By: Emiliano Vazquez-Parrales, Section Editor for Student Voices (firstname.lastname@example.org)
In the spirit of revolution, the UIC teachers union went on strike last week! I have to say that to a certain degree while I was rather overjoyed that I had my classes cancelled, I really admire the union. I think that our professors, especially the tenured ones, have worked very hard to get to where they are and their level of pay should reflect that. Now our dear UIC provost Lon Kaufman says that the minimum pay ($30,000) is considered competitive to instructors at other universities. First, I find that to be a poorly veiled threat, and second, no it isn’t. I can promise Mr. Kaufman that comparatively our professors make nothing close to competitive, especially considering that UIC is an internationally recognized research institute. Perhaps if the university didn’t spend $1 million a year on the residence of our beloved chancellor, Paula Allen-Meares, it could afford to pay the teachers better. From what I gather the union wishes a minimum salary of $45,000 a year with a yearly increase of 4.15 to 4.65 percent, and by God, that seems fair to me.
Compared to the bureaucracy that runs the university, I’d have to say our teachers and professors have a much harder job. Aside from their continued academic endeavors (as part of being a tenured Professor), they have to continuously prepare for classes on a daily basis, and that includes planning classes, grading papers (we may have written them but they have to read them) and exams, and just like us they commute to school and have families to support. According to my sources (listed below) the strike also involves the issue of the teachers taking back decision making powers from the administration, which include curriculum, teaching condition, and the allocation of monies. From my student point of view, shouldn’t the teachers union be in charge of that anyway? I mean most of our professors have Masters degrees for a reason, and it’s because they know what needs to be taught, how much it costs, and what is going to be needed in order to properly teach the material.
Now the UIC teachers union may not be as big news as the Syrian Civil War, or The Strikes in Ukraine or Thailand, but it should matter, especially to us. Some students and administrators criticize the strike because they feel it will somehow cheat us out of the education we paid for. I am inclined to agree partially many of us do pay a hefty sum for our education, but that money should be going toward ensuring that our professors and really any staff at UIC is paid appropriately so these types of incidents can be avoided. We’re all attending college so that we may one day start a career of our own, and if you feel like you’re being cheated out of a fair pay then I’m sure you’d feel the need to take action as well. If the administration refuses to negotiate then they are the ones who we should blame for the disruption. This is the first time that their has been a strike by the teachers in all UIC history as well as the union (started in 2011). If after all this time this is the first then there is obviously something terribly wrong, and it is our duty as members of the UIC community to stand behind our professors.