TA Association Protests Wages, Escorted by Police out of Bascom Hall

Bascom Hall

Author: Will Kenneally

Police say more than a dozen protesters were escorted out of Bascom Hall as members of the Teaching Assistants’ Association protested administration policy with a sit in on Friday.

Members of the TAA were scheduled to meet with university administrators over concerns with TA wages and student fees. Administrators left during the meeting and called on police to remove the students.

“No, not on these terms,” Vice Chancellor for Finance and Administration Laurent Heller said after the group of students, some holding signs, entered a Bascom Hall conference room.

“The administrators’ action is a blatant violation of trust and outrageous action of bad faith,” the union wrote in a statement responding to Heller.

The meeting was scheduled in a letter written by Heller and Dean of the Graduate School William Karpus to address some of TAA’s concerns. In the letter, they wrote that “teaching assistants are valued” and the administration has made efforts to increase the stipends that TAs are paid.

“Our approach and philosophy have been to provide greater financial support and flexibility for graduate students through increased stipends rather than exemptions from fees,” Heller and Karpus wrote. “We believe that all students — graduate and undergraduate alike — must pay segregated fees to support high-quality services that are available to all students.”

TAA responded to the letter, saying they want the fees waived for those graduate students who work for the university so that “graduate assistants should not have to pay one in every ten dollars back to the university in order to work here.”

“When was the last time you couldn’t afford a $700 flight home, how about a $300 flight home,” one TAA member asked of the administrators. “That’s the choice your graduate students have to make … would you say that is what we deserve for the work we do for you?”

Also at issue is how graduate student workers are able to represent themselves with university administration. TAA called on Heller and Karpus to receive student input in creating a standing committee for improving graduate worker policy.

Heller and Karpus said the process to reevaluate policies related to graduate workers is a collaborative one, saying they were working with other deans and hoped to have an answer by the end of the semester.

A UW-Madison spokesperson was not immediately available for comment on the actions Friday.