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Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Dissertate before you procreate advice given to striking grad students

Headline 'Ready to strike for benefits' Barometer, Dec. 2, 2014, p. 1

PHOTO: Oregon State University student newspaper headline story, about the University of Oregon graduate student teaching assistants strike, by Claire McMorris, "Ready to strike for benefits," Baarometer, Dec. 2, 2014, p. 1,4. Also see the sympathetic Staff, "Editorial: U of O grad students deserve fair wages," Barometer, p. 7.

I first heard the story about University of Oregon graduate teaching assistants striking on a Eugene TV station located next to the U of O and my first thought was, WOW, are students becoming more leftist after a few decades of going more conservative and I wondered what has changed their direction.

Although the U of O tends to be more liberal than Oregon State University, I bet any unionization effort will fail because Oregonians have typically either not cared about unionization or they see unions as a problem. I believe unions can be good, even though the history of unions is checkered.

What made me laugh was the U of O student spokeswoman for unionization who told the TV news that she was upset by the advice from "around" the U of O to "dissertate before you procreate!" -- get your Ph.D. first before rocking the boat. She went on to talk about her concern that she could not get pregnant because it wasn't covered by the U of O health plan.

Although I've heard this type of advice before at all stages in my career -- put your head down and do your job before you rock the boat -- I hadn't heard this adage before about grad students procreating.

It made me recall that my own grandfather and father worked on their Ph.D. thesis while procreating and raising children. Thanks to my dad, I got to play at his knee while he worked on a chemical engineering program on the first computer at the University of Illinois in the 1950's.

I am sure the U of O student strikers will get a good education in the politics of unionization and I wish them the best of luck, but my advice to them would be to be prepared for a bare knuckled fight they might lose.