The California State University system professes an honorable mission: to provide an equitable, accessible, and affordable education “to all who are prepared for and wish to participate in collegiate study.” A recent study commissioned by the Chancellor’s Office shows how far off the CSU is from fulfilling their educational mission. According to this study, an estimated 10 percent (1 in 10) of the entire half million CSU student body are homeless, and 25 percent (1 in 4) struggle with food insecurity. State funding cuts, bloated administrative salaries, the not-so-covert privatization of our public university through constant increases of our tuition and fees, and California’s rapidly rising cost of living are some of the causes for intensified student stratification and diminished student success.
While multidimensional, these problems are not intractable or inevitable facts of life. Although not unique to the CSU, these are issues that the Cal State system can start to address by supporting the reasonable demands made by UAW 4123, the union representing the over 10,000 Academic Student Employees across 23 CSU campuses. UAW 4123 is currently negotiating the next round of Academic Student Employee contracts. The union recognizes that our academic student employees are among the most overworked and underpaid in public higher education nationwide. UAW 4123 is thus advocating for improved compensation for our academic labor, expansion of tuition waivers (which has already been successfully won at CSU Fresno), and improved workplace conditions including the expansion of gender-neutral restroom access and the establishment of third-party oversight for resolving cases of discrimination on campus.
One of the best ways you can help is by sharing the work the union is doing with your peers and encouraging all ISAs, GAs, and TAs to join the union. Keep updated on the status of contract negotiations and contact the union at firstname.lastname@example.org and www.uaw4123.org.
Brandon Edwards-Schuth and Lydia Wood, SDSU Graduate Students