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Yale TA Strike Seen Not Likely at MIT

By Dan McGuire and Orli G. Bahcall
Associate News Editors

Under increasing pressure from Yale University's administration, Yale's proposed teaching assistant unionvoted to stop its current "grade strike" against Yale's working conditions and pay levels. The Yale Daily News reported yesterday that members of the teaching assistants voted on Sunday to end the strike and release fall semester grades. Administrators find that a TA strike situation occurring at MIT would be highly unlikely.

Yale TAs had been withholding student grade reports originally due on January 2, in order to persuade the administration to recognize a TA union, the Graduate Employees and Students Organization.

"We haven't taken an official position on the Yale crisis," said Graduate Student Council President Barbara J. Souter G, simply "because most of the GSC has been out of town for Christmas."

While "we are looking at Yale with great interest, we are taking no official position," said Senior Associate Dean for Graduate Education Isaac M. Colbert.

TA strike at MIT not likely

Souter said a similar protest was unlikely here. "I don't think that we would be so extreme as to go on strike," she said. "We often lobby to improve graduate student life but we [prefer] talking to the administration" over confronting them.

The GSC has also "never acted as a collective bargaining union for students," Souter said.

The graduate administration agrees that the action taken at Yale would not occur at MIT, Colbert said. "We've seen no signs of [such] student agitation." Although "we continue to struggle with graduate student issues" we believe ourselves to be doing the best job possible to meet student needs, he said.

MIT faces different issues

"The entire landscape here for graduate student education is very different from Yale," Colbert said. "Our institutions are very different in the way we approach student issues."

"One can never rule out the possibility that graduate students will seek to unionize [but] TAs at MIT are treated much better than those at other places." At MIT "few if any of our students are forced to TA," Colbert said.

Most TAs here "are TAs because they want to be. TA stipends are higher than research assistant stipends" in compensation, he said.

There "are not as many grad students at MIT supported by TAships," Souter said. It is not common to "hear grads complain about the workload. Nobody has come to the GSC this year saying that they had to work too hard as a TA" and were not being fairly paid.

"I do think that there are some improvements that could be made" and the GSCis actively working to these ends, Souter said.

"I think it is very unfortunate" that at some schools graduate students "view TA and [research associateship] work as employment rather than as an essential part of study and teaching experience," Colbert said.

It is also unfortunate "to see students acting as employees - even being manipulated by organizations who do not have as their primary interest the unions. This does a real disservice to the students," Colbert said.

At MIT, "the relationship between faculty and graduate students is more akin to apprenticeships" than an employer-employee relationship, Colbert said.