise, the GEO contract specifies when departments should send appointment letters to graduate employees, yet the University does not want to abide by the agreement. University officials at all levels seem to balk at anything beyond discussing “principles.” If the University can’t make strides to abide by policies already in place, why should we trust administrators?

President Killeen, I think you’re a trustworthy administrator, but it’s hard to trust you because we know the people you work with. Despite the teaching and research done by NTFC and GEO members, the administration doesn’t honor agreements already in place. It’s hard to trust people who don’t respect your work. If your administration respects our work, then they need to show us.

Describing an interaction between a scientist and a member of the public, Stephen Hawking stated, “A well-known scientist (some say it was Bertrand Russell) once gave a public lecture on astronomy. He described how the earth orbits around the sun and how the sun, in turn, orbits around the center of a vast collection of stars called our galaxy. At the end of the lecture, a little old lady at the back of the room got up and said: ‘What you have told us is rubbish. The world is really a flat plate supported on the back of a giant tortoise.’ The scientist gave a superior smile before replying, ‘What is the tortoise standing on?’ ‘You’re very clever, young man, very clever,’ said the old lady. ‘But it’s turtles all the way down!’” Right now, the evidence shows us that the administration is crooked administrators all the way down. Maybe this isn’t true, but we have no reason to believe otherwise. All the evidence shows that the administration does not respect us. They are late to meetings. They do not respond to emails for days or weeks. They claim that University policy works when the evidence shows that it doesn’t. If you want us to trust you, you need to give us a reason.


A concerned graduate student and member of the University community


The Non-Tenure Faculty Coalition (NTFC) struck last week after a year and a half contract negotiations. Throughout the negotiation process, the NTFC has been disrespected by the administration. Today, members and supporters worked inside the Henry Administration Building (HAB) while negotiations were going on. Although President Killeen made overtures yesterday by visiting with NTFC members and supporters while they worked in the HAB, no such benevolence was found at the bargaining table today. One of NTFC’s key contract provisions is multi-year contracts, rather than being re-appointed annually. This would provide stability for NTFC faculty, their families, and their students, but today the administration told them that the departments should determine multi-year contracts, not the collective bargaining agreement. After over 10 hours of negotiation, no agreement could be reached. The administration is refusing to bargain collectively, so the NTFC is forced, again, to act.

The NTFC will be striking beginning on April 28, 2017, at 8am. Altgeld Hall, English Building, and Henry Administration building will be affected. They need our support now more than ever. NTFC faculty are re-appointed every year, meaning at the end of the year they won’t have appointments. They are taking a major risk by striking and hoping that it will pay off with benefits for all NTFC members. We need you to support NTFC any way you can. It’s a busy time of the semester, but an hour or two on the picket line would help bolster NTFC’s morale and show them that we have their backs. If we let the administration trample NTFC’s right to collectively bargain, then our own contract agreement could be at risk when we bargain in 2017. The NTFC’s motto is “Education First,” but the University hasn’t put education first. They’ve disrespected educators who work closely with undergraduates every day by being unwilling to offer them the stability and support they need to do their jobs well. This is not simply about the NTFC, it’s about the fate of the University as an institution of higher education.

What can you do to help?

  1. Call Provost Feser at 217-333-6677. Today, so many people called Provost Freser in support of NTFC that he asked the leader of the bargaining team to get people to stop. We can’t let up. The administration needs to know that faculty and researchers who make this university run deserve respect.
  2. Show up to the picket line. The picket line starts at 8am. Any amount of time is appreciated.
  3. Tell a friend about the NTFC. We need to make sure that everyone understands why they’re striking and what’s a stake.
  4. Move your class if it’s in a targeted building. Contact if you need help moving your class.


UIUC Non-tenure Faculty Coalition (NTFC Local 6546) calls 2-day strike for April 19 & 20

Our non-tenure track colleagues will strike starting tomorrow, Tuesday April 19, at 7:45am. GEO supports the right of any workers to collectively withhold their labor to achieve fair working conditions. Our non-tenure faculty have worked hard for 18 months to negotiate a fair first contract with the university administration. We call on all members of the campus community to support NTFC.

NTFC main contract goals are non-economic. They are asking for language securing multi-year contracts and on-time appointment letters (similar to the arbitration GEO won this year). The administration says these are and should stay a matter of policy. Under current policies about 300 of the 500 non-tenure track faculty should have a multi-year contract; this year 19 faculty were given a multi-year contract. They are asking for identical language to the contract given to University of Illinois-Chicago non-tenure track faculty.

Important information for graduate employees

If you are currently under contract (TAs and GAs) you cannot legally withhold your labor in solidarity. GEO asks members to continue doing their work as usual. However, you can legally support a work action. This means: you can move your labor out of picketed buildings, you can join picket lines and otherwise publicly support NTFC without retaliation, and you cannot be compelled to do work that non-tenure track faculty normally do. If you are being asked to do someone else’s work you can stop a meeting and request union representation (these are your Weingarten Rights). GEO representatives can help you (

The results of this work action have great implications for GEO’s next bargaining cycle, which begins next year. Now is the time to show the administration that workers make this university run and we will stick together when they try to exploit us.

How can I support NTFC?

The most important thing you can do to support NTFC is to walk the picket line, even if only for an hour or two. Picketing will be Tuesday, April 19th and Wednesday, April 20th.

Location: English Building, Main Quad


  • 7:45am-4:30pm: Picketing around English building
  • 12pm: Rally (both days)
  • 4:30pm: March from English to Swanlund Administration Building (both days)
  • 5pm: Rally at Swanlund Administration Building (both days)

Peak hours will be 8am on Tuesday,  the 12pm rally (English Building) and 5pm rally (Swanlund Administration Building).

Other forms of support:

  • Spread the word about our struggle. Share NTFC’s social media posts on Facebook and Twitter (NTFC Local 6546). Use #faircontractnow and #westandwithntfc6546
  • Want to share a solidarity picture, but don’t have social media? Email it to GEO and we’ll share it for you!
  • Here is a poster you can print or post on social media.
  • Sign and share this petition to show you stand with us.
  • Donate to the strike fund to support members that may lose wages as a result of participating in the strike.

Feel free to contact NTFC lead organizer, Meghan Bohardt at 216-316-3787 for questions or assistance.



Urbana-Champaign (April 1, 2016): The Graduate Employees’ Organization (GEO, IFT/AFT Local 6300) is holding a work-in on the quad outside the Henry Administration Building from 8:30 until noon on Friday, while members of the grievance team meet with university administrators. In January a federal arbitrator ruled in favor of the GEO and against the University of Illinois regarding a change in practice where academic departments were seeking cash reimbursement of tuition waivers from departments that hired their student as teaching or graduate assistants. The university administration has not indicated whether they will comply with the legally binding arbitration. Friday was the earliest time the university was willing to meet with the GEO since the ruling in January.


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. 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.


In January a federal arbitrator agreed with the GEO that the Masters in Computer Science (MCS) program’s policy change violated their collective bargaining agreement with the University of Illinois. Sherwood Malamud wrote that “The MCS action upsets the full panoply of assumptions that underlie the University framework of support for graduate students. It reduces the value of the tuition waiver, when it imposes the costs of the tuition waiver on the employing unit, the unit granting the assistantship. The tuition waiver is transformed from the primary form of compensation to a competitive disqualifying cost.”


The arbitration ruling has potentially far-reaching consequences on the UIUC campus as more than 90% of departments have a designation that the administration argues allows them to seek cash reimbursement for the cost of tuition waivers. Functionally, seeking reimbursement renders assistants in those departments largely unemployable and without the protection of a collective bargaining agreement and its benefits. The arbitrator found that seeking reimbursement violates the current contract between the GEO and the University of Illinois.


The policy change in MCS was 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 sought 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 came to the University of Illinois with extensive experience as teaching assistants in both computer science and engineering. For this skill they were offered positions and paid as “hourly” employees for the same work done by other graduate employees who receive a salary, health, dental, and eye care insurance, and a tuition waiver.


“We have been trying to schedule a meeting with the administration for months to discuss a remedy in this case, as directed by the federal arbitrator. We are disappointed that it’s taken so long for the university administration to respond, and we hope they will comply with the legally binding ruling in our favor” said Grace Hébert, the GEO Grievance Officer.


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 Grace Hébert, at (512)461-2331 or More information can also be found on our website




From Alia Bellwood, a PhD student and Teaching Assistant in the Department of Communication and GEO Officer-at-Large, on why she joined her union and fights for tuition waivers.

My youngest brother and I chatted last week about aspiring to teach and study in academia. Behind our conversation, something rang in my ears.

I have an offer from my department which ensures that my good standing and progress will be met with employment in school and tuition waiver for 5 years. I could throw up my hands and say “well, fighting for waivers doesn’t effect me!” But it does.

I want to be able to tell my siblings and niece and nephews that graduate school is feasible for our family. I want to show them that graduate students and their work is valued and respected. We are colleagues not revenue sources. I want to say UIUC was a good place to learn and work.

I can’t do that confidently if I don’t push against the trend of charging and overworking grads. What kind of sister and aunt would I be if I advised them into sinkholes of debt they may never get out of?

I chose to push back. I chose to meaningfully support the labor union GEOmy colleagues and I are lucky to have. I fight for tuition waiver protection, healthcare, a livable wage and decent working conditions because this effects the people I love.

It’s about more than me and my current contract.

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Throughout our union’s history, GEO members have consistently fought to protect tuition waivers in the face of repeated attempts by UIUC to diminish them. Tuition waivers are a benefit of employment for graduate employees. Tuition waivers keep graduate and undergraduate education high quality. If only those students who could afford graduate school could attend graduate school, then more qualified candidates might take better offers from other institutions. This impacts the quality of graduate student research, the quality of graduate student courses, and the quality of undergraduate courses taught by graduate students.
Over 1,000 GEO members went on strike on November 16-17, 2009 to win tuition waiver protection in our collective bargaining agreement. Almost immediately (January, 2010) the University took away tuition waivers from incoming graduate employees in the College of Fine and Applied Arts.
In 2011, the GEO won an arbitration regarding changes in tuition waiver policy in Fine and Applied Arts; the arbitrator agreed that the University could not change tuition waivers for graduate employees already at the University. The University owed the FAA students the tuition they had paid. However, the University refused to comply with the arbitrator’s decision until the GEO threatened to strike in 2012. In early 2013, University finally paid FAA graduate students nearly half a millions dollars for tuition they were forced to pay.
TAs and GAs across campus work to make UIUC great! Graduate students cannot be made a source of revenue.

TAs & GAs across campus make UIUC great! The University works because we do!

In 2013, Masters in Computer Science (MCS) students and MA students in Statistics were informed that they could not hold waiver-generating appointments. The two departments agreed to reverse their stance on assistantships after meeting with GEO.
In 2014, incoming MCS students were informed that the Computer Science department would not allow them to hold assistantships in CS and would seek a cash sum as tuition reimbursement for all MCS students who received waiver-generating appointments outside of CS. As a result of this policy change, most MCS students were hired as hourly employees. Hourly employees do the same work as Graduate Assistants and Teaching Assistants, but are not awarded tuition waivers. We went to arbitration in August 2015. On January 26, 2016, the GEO was notified of the arbitrator’s decision. An arbitration is a legally binding decision. In this case, it is possible that affected students could be paid back their tuition by the University. The arbitrator ordered the University and GEO to meet to determine the remedy.
The GEO has been attempting to contact the University’s lawyer, Craig Hoefer, multiple times to schedule a meeting with the University to determine the remedy for the MCS arbitration, as ordered by the arbitrator. FinallyThe GEO and the administration will be meeting on April 1 at 10 am in the Henry Administration Building. We need to show the University that grad students aren’t willing to compromise on tuition waivers. The reimbursable policy threatens grad student employment because a grad student’s home department can ask a graduate student’s employing department to pay their tuition. The arbitrator ruled in our favor in January, stating, “The MCS action upsets the full panoply of assumptions that underlie the University framework of support for graduate students. It reduces the value of the tuition waiver, when it imposes the costs of the tuition waiver on the employing unit, the unit granting the assistantship. The tuition waiver is transformed from the primary form of compensation to a competitive disqualifying cost.” (p. 27). According to the Grad College Handbook, nearly every department is classified such that they can ask for reimbursement; the reimbursement practice is a threat to graduate employment across campus. It must be stopped. 
Bring your work, office hours and classes to the quad!

Bring your work, office hours and classes to the quad!

We need to remind the University that “the University works because we do,” and we need tuition waivers to work. Show up to work or teach in front of the Henry Administration on the Quad side whenever you can between 8:30 and 11am. GEO will have tables and chairs set up, as well as blankets. Coffee will be provided.
We need your help. If you can, attend RSVP to the event on Facebook or email GEO.
The University works because we do.
As you may have heard, the GEO is holding a rally and asking for signatures on petition in an effort to get the University to meet with us to determine the remedy on a recent arbitration decision.
You may be asking yourself, “What is an arbitration?” “Do they have to comply?” “Can they just take their time?”
Let’s begin by discussing what an arbitration is. The arbitration is the final stage of the grievance process, as described in Article XVIII of the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) between the GEO and the University. In 2014, students in the Masters of Computer Science (MCS) program made the GEO aware that their department was asking departments that employed them to pay their tuition. GEO grieved this as a violation of the tuition waiver side letter attached to the CBA. The University denied the grievance at every level, thus the grievance remained unresolved. The GEO chose to arbitrate because of the importance of tuition waivers to members of the GEO.
MCS students standing strong

MCS students standing strong

When the GEO goes to arbitration, the GEO’s and the University’s lawyers must choose an arbitrator. The Federal Mediation and Conciliation Services (FMCS) or the American Arbitration Association (AAA) submits 5 possible arbitrators who are members of the National Academy of Arbitrators. The GEO’s and University’s lawyers each eliminate 2 arbitrators; the remaining arbitrator will serve as arbitrator. The University, the GEO, and the arbitrator then select a date and location for the arbitration; in the case of the MCS arbitration, the arbitration was held in August 2015, a year after the initial grievance was filed, at the iHotel.
In the arbitration, the arbitrator essentially serves as the judge. The lawyers make oral arguments during the arbitration. The arbitrator asks clarifying questions of the lawyers and any witnesses brought forth. The GEO and the University also provide evidence for the arbitrator to consider when making the decision. After the oral arguments, the lawyers submit written briefs stating their case to the arbitrator; the University’s lawyers delayed in submitting the brief and did not submit it until mid-November 2015. After receiving both briefs, the arbitrator determines which party wins and any remedies. An arbitration decision is a legally-binding decision, meaning that the University must comply with it.
In the case of the MCS arbitration, the arbitrator determined on January 26, 2016, that the GEO had won. The arbitrator did not determine the remedy, but instructed the GEO and the University to meet to determine the remedy. That meeting is happening Wednesday, April 1st and we want members and the community to show up outside of Henry Administration building to demonstrate just how much this meeting means to us!
A previous arbitration decision determined that Fine and Applied Arts students were owed money for tuition paid. After that arbitration, the University waited years to comply with the remedy. The remedy was only met when the GEO agreed to sign the CBA in 2012. We cannot let that happen again.
The University works because we do.
Bring your work, office hours and classes to the quad!

Bring your work, office hours and classes to the quad!


GEO got your back

You might not know a lot about the labor union (GEO) which fights for and represents your interests as employees. But, your colleagues might know even less. How do we start those conversations and make the most out of building a community? How do we make sure we have each other’s back?

Where: English Building Rm 259

THIS Wednesday at 5:30pm

Led by the very experienced and charming Silas (pictured above).