Students and faculty are heading back to classes today at UW-Madison in what has been a tumultuous year in Wisconsin. The effects of Wisconsin Act 10, which strips public sector workers (including graduate assistants) of our collective bargaining rights, are only now beginning come to pass.

Here is a “nice” article (in terms of framing) about the impacts of the new legislation on campus, “UW-Madison TAs return to class more financially stressed,” that appeared yesterday in the Isthmus, Madison’s weekly newspaper. As a student in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS), it is particularly gratifying to hear the strong statement of support from Interim Dean William Tracy:

“Graduate student employees are a vital part of a university dedicated to teaching and research,” he says. “They bring new energy and creative ideas into classrooms and laboratories, and spark learning and innovation in education and research. Not only do graduate students work with and teach undergraduates, they are vital in the creation of an intellectual and physical infrastructure that immerses all students in projects that address the most significant problems of our times.”

The article is also a reminder of how powerful we can be when we organize together and stand-up for our rights, as we do on campus through the Teaching Assistants’ Association (TAA). In an article published in Academe this summer, Mari Jo Buhle and Paul Buhle write that:

Extremely well-organized TAA members took some of the first steps to foster the wider protest movement. They started phone banking on February 12, just in advance of the governor’s introduction of the bill. A tense meeting followed two days later. In a packed campus lecture hall, TAA leaders declared that a turning point had been reached in Wisconsin history and urged those present to put aside their other work for as long as the struggle would take. Their collective house, for the present, was the state capitol itself.

They are right, this is the Wisconsin Idea in action. Thank you!