Temple Student Strike Turns Ugly as School Ends Some Tuition Aid
The university is putting a halt on tuition aid to those striking. But Temple officials say there's nothing to see here.
In case you’ve been thinking about nothing but the upcoming Super Bowl, you may have missed the fact that Temple University graduate students are in the midst of a bitter strike. But things just got worse.
The standoff began last week with several hundred Temple University graduate students — who also work for Temple as part of their graduate studies, as graduate students tend to do — walking out, picket signs in hand, to demand better pay and benefits from the state-funded public university. This marks the first time that members of the 20-year-old Temple University Graduate Students Association Local 6290 have ever gone on strike.
Negotiations continue, but striking students received an alarming communication this week from Temple.
Here is the relevant part of the message, as posted on Twitter by one Temple University graduate student, who couldn’t be reached for comment:
Dear Temple Student:
As a result of your participation in the TUGSA strike, your tuition remission has been removed for the Spring semester. You now owe the full balance listed in TUpay, which is due by Thursday, March 9.
If your balance is not paid in full by the due date, you will be assessed a $100 late payment fee and a financial hold will be placed on your student account. This hold will prevent future registration.
“Can this possibly be real?” one colleague asked me when she saw the tweet.
It sure is, as Temple officials have confirmed. Many commenters in the Tweet thread suggested that this is downright illegal. And the national coalition Higher Education Labor United put out a statement declaring that “removing tuition remission would destroy [Temple University] — grad workers would be forced to leave en masse. This is an unenforceable and absolutely vile threat. This is cutting off your nose to spite your face. Way to make it clear WHY [the student union] is striking.”
We reached out to Temple administrators to see if we could sort all this out, and their responses couldn’t have been more straightforward.
“Any Temple employee that decides to strike forfeits their pay and complete benefits package,” explained Temple University senior vice president and chief operating officer Ken Kaiser. “Tuition remission is part of the TUGSA benefit package. Therefore, they are no longer eligible.”
“It’s worth noting that all TUGSA-covered students received multiple notices from the university informing them that they have the choice whether or not to strike,” added Temple vice president of human resources Sharon Boyle. “If they choose to strike, i.e., stop working, they would lose any benefits that are connected to their jobs, including pay, free health care and tuition remission. Over 80 percent of the TUGSA-covered students have chosen not to strike, and are still working and still enjoying the benefits to which they are entitled, including tuition remission.”
As for the striking students …
“Since they are still students, they are treated as any other student without a job that provides tuition remission, and they must pay for their classes,” she says.
Something tells me this one might have to be resolved in court.
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