Graduate students are striking for better wages and conditions as universities sit on huge cash reserves and student loans strangle the economy.

By Tyler Walicek, TruthOut

The U.S. university, imbued with the ethos of managerialism, has increasingly become a corporate enterprise in the guise of an intellectual steward. The infiltration of the priorities of capital into college administrations, underway since the onset of the neoliberal era, has incentivized forbidding tuition rates and the cultivation of a precarious workforce, subjecting many of those who perform the actual labor of the academic profession to intolerable strain.

hand dropping a strike ballot and a graduation cap

Here are some facts, much remarked-upon, that nonetheless bear repeating: U.S. student debt has reached inconceivably vast proportions. Even advanced schooling is far from a guarantor of future financial security; for those aspiring scholars fortunate enough to find any employment at all, those prospects are overwhelmingly of becoming adjunct or contingent faculty — highly stressed and low-paid. Romanticized notions of academe belie the dim conditions endured by the bulk of actual academics. For most, tenure remains a dim hope.

Many graduate students find themselves caught between these multiple fronts: burdened with past student debt, earning sub-living-wage pay in their present work and facing dwindling future opportunities. Universities have grown over-reliant on graduate students and other contingent faculty to maintain a pool of low-cost labor. But an upswell of organizing activity in the last year indicates that graduate students have been emboldened to take a collective stand against the precarity and untenable conditions that mar the academic experience in the U.S.

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