Union members are accusing three University of California, San Diego, professors of giving “unsatisfactory” grades to 21 teaching assistants and a graduate student researcher for participating in the recent strike.
In a Wednesday news release, the United Auto Workers said it violates California’s Higher Education Employer-Employee Relations Act to “retaliate against people on strike in any way, including by docking their grades.”
The UAW represents UC system graduate students.
“In Chemistry, 21 TAs in courses taught by Professor Jeremy Klosterman and Professor Robert ‘Skip’ Pomeroy were given unsatisfactory ‘U’ grades in a placeholder teaching credits course Chem-500 for participating in the strike,” the UAW said in the release. “In physics, Daniel Primosch, a graduate student researcher formerly in Professor Max Di Ventra’s lab, was threatened and intimidated throughout the strike and was also given an unsatisfactory ‘U’ grade in Phys-298, a placeholder research credits course.”
“I never threatened anybody,” Di Ventra said Thursday. “That’s a lie, that’s a total lie.”
He said he gave Primosch an “unsatisfactory”—not for abandoning his work as a graduate student researcher during the strike, but for not fulfilling his normal student obligations.
“If they don’t study and they don’t perform and do the homework, that’s it,” Di Ventra said.
“The university was very clear from the beginning that if you’re enrolled in a class like 298 or 299, then you have to perform in the class,” he said. “It’s a class, it’s a student class, it’s not related to the strike.”
Primosch said, “I got a pretty good review from [Di Ventra] just a couple months earlier, at the end of the academic year, and, actually, when the strike happened, I was just in the process of publishing a paper with him in a pretty prestigious physics journal.”
“It’s completely unheard-of that people get U’s in a course that’s really just a placeholder so that we can be signed up full time with the university while we work as researchers,” Primosch said.
Klosterman, Pomeroy and UC San Diego spokespeople didn’t comment Thursday.
In the UAW release, Primosch said, “Receiving an unsatisfactory grade means a graduate worker could be taken out of good academic standing, and a hold could be placed on their registration for the next available quarter. They could be barred from enrolling in coursework, receiving employment in the Spring quarter, and subsequently kicked out of the program. These specific retaliations undermine our right and ability to engage in collective actions, and that’s why it’s important that all of us demand justice.”
Shortly before Christmas, UC system graduate student workers voted to approve new contracts with substantial wage increases, ending a strike that started in early November, the Los Angeles Times reported.