Volume 75, Number 30 | December 14 - 20, 2005

N.Y.U., union disagree on strike strength numbers

By Caitlin Eichelberger

One week after New York University President John Sexton set a deadline for graduate student teaching assistants to end their strike, some of the graduate assistants continued to picket. However, the number of G.A.’s still on strike is in dispute.

The university maintains 75 percent of G.A.’s returned to work last Wednesday. But according to the Graduate Student Organizing Committee, the number is an exaggeration.

“They are playing games with the numbers,” said Susan Valentine, a teaching assistant in the N.Y.U. history department and spokesperson for G-SOC. Valentine explained that the percentage is based upon the number of courses taught solely by graduate assistants, like most language and some expository writing classes. The number upon which the percentage is based, Valentine said, does not consider assistants teaching small sections of large lecture courses or research assistants.

“They are trying to put out the line that ‘there is nothing to see here,’ but the strike is still on,” Valentine said.
John Beckman, university spokesperson, said the university has not been keeping daily tallies of those returning to the classroom.

Valentine said international students were most persuaded to return to work. Sexton’s ultimatum “really scared international students,” she said. Even though the loss of their ability to work as teaching assistants would not result in the loss of their visas, some international students were not willing to take the risk, Valentine added.

Monday, picketers protested outside a N.Y.U. trustees meeting. However, in observance of exams, Tuesday was the last day of full picketing shifts. Small groups, though, will still picket quietly in “campus corners,” Valentine said.

Beckman said N.Y.U. is optimistic about the likelihood of a resolution. “There are a lot of conversations going on on campus right now that are very positive,” he said. But, he also said that the university is preparing for the best- and worst-case scenarios. “We are well into our planning for next semester,” he said. “That planning will take into account both possibilities.”

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