Covid-19 Changes the Calculus of Grad-Student Activism (The Chronicle of Higher Education)

May 18, 2020

Before the coronavirus upended higher education, graduate-student activists at the University of California at Santa Cruz were waging an unrelenting wildcat grading strike against the administration. They wanted a cost-of-living adjustment of $1,400 a month to account for living in an extremely expensive city like Santa Cruz. Protesters blocked the campus’s two main entrances, causing classes to be canceled, and car horns blared constantly from passing motorists who supported their demands. Many protesters were fired, and the demonstrations spread to other University of California campuses, attracting national attention.

Now, of course, students face a very different obstacle to attending classes. As the Covid-19 pandemic took hold and states issued stay-at-home orders, the teaching assistants found themselves without physical gathering spots where they could support one another through a difficult time. The momentum of the strike — and the issues at stake — had shifted. As of this week, almost all of the 80 or so Santa Cruz graduate students who had been withholding grades decided to submit them. As the monthslong grading strike effectively ended, students began trying to negotiate their jobs back.  Read more.