GTAC Newsletter – 17 June 2020

GTAs are not disposable. Join us as we fight for our lives.

From GTAC President Neill Kennedy:
When I was born, my mother wrapped me in Jayhawk-adorned swaddling blankets. Eighteen years later, she delivered me to the halls of the only school to which I applied – the University of Kansas. I now have eight years of learning and three hundred students of teaching at KU, and while this campus has been the center of my life, I find that I cannot agree to die or kill for my University.

review of the most recent demands of our administrators (widely referred to as the KU (P)lan) show that our University has again been burdened with administrators who prioritize profits over people. Reckless cycles of administrative neglect and abuse are why I joined my labor union and why I became our union President. Now, worker neglect and abuse is why I am fighting to replace the KU (P)lan‘s unilateral in-person re-opening with the GTAC Win-Win Plan.

As a lifelong Jayhawk, I know all too well that KU is not a place meant for people like me. KU is not meant for people of color, for people with disabilities, for non-gender-conforming or Queer people. KU is not meant for poor people. KU is designed for the privileged few who are currently wrapped around the Bull with no masks, without even six inches of distance between one another. And because KU is meant for these privileged few, KU administrators appear to be willing to throw away the lives of any number of our 1000+ GTAs to cater to the “on-campus experience” of these few privileged students – who have not even expressed a desire to force us to take this risk or to take this risk themselves.

I have reviewed the KU (P)lan and I am bewildered by the implications. It is clear to me that the current administration of KU does not care about the GTAs who tirelessly work to teach almost half of all undergraduate courses. We have been forced to try to make ends meet on less than $18,000 per year while being repeatedly refused access to the state health insurance to which we are entitled as state workers. We have been belittled, ignored, attacked, and now we are being told to return to to campus this fall, where some of us will die. KU is just fine with this. I am not.

This plan makes it especially clear that the current administration of KU does not believe that Black lives matter. Covid-19 is disproportionately deadly to Black and Indigenous people because of racial inequalities within our systems of healthcare, justice, and resource allocation. A return to campus this fall can happen only at the cost of Black deaths. KU is just fine with this. I am not.

GTAC workers teach almost half of all undergraduate courses. We are the instructors of record for all basic English courses and many basic Math courses; we create curriculum, independently teach, lead discussions, run labs, and grade everything from Theater to Psychology to Business to Chemistry. GTAC workers form the core of the University of Kansas and as the core of the KU world, this campus would collapse without our support.

Graduate teachers are not disposable. Black and Indigenous lives matter more than anyone’s “on-campus experience”. Our enforced poverty does not pre-excuse our deaths. We deserve better and we will get it.

If we refuse to come back to campus this fall, what can the administration do? Teach our classes themselves? Our administrators won’t even cap their salaries at $10,000.00 per month (plus benefits!) to allow GTAs a minimum living wage. These people are not going to risk their own lives and we must not allow them to risk ours. This undemocratic, unresearched, unwanted plan to reopen campus is unsafe for graduate teachers, unsafe for students, and unsafe for faculty and support workers. We must use our collective power to ensure that unless we are off-campus, there will be no campus.

Join us on Friday evening at 6pm for a GTAC General Meeting via Zoom. (Register here!) We will be discussing safety conditions and organizing plans for Fall 2020, summer unemployment, graduate student courses (which have been largely ignored in all discussions of quality learning), GTA worker healthcare, our Fall 2020 raises, our upcoming contract negotiations, and Fall 2020 leadership. Check out our website at and RSVP for our General Meeting with Extended Q&A on Friday, June 19th at 6pm on Zoom.

In solidarity,
Neill Kennedy
GTAC President

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Glad to be a part of a labor union? This is a time when our solidarity matters more than ever – click here to become a dues paying member of GTAC.

Our risk is our choice. Period.

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