from archives


Roving Student Demonstrators Support Tas

The Capital Times :: FRONT :: 1A

Wednesday, April 28, 2004

By David Callender The Capital Times

Armed with bullhorns, placards and their fervent support for unionized teaching assistants, about 50 undergraduates mounted a roving protest this morning in an effort to bring UW-Madison to a screeching halt, or at least slow it down for a few minutes.

Starting at about 7 a.m., the group briefly disrupted business at the Peterson Office Building, blocked traffic along University Avenue and temporarily prevented a UPS truck from making a delivery, accusing the driver of being a "scab," or strikebreaker.

But they moved from each location promptly after UW police threatened them with arrest if they stayed.

By midmorning, the group had settled in the shade of several big trees outside Van Hise Hall, where they cheered on picketing members of the Teaching Assistants' Association.

"The undergraduates are behind the graduate students," said Joel Feingold, a 19-year-old freshman studying political science and history. "We feel it's a moral imperative to support labor, especially where they're being unfairly taken advantage of."

Feingold said while many of those protesting feel ties with teaching assistants because the latter often have the most immediate contact with them in classes, students also support their efforts to maintain fully paid health care benefits.

And, he said, many believe that TAs are critical to "the quality of education that we're used to, and that's an immediate concern to us."

Jesse Fruhwirth, a 23-year-old journalism major, said the benefits the TAs are seeking are needed to make the UW competitive with other universities.

"If the UW doesn't stay competitive with its benefit package, they might as well go elsewhere," he said.

As the protesters rallied outside, there were numerous empty classrooms inside Van Hise -- rooms that typically would be full in the morning.

Professors appeared to be leading the only classes that were meeting this morning. Some students took pains to say they supported their TAs even as they crossed the picket lines.

"I'm here because our class isn't taught by a TA," said Liz, a 19-year-old freshman majoring in special education who declined to give her last name. "I totally respect what they're doing, but it's two weeks before finals and I need to learn what I need to learn."

She added that she had already missed one class taught by a TA and she planned to miss three more this afternoon.

But in one classroom, a 20-year male student wearing an Eddie Bauer sweatshirt sat alone during what would have been his second-semester Italian class.

"I came because we've got projects and stuff that need to be completed," he said. "Besides, I'm paying for this class, so I might as well be here."

back to TAA Strike pictures and articles page