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GEO Refutes “11th hour” Claim

November 15, 2009



URBANA-CHAMPAIGN (November 15): The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign administration has released two extremely misleading statements to press outlets regarding ongoing contract negotiations.

The Graduate Employees’ Organization (GEO), American Federation of Teachers/Illinois Federation of Teachers Local 6300, AFL-CIO, The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC), rejects the claim that tuition waiver security is an “eleventh hour” addition to the bargaining process. In fact, on the first day of negotiations in April the GEO submitted a comprehensive proposal with language explicitly intended to guarantee that the current tuition waiver structure would not be changed for the duration of the contract. Since that moment the GEO has openly and publicly announced the four “pillars” of its contract platform, including a statement that the GEO seeks a contract “preserving the tuition waivers that allow graduate programs at UIUC to attract and retain the best graduate student employees available.”  This statement was included in GEO press releases beginning on May 5.  The GEO would be happy to email or fax documentation proving the administration’s “11th hour” claim false .

More importantly, the administration also claims that they have offered the GEO the full ability to bargain over any change to the tuition waiver policy.  This is NOT the case.  The administration proposal would only allow the GEO to bargain the impact of eliminating in-state tuition waivers.  Most graduate employees receive out of state tuition waivers.  The claim that the administration proposal represents any protection for most tuition waivers on campus is false.

The administration’s proposed side letter states that the “university will bargain the impact of any change by the Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois to the graduate assistant tuition waiver policy set forth in Article IV, Section 5, of the General Rules Concerning University Organization and Procedures.”  Article IV, Section 5 only guarantees base rate tuition, or in-state tuition waivers. Thus, the administration side letter only promises to bargain the impact of eliminating base-rate tuition waivers.  It does not allow for the GEO to bargain the impact of any other change to current tuition waiver practice, under which most TAs and GAs receive full tuition waivers. For example, if the administration were to reduce out of state tuition waivers to only cover in-state tuition, the GEO would not have the ability to prevent its members being assessed additional charges of over $13,000 per year. The GEO’s proposed side letter would have required the administration to bargain the impact of any change to current tuition waiver practice.*  This was rejected by the University administration.

In sum, the administration’s proposal does not sufficiently protect the ability of the GEO to bargain a change to tuition waiver policy.  The GEO’s proposal would not cost the University any additional money. The fact that the administration rejected the proposal knowing a strike was imminent indicates that it indeed seeks the ability to drastically reduce tuition waivers for graduate employees.  Tuition waivers are standard practice at public research universities throughout the country, and are central to the University of Illinois’ mission as a public, land grant institution.  By not agreeing to a zero-cost proposal that would allow the GEO to bargain to protect current tuition waiver practice, the University administration signals a vision of graduate education that is inaccessible to poor and middle income persons.

GEO bargaining unit members teach 23.1% of all undergraduate course hours at UIUC, and perform comparably to faculty in official student evaluations of instructor performance as measured by the University of Illinois’ Center for Teaching Excellence.   Yet our salaries draw only 6.5% of state funding, including salaries for GAs and Research Assistants, who don’t teach.  By contrast, faculty salaries draw over 55% of the University budget.  Graduate employee labor is vital to the fiscally efficient provision of the University’s core service, academic instruction. Tuition waivers allow the University of Illinois to enjoy this cheap labor, as it would not have access to a pool of workers able to teach so much for so little without granting tuition waivers.  Again, without protection for tuition waivers, graduate education and graduate employment will only be accessible to the wealthy.

FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT: Peter Campbell, GEO Communications Officer,, 253-222-5861, or the GEO office at, 217-344-8283, 1001 S. Wright Street, Champaign, IL, 61820.  Information about the GEO can also be found on our website at

*THE GEO’s proposed SIDE LETTER reads: “The Union recognizes the Board of Trustees’ right to set tuition waiver policy in accordance with its practices of shared governance. During the term of this Agreement, the University will bargain in good faith with the Union any changes in the tuition waivers of any bargaining unit member or members.”

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