Teaching assistants (T.A.s) and graduate students alike struggle to find housing and affordable child care while they work more than 40 hours per week, while, in some circumstances,being forced to live in hotels with unstable WiFi. All while Chancellor Cynthia Larive received a $105,286 pay increase from the University of California.
To ironically celebrate her raise, T.A. and union organizers held a rally on the steps of Kerr Hall on April 1. As supporters and students flooded the entrance, they were greeted with festive balloons, party hats, and noisemakers to participate in the celebration.
As attendees settled in and initial chants died down, a series of T.A.s and student organizers took to the microphone and shared their experiences working with the university and students. Before and after these testimonies, the party truly entered full swing with cake and pizza, screen printing, and face painting.
T.A. Emrie Keser stands at the microphone, double checking their notes as they continue to speak to the large crowd. “However, due to so-called renovations in the hotel, they want me to relocate to a smaller room again. If I want to leave the hotel for something else, there is a $350 cancellation fee I need to prepay, so I have to stay there until the end of this year. And, on top of it, there is no kitchen. Every month I spend tons of money on just meals, and I still pay more than 1,200 grand for it.”
Emrie Keser approached the microphone, stating they were no public speaker, but rather a PhD student from Turkey. As they shared more and more about their experience as a T.A., Keser informed the audience about living at a WiFi-unstable hotel with unwelcome bugs as roommates.
Keser concluded their speech saying “But this isn’t about me, this is about Cindy. I want to congratulate her on this big raise,” earning a hearty laugh from his audience. They added, “I have an offer.”
“If she pays my hotel rent this quarter, I won’t bother her, perhaps until her next raise. Otherwise, we will continue to bother her until our next raise.”
At the close of her speech, T.A. Livia Perez waved goodbye to the crowd of supporters cheering her on.
Livia Perez, an international student from Brazil, was next to present to the crowd. Perez described her struggles with obtaining a visa in order to be present at the university in the fall, and later on was not paid adequately for her work.
Perez told the audience that when she was paid, nearly a month after-the-fact, her pay was only 60 percent of what she was supposed to earn.
“We are entering the spring quarter, and I still don’t have my payment from January,” Perez said. “I’m inviting you all to be strong, and to be together in support of [not just] all international students, but all of the students of this university.”
Adorned with her party hat and dark sunglasses, T.A. and parent Sarah Mason spoke to attendees about the struggle of affording childcare for graduate students.
The sociology T.A. proudly shared that she was a recent parent to a new five-month-old, who just learned to roll over. Mason began to illuminate the dire circumstances that parent T.A.s find themselves in when finding childcare.
Mason provided more context as to how expensive childcare is in Santa Cruz, stating that sending a child to daycare can cost as much as a second apartment.
“We’re here today to tell you that parent workers are getting organized. We’re here to tell you that we are ready to fight to get what we need,” Mason said. “I want to end with a toast to Cynthia. Congratulations on your raise, we can’t wait for ours.”
As the crowd erupted with cheers and chants, screaming “Cindy, Cindy, why so stingy?” Mason made her way to the back of the quad to participate in the party. Slowly, the cake began to dwindle and the quad cleared out, leaving only remnants of a well-enjoyed party and an echo of COLA chants from a raging crowd lingering in the air.