The Reason to Strike

GRADUATE STUDENTS are interested in studying and teaching, not organizing. However, the quality of our education and the education of undergraduates is severely challenged by the current financial priorities of the University. The Graduate Students and Teaching Fellow Union has been reestablished to force the administration to revise its priorities in the interest of maintaining education of a high level.

The extraordinarily conservative fiscal policy of the administration and its contempt of students has led the Union to believe that drastic action is required. Whether the Union would strike was not known when this was written. Nevertheless, it is appropriate to consider what has proved the possibility of a strike.

Last year, when graduate students began to be confronted with large reductions in outside scholarship aid, the administration refused to use $15 million of the income from the endowment, which grew at more at more than twice the rate of inflation. The administration ignored the Commission of Graduate Education which was established by the faculty to formulate an aid plan for graduate students. The administration has refused to inform graduate students of the criteria employed to assess the amount of support that their families are expected to provide.

The current financial priorities of the administration, as reflected in the Kraus Plan, present severe threats to the quality of undergraduate as well as graduate education. At least one million dollars of outside support for graduate students will disappear next year, and Harvard has allocated only $230,000 to fill the gap. Upper level students are supposed support themselves by teaching. But the number of teaching units is insufficient for all of them to support themselves. Those without adequate income from teaching and lower level students are expected to obtain support from their families. This places a severe burden on parents, many of whom are near retirement age, and on spouses, whose incomes are often meager. Students unable to obtain the necessary funds may have to discontinue their education. Others, often already in debt because of their undergraduate education, must take out loans which they may have difficulty repaying. Enrollment in the graduate school will increasingly be limited to the wealthy.

Because of the debts which they have accrued and because of pressure from their parents, many graduate students will be forced to shorten their programs. Those who are able to obtain the number of teaching units necessary to support themselves will be forced to devote less time to their research. The extent of the academic preparation of graduate students will thus diminish.


Teaching has been a valuable aspect of the professional training of graduate students. A marked change in their attitude toward teaching is forced by the Kraus Plan which shifts the emphasis to the financial value of teaching. The real salary paid for each unit of teaching has been reduced because of the elimination of tuition abatement for teaching fellows. Teaching salaries are considered as substitutes for financial aid, and appointments will increasingly be made on the basis of need. Moreover, financial pressure to complete graduate school as quickly as possible will incline students to consider teaching an obstacle to their own academic progress. Reduced empahsis upon the educational value of teaching will incline them to devote less time to teaching. An integral part of graduate training to be teachers will thus be slighted.

The quality of undergraduate education is severely undermined by the Kraus Plan. Most of the undergraduate teaching, including individual tutorials, discussion sections, and grading, is done by graduate students. Teaching fellows have served as mediators between undergraduates and the senior faculty, whose primary interest is research rather than teaching. Under the new aid plan, less attention will be devoted to undergraduate education. Graduate students will be less inclined to spend extra time with undergraduates. Teaching fellows will be reluctant to assume tutorials and independent studies. The remuneration of resident tutors has been effectively reduced, so they will be less active in the undergraduate houses. Two oo the most valuable aspects of undergraduate education--the tutorial programs and the house system--are thus weakened.

Reform of education to better serve the needs of undergraduates is necessaryand has been urged by President Bok. However, his emphasis upon quantitative evaluation, and his accord of greater priority to fiscal growth than to educational development, prevent the achievment of these goals.

The Graduate Students and Teaching Fellow Union opposes the Kraus Plan's erosion of the quality of the education of undergraduate and graduate students. Should the Union strike, it is not a strike against education, but a strike in support of better education. We request your support.

John T. Kelly is a graduate student in History of Science and a member of the Graduate Student and Teaching Fellow Union.