University of California, San Diego

December 4, 1998
Dear Student:
Last week a letter from University of California President Richard C.
Atkinson about the T.A. strike was e-mailed to all members of the UCSD
campus. Due to a processing error, it is possible that your name was not
included on the original distribution list. With apologies for any
inconvenience this delay may have caused, I am forwarding President
Atkinson's letter at this time.
Richard Attiyeh
Dean of Graduate Studies
University of California
November 23, 1998
ALL AT UCSD (including Students)
For the past several weeks, newspapers have reported that University of
California graduate student Teaching Assistants may conduct a strike on
some or all of our campuses in an attempt to gain collective bargaining
rights. The reports also have stated that the strike would take place
during final exams and that as a result grades may be withheld for many
undergraduate students.
The University respects the right of its employees to decide whether or
not to be represented by a union. Currently, more than one-half of the
University's employees who are eligible for collective bargaining are
unionized and this relationship has operated successfully for nearly
twenty years. The University intends to make every effort to strengthen
cooperative and productive relationships with the unions who represent
our employees.
During the past year, the University has reexamined the issue of whether
or not graduate students are UC "employees" as defined by the law, and
therefore are eligible to participate in collective bargaining. To
answer this question, we examined the link between the services graduate
students provide and their educational goals. We also considered the
nature of the relationship between the graduate students and the faculty
whom they assist.
It is the University's position that students who serve as Readers and
Tutors should be eligible for collective bargaining because their duties
are not integral to their educational experience. In addition, the
faculty for whom they work serve primarily as supervisors as opposed to
educational mentors in their field of study.
Unlike Readers and Tutors, Teaching Assistants carry out instructional
activities as part of their educational program toward obtaining an
advanced degree. In other words, their instructional duties, which are
overseen by faculty advisors, are integral to their education.
Therefore, we believe that Teaching Assistants are principally students
rather than employees, and thus are not eligible for collective bargaining,
which would disrupt the collegial relationships between students and
faculty that are so critical in graduate work. This belief was upheld by
the California Court of Appeal, which ruled that Teaching Assistants are
not entitled to unionize under the collective bargaining law.
While the University cannot support the extension of collective
bargaining rights to Teaching Assistants, we intend to work in good faith
to resolve the issues of interest to them. Each of the campuses is
arranging meetings with its Teaching Assistants in the hope that open
dialogue will enable us to address any areas that need improvement.
The stipends that the University pays Teaching Assistants to support
their education demonstrate the value the University places on their work.
A recent independent survey of more than 25 public research universities
that are members of the Association of American Universities reflects the
results of our efforts. For the 1997-98 year, average Teaching Assistant
compensation for California residents at UC's eight general campuses
occupies eight of the top nine spots in the survey.
With or without collective bargaining, we will continue to recognize the
important contribution that graduate students make to providing
high-quality instruction for our undergraduate students. The University
will make every effort to address any concerns that exist, and ensure
that Teaching Assistants are being treated equitably.
Thousands of undergraduate students throughout the state have entrusted
the University with their education. While we hope that a Teaching Assistant
strike will not disrupt the final exams and grades of our undergraduates,
we will do everything within our power to ensure that our undergraduates
complete their courses and receive their grades.
I encourage Teaching Assistants to discuss your thoughts on this matter
with your department chair, dean, or chancellor so that we can take your
viewpoint into consideration. The administration is committed to
engaging students in a process that will address issues that matter to
Teaching Assistants in both the short run and the long run. I look forward
to resolving this matter and continuing to provide California's students
with the highest-quality undergraduate and graduate education of any
public university in the nation.
Richard C. Atkinson