GEO Call to Action on March 4

RALLY: March 4, 2010 – assemble at Alma Mater at noon, march at 12:15, rally in front of Swanlund 12:30-12:50.  Electronic versions of flyers and posters can be downloaded here.  RSVP here, and see the event website here.  A copy of the UC United Press release announcing the rally is available on this post after the jump.

Please join us for the UC United Coalition’s March 4th Rally for the Future of an Accessible, Diverse, and Democratic UIUC.  The UIUC rally will be part of the March 4th National Day of Action to Defend Public Education (read the national calls).  The GEO has officially endorsed the March 4th Day of Action, and we call on all GEO members to participate.

The UC United Coalition, which includes the GEO, the Campus Labor Coalition, the Campus Faculty Association, the Undergraduate-Graduate Alliance, La Colectiva, and the Lambda Theta Alpha Latin Sorority, demands a UIUC truly committed to access, diversity, democracy, and quality, and that the U of I administration stop pushing the burden of the budget shortfall down to workers and students.

While we worked incredibly hard last semester to win a contract that is already working to protect our members through the grievance process, the University administration is still moving toward a privatized future for UIUC that includes fewer graduate employees, larger class sizes, and less flexibility for graduate appointments. Campus units and departments are being forced to plan for drastic cuts that will significantly impact graduate employees, despite the fact that an independent audit from the American Association of University Professionals claims that the U of I financial situation is “strong,” and that these measures are in no way required by the current shortfall in state funding.  Download a flyer summarizing the audit here.

We know more than anyone on campus that only through direct action can we continue to take back control of the direction of our University.  Many of the members of the UC United Coalition walked with us on the lines – now their jobs and livelihoods are being threatened by irresponsible and non-transparent decisions by the UI administration – so let’s walk with them!

We worked long and hard to win an historic contract.  Now let’s build on those gains – starting on March 4th!

UC United press release announcing the rally:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: UC UNITED COALITION OF STUDENTS, WORKERS AND FACULTY TO HOLD RALLY AT THE UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS AT URBANA-CHAMPAIGN AS PART OF THE MARCH 4 NATIONAL DAY OF ACTION TO DEFEND PUBLIC EDUCATION

Urbana-Champaign, IL (March 2): On March 4, 2010 at noon, the UC United Coalition, consisting of the Graduate Employees’ Organization (GEO) (AFT/IFT Local 6300), the Campus Labor Coalition, the Undergraduate-Graduate Alliance (UGA), the Campus Faculty Association (CFA), La Colectiva, and the Lambda Theta Alpha Latin Sorority will hold a rally for the future of an accessible, diverse, and democratic University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) as part of the March 4th National Day of Action to Defend Public Education (defendcapubliceducation@wordpress.com, defendeducation.org).

The rally will assemble at the UIUC Alma Mater statue at the corner of Green and Wright Street in Urbana at noon.  Rally participants will begin marching at 12:10 to the Swanlund Administration Building (601 E. John Street).  The rally outside Swanlund will last from 12:20-12:50, and will include speakers, music, and performances from UIUC students and workers.

The rally will demand that the University of Illinois (UI) administration center the priorities of the University of Illinois around access, diversity, democracy, and quality.  Specifically, UC United calls for a tuition and fee freeze, an end to layoffs and furloughs of workers and faculty, a democratic campus with shared governance in policy decisions, the recruitment and retention of a diverse campus population of workers, students, and faculty that is truly representative of the State of Illinois, and transparency about the UI budget.  The UC United Coalition also calls for progressive state and federal funding for all levels of public education.

The University of Illinois administration is arguing that a budget shortfall in promised Illinois state monies to the U of I necessitates furloughs, layoffs, and cuts at the departmental and unit level that will cause larger class sizes and significant damage to the U of I’s core mission of research and instruction.  Little data about the UI budget has been released, despite an independent audit by the American Association of University Professors that claims the UI budget situation, contrary to administration claims, is “strong.” (For a copy of this report and other publicity related to the March 4th rally, please refer to uigeo.org/publicity-materials/).  As Susan Davis, CFA Executive Committee member and Professor in the Department of Communication said, the University of Illinois administration’s policy “places the burden of the current budget shortfall on personnel and students.”

The UC United Coalition is concerned about the trend at the U of I toward the privatization and corporatization of public education, with not only an increased reliance on corporate funding and grants, but a failure to prioritize instruction and research over administrative units and a longstanding efforts to reduce or eliminate tuition waivers for graduate employees.  As Peter Campbell, GEO Communications Officer said, “while both the U of I and Illinois face severe budget difficulties, the University administration has the ability to be a leader in maintaining accessible and democratic public education even in economic hard times.  Instead, the University administration has consistently failed to prioritize instruction and research over administrative costs, or to involve the campus community to find creative ways to address the state budget shortfall that don’t place the primary burden on workers and students.”

According to a poll conducted by the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education and Public Agenda, “six out of 10 Americans now say that colleges operate more like a business,” and that this focus “more on the bottom line than on the educational experience of students” is a major reason for public ambivalence toward funding higher education (http://www.publicagenda.org/pages/squeeze-play-2010).  At the University of Illinois, administration directives refer to students as “instructional units,” and urge departments to increase class sizes and decrease instructors in order to maximize instructional efficiency.  Such policies, in conjunction with tuition increases, layoffs, and furloughs, work to create a lower quality of education that is accessible only to elites. These policies are contrary to prevailing public opinion about how public universities should operate in the United States.

UC United calls on the UIUC and Urbana-Champaign community to join us in taking back the future of our campus, and of public education in Illinois and the United States.

For more information about the UC United Coalition, the March 4 rally, and other upcoming events, please visit our event page at uicrisis.org and/or contact any of the following representatives: Peter Campbell, GEO Communications Officer, 253-222-5861, odell.campbell@gmail.com, uigeo.org; Harriet Murav Campus Faculty Association, 217-359-5394, and Jim Barret, Campus Faculty Association, 217-352-2714; Pete Rhomberg, Undergraduate-Graduate Alliance, (708) 828-9926, rhomberger3000@gmail.com.  Publicity materials for the rally can be downloaded at uigeo.org/publicity-materials/.

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