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US Universities Affected by Protests Over Cuts, Tuition, and the Right to Organize | Higher education

 University of New Mexico provost stated that the university recognizes the rights of graduate students to organize in October 2020. "src =" https: // i. "loading =" lazy "class =" css-uk6cul "/> </picture></div><figcaption
class= [1945901514] [1945901514] The president of the University of New Mexico stated that the university recognizes the rights of graduate students to organize in October 2020. Photo: Albuquerque Journal / REX / Shutterstock

Workers publicly announced their intention to unionize in October 2020 and obtained a majority of signed union authorization cards by December 2020 , although the University of New Mexico refused to formally recognize the union that seeks to represent some 3,750 graduate workers.

University of New Mexico spokesman Cinnamon Blair said in an email: “The issue Whether graduate students are 'regular employees' and therefore eligible to unionize and bargain collectively under New Mexico law is an undecided legal question. Regardless of how that question is decided, UNM will continue to value and collaborate with its graduate students to ensure that their time at UNM personally meets and furthers their academic and professional goals. ”

Budget Cuts and Layoffs

US colleges and universities are also cutting faculty and staff positions during the pandemic due to budget concerns. The cuts have spread to public and private institutions, large and small. The pandemic has cost US universities and colleges an estimated $ 120 billion in lost revenue.

After months of looming cuts at Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, 39 workers from various departments received layoff notices on January 21, 2021. Teachers and students have protested against the cuts and layoffs in recent months.

“It was a very immediate and severe campus and community outage, and there was very little ability to provide feedback in the process,” said one of the employees who were laid off as part of the cuts. They requested to remain anonymous, since the employees were forced to sign confidentiality agreements to receive compensation.

A Marquette University spokesperson said in an email: "There are no further layoffs planned at this time."

At Ithaca College in Ithaca, New York, the administration is cutting 116 teacher layoffs over the next year from 547 teaching positions at the school, citing that the coronavirus pandemic accelerated the need for the college to downsize amid budget concerns. Students, professors, and former students have criticized the cuts, pressing for greater transparency and collaboration with students, professors, and former students in the search for alternative solutions.

"We are frustrated and look forward to a more collaborative response to all of this," said Juan Arroyo, a 20-year professor of politics at Ithaca College, who is expected to lose his position when his current contract expires at the end of the 2021-2022 school year. “My contract ends when I'm 59, so I'm starting to think about things that I wasn't thinking about, like what's the earliest I can get out of social security, Medicare eligibility, all kinds of things like that, it is now in the foreground. ”

A spokesperson for Ithaca College said in an email: “The facts show that the current size of the university is not sustainable. Therefore, difficult but necessary steps are being taken to align our academic offerings with the interests of students and institutional needs. ”

Tuition and Fees Strikes

University students and workers are currently staging strikes against exorbitant tuition rates during the coronavirus pandemic, as some universities, such as Georgetown and Williams College, have reduced tuition and fees, as many student activities are canceled and several classes are held remotely.

Graduate workers at the University of Chicago are organizing a pledge to refuse to pay student fees to the university, which are currently $ 416 per quarter, citing reduced services for students due to the pandemic and the high cost of the rate. According to the union, more than 600 graduates and students have joined the commitment.

“These are crises that have been coming to a head for a long time and Covid has really highlighted them. Tuition and exorbitant fees are getting higher and higher, "said Laura Colaneri, a graduate worker in Hispanic and Portuguese-Brazilian studies. A spokesperson for the University of Chicago told The Guardian in an email: "University of Chicago students have access to many critical services that are made possible by the Student Services Fee," but did not comment on what services are available. currently limited or detained due to the pandemic.

 More than 1,000 students at Columbia University are currently withholding enrollment for the spring semester. "src =" "height =" 5413 "loading =" lazy "class =" css-uk6cul "/> </picture></div><figcaption
class= More than 1000 students at the University Columbia are currently withholding their spring semester tuition. Photo: Justin Lane / EPA

More than 1,000 students at Columbia University are currently withholding enrollment for the spring semester as part of a strike to demand a 10% reduction in tuition fees and an increase 10% in financial aid.

“The tuition strike is an effort to reject the idea that administrators must make decisions unilaterally with financial resources that come from teachers' teaching, student tuition payments, land expropriated from the surrounding community, and the hard work from campus workers, ”said Becca. Roskill, a third-year student at Columbia University and one of the organizers of the strike.

Without financial aid, undergraduate tuition at Columbia University currently costs more than $ 80,000 a year. The tuition strike movement also includes demands to reduce funding for campus police, divest school funds from fossil fuels, improve working conditions for graduate and undergraduate workers, and for the university to commit to transparency. with regard to its investments.

The students who participated in the strike have claimed that the university has already begun imposing late fees of $ 150 for unpaid tuition.

“Our best protection against these kinds of measures is our collective strength. There has been a really impressive willingness among the forwards to keep hitting through this, "added Roskill." We have kept in touch with committed strikers and we are also trying to provide assistance to anyone who is having a hard time paying late fees. " .

A Columbia University spokesperson said in an email regarding the tuition strike: “This is a time when an active reassessment of the status quo is understandable, and we expect no less from our students. Their voices are heard by Columbia leaders and their views on strengthening the University are welcome. "

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