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[UPDATE 2/28 2:10 p.m.:] On Friday afternoon, UC Santa Cruz followed through on its threat to fire striking grad students, according to the UCSC strike Twitter account ON STRIKE!!!: #COLA 4 UCSC (@payusmoreucsc). Janet Napolitano, president of the UC system, had previously stated that the strike “will have consequences, up to and including the termination of existing employment at the University.” A letter of termination issued to a UCSC graduate instructor states: “Your abandonment and sustained willful dereliction of your job responsibilities as a Teaching Fellow constitutes serious misconduct. Your conduct has harmed graduate students and disrupted university operations.”
The termination of students is a step that seems likely to escalate the stakes of the strike and, potentially, draw in more campuses that had previously limited their actions to solidarity demonstrations. The UCSB strike Twitter account UCSB 4 COLA – ON STRIKE (@ucsb4cola) stated: “Over 50 striking UCSC students are officially fired. Shining a light on a broken system has been labeled ‘insubordination’ and dismissed. We at #UCSBstrike will not stand down until justice is restored for participants in the #UCSCstrike”
The original story follows:
Thousands of students hit the pavement on Thursday afternoon at the University of California, Santa Barbara, to demand better pay for graduate student instructors, joining a strike that began at UC Santa Cruz and now looks poised to spread to other campuses across the UC system. Squeezed by rising costs of living and low wages, graduate students are calling for a cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) to help cope with the skyrocketing costs of housing in California.
While grad students from different departments had been taking part in demonstrations, grade-ins, and other solidarity actions for weeks, they voted on Monday to escalate to a strike, becoming the first other UC to join their colleagues at UC Santa Cruz, who are now being threatened with termination if they don’t return to work.