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.