TBT to an Inspiring GEO Predecessor

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.

Author: Alia Bellwood

Alia is a PhD student in the Department of Communication studying Rhetoric. She is proud to be an ex-debater, St. John's University and Syracuse University alum, and current GEO Officer at-Large.