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UCSD academic workers say undergraduates are being 'weaponized' against them

After a nearly weeklong pause, talks got back underway Thursday between the University of California and thousands of striking academic workers.

Going into the fourth week of the strike, there’s still no deal for academic student employees or graduate student researchers.

“They talk about affecting undergraduate education when the people who have the power to end the strike are the people who have the power to give us a fair contract and haven’t been doing it for 18 months,” said Niall Chithelen, a teaching assistant at UC San Diego. "If they cared about undergraduate education, they would have given us a fair contract so we didn’t have to strike.”


EdSource previously reported that UC professors were planning to withhold student grades in solidarity with the strikers.

John Gove, a UCSD graduate student researcher, said the University of California was “weaponizing” undergraduates, and that any grade-withholding crisis could be solved with a good contract.

"They recognize that if they put undergrads in crisis that that makes us look like we’re the bad guys,” Gove said.

But undergraduate Jayden Wood was not worried about grades.

“Scholarships, financial aid, prerequisites for future classes — it’s not going to affect undergrads signing up or being eligible for those things, because it’s simply going to be a blank grade. It’s not going to affect our GPA. Our GPA is not going to decrease — they’re just going to come much later,” Wood said.  


Chithelen agreed that grade withholding would not affect things such as financial aid. “The biggest way grade withholding affects undergraduates is that their teachers get a living wage as a result of it,” he said.

The University of California says it has made an offer for more money and better benefits, and it has already made a deal with two other groups of academic workers.

Wood hopes for a deal that will set a precedent for other universities.

“UC has often set a precedent for other universities. So, if we can make this change happen, that can affect so many other people, so many other grad students,” Woods said.

The fall quarter ends on Saturday.