EDITORIALS

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May 30, 2008

Editorial: Taking it outside

All students should remain free to support, oppose, or remain indifferent to an increase in graduate aid. By making college students into de facto supporters of their cause, graduate students and professors robbed undergraduates of this right.

On Wednesday and Thursday, many instructors, showing their solidarity with graduate students seeking higher pay and health care benefits, held class outside. The goal, presumably, was to convince administrators walking through the quads of widespread support for increasing graduate student funding. Although that may be the case, this week's Teach Out—a publicity stunt masquerading as a protest—essentially coerced classes full of college students into publicly advocating for a cause that they may not actually care about or support.

Professors and students certainly should express their opinions about graduate aid, but forcing undergraduate classes to sit outside overstepped the appropriate bounds. All students should remain free to support, oppose, or remain indifferent to an increase in graduate aid. By making college students into de facto supporters of their cause, graduate students and professors robbed undergraduates of this right.

The real shame of the Teach Out is that the movement's broader goals are, generally speaking, eminently supportable. Pay for graduate student instructors at the U of C is considerably lower than at most of our peer institutions. Many graduate students lack health insurance or employee benefits, distracting them from teaching and researching. The University's new aid package, introduced last winter, is generous for incoming students but does not cover all current students, effectively punishing those unlucky enough to have already matriculated. Students and professors are right to protest these conditions, and it is likely that many undergraduates sympathize with the protesters.

Previously, graduate students have held rallies, collected petitions, met with administrators, and formed advocacy groups to make their case. Such moves are entirely suitable, as they allow any and all interested students to participate, while those opposed or apathetic are not forced to sign up. But college student support should not be coerced, and undergrads should not be turned into puppets.

Sitting outside for class can be inconvenient. It's harder to take notes on laptops, rain can dampen the whole affair (as happened on Thursday), and you're a lot closer to those improbably tan people who always seem to be playing frisbee on the quads. But these concerns are trivial. By moving their classes outside, participating graduate students and professors committed a serious intellectual offense: turning their students into unwitting pawns instead of allowing them to think through an important issue independently.

The Maroon Editorial Board consists of the Editor-in-Chief, Managing Editor, Viewpoints Editors, and an additional Editorial Board member.