NUGW hosts TA “Disorientation” to shine light on how graduate workers are “more than students”


Daily file photo by Colin Boyle

Graduate workers lead a march for equal rights on campus in spring 2019. Today, NUGW held a virtual day of action to address graduate students’ roles as workers.

Isabelle Sarraf, Campus Editor

While Northwestern hosted a one-day teaching assistant training orientation Thursday, graduate workers held a virtual day of action to contend that their labor for the University should designate them as workers, not just students.

Northwestern University Graduate Workers said its TA Disorientation was held to show the contradiction of training graduate workers to perform labor that’s “fundamental to the University” while simultaneously “denying (their) status as workers.”

According to NUGW, graduate students were told by University officials last year that the service of a TA is vital to the University and to undergraduate students who interact with them.

“Regardless of what the University’s official talking points may be, it is clear to us all that in practice, graduate workers are workers,” NUGW said.

Though the academic year does not start until Sept. 16, many NU graduate workers participated this Tuesday and Wednesday in a national Scholar Strike to protest police brutality and racial violence.

Graduate workers continue to conduct research in labs or work from home and write dissertations — but amid the pandemic, they’ve done so without “proper labor protections” or access to vital resources to produce their research, NUGW said.

During the spring, NUGW held multiple virtual events and launched a petition pushing for an additional year of funding and other COVID-19 related relief measures, with the campaign hashtag #universal1yr. In July, The Graduate School granted current graduate students one more year to complete their milestone deadlines, but the announcement did not imply an extension for the funding that NUGW had been fighting for. “As the pandemic extends into its sixth month with no end in sight, it becomes ever clearer that we need stronger protections for labor workers and a universal one year of funding because our work has been drastically interrupted and we are working under the most precarious conditions,” NUGW said.

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Twitter: @isabellesarraf

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