Classes are still continuing at the University of Illinois, but some are without graduate student instructors after more than 500 of them went on strike Monday morning.
The move comes after six hours of contract talks Saturday failed to yield an agreement. At issue is whether teaching assistants would be allowed to attend the university for free. Union spokesman Peter Campbell acknowledges that graduate instructors now receive full or partial tuition waivers but that the union wants greater protection against any efforts to reduce or eliminate those waivers.
It's the first ever strike by U. of I. graduate students, the News-Gazette of Urbana-Champaign reported.
"The administration’s refusal to guarantee the continuation of its current tuition waiver practice not only means that the majority of graduate employees could be forced to pay thousands of dollars in additional tuition charges, but also indicates its plans to implement such a change," the Graduate Employees' Union said in a statement.
University spokeswoman Robin Kaler said individual instructors may not be showing up for class but she doesn't know how often that's happening. Nor does she know of any faculty members canceling classes because of the strike.
About half of the 2,700 graduate instructors are members of the union. Graduate students teach about 23 percent of undergraduate credit hours, the Chicago Tribune reported.
Kaler said there are no plans to make any change in the current tuition policy for the graduate and teaching assistants.