UAW: UC Plans to Cut Graduate Admissions, Increase Class Sizes After Strike

Graduate workers are telling their union that the University of California system is planning to reduce graduate enrollment and increase class sizes to pay for increased wages won in a six-week strike.
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  • University of California academic workers went on strike for six weeks in November and December.
  • The workers won increased wages in their new contracts.
  • The University of California has told workers it plans to shrink graduate admissions to pay for the new raises.
  • The university reportedly also plans to decrease the number of discussion sections for teaching assistants and increase the number of students in each section.

In what appears to be a response to pay raises won in a historic six-week strike by its academic workers, the University of California (UC) has reportedly notified academic departments that it will slash graduate admissions and increase class sizes.

The academic workers include some 48,000 researchers, postdoctoral scholars, and academic student employees across the UC system's 10 campuses. The workers are represented by the International Union, United Automobile, Aerospace, and Agricultural Implement Workers of America (UAW).

Bargaining teams for academic student employees and student researchers reached a tentative agreement with UC on Dec. 16. Previously, postdoctoral scholars and academic researchers ratified their new contract on Dec. 9.

Among the wins in the new contracts are wage increases in 2023 and 2024, increased childcare credits, and more paid parental leave.

However, the UAW reported last week that UC may be making big cuts to pay for those gains.

A UAW survey of more than 19,000 UC teaching assistants, tutors, readers, and graduate workers across the UC system found widespread reports that UC was making cuts to enrollment, increasing class sizes, and reducing research group staffing.

"At a time when the State of California is looking to expand educational opportunities for students, particularly students from disadvantaged backgrounds, it is disappointing that the University of California is seeking to reduce graduate enrollment," said UAW 2865 President Rafael Jaime in a release.

"Not only will this mean fewer opportunities for Californians to pursue graduate-level education, but it will mean lower quality education for UC's undergraduates, who will have larger classes with fewer Teaching Assistants to help them learn."

In a letter addressed to UC President Michael Drake, UAW leaders said they were "concerned" about the reports to cut teaching assistants' discussion sections while increasing the number of students enrolled in each section.

"These kinds of cutbacks are not compatible with the excellence in teaching and research

for which the University of California is famous," Jaime and Neal Sweeney, president of UAW 5810, said in the letter. "... Reduced enrollment of graduate students is not only detrimental to undergraduate education, but it means fewer opportunities for graduate education, which is a pathway to high-income jobs for working-class Californians."

UC signed a multiyear compact with Gov. Gavin Newsom's administration in May 2022, stating that the university system would add 2,500 graduate students across its 10 campuses in the next five years, a move supported by a promised annual 5% funding increase.

In November, UC said in its Multi-Year Compact Annual Report that its campuses "aspire to enroll" an additional 3,749 graduate students in state-supported programs by the 2026-2027 school year.

"Graduate students are critical to every aspect of the University's mission," the report read. "They partner with faculty in conducting cutting-edge research, teach and mentor undergraduate students, and contribute to California's workforce and the broader economy upon graduation."