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UC officials, striking academic workers to enter private mediation

Students' stress mounts during UC academic workers strike
Students' stress mounts during UC academic workers strike 03:28

BERKELEY -- The University of California announced Friday both the UC system and its striking academic workers will enter private mediation.

This comes after the UAW union workers have gone on strike at 10 California campuses for nearly a month.  Both sides hope the move to engage in a private mediator will overcome recent negotiation gridlock.

Given the month-long disruption, many UC Berkeley students are worried about their grades with finals week starting on Monday.

Cal Junior Samara Saigal was studying at a library on campus Friday afternoon to get ready for her math final.

"It's been a little more difficult because of the lack of tutoring options and office hour options," said Saigal.

Her larger classes have several hundred students. She relied on the smaller discussions taught by the graduate student instructors or GSI's to better understand the lectures.

But the strike canceled those discussions for the last four weeks. Without the GSI's, her finals are being affected as well.

"Two of my finals were in-person, and now they're online. They've shifted to open note. But because of that, they're more difficult," said Saigal.  

A few students told KPIX 5 some of their professors have canceled finals because they worried they don't have enough proctors to monitor students during the test.

UC Berkeley did ask people to volunteer to be proctors. But supporters of the strike filled out a form to volunteer and never showed up to the training this week.

Cal senior Elise Joshi organized the fake sign up.

"By filling out these applications with false [information and not show up], what we're hoping to do is send a message to the university that students are standing with their instructors," said Joshi.  

UC Berkeley spokeswoman Janet Gilmore said on Friday she believed the university has enough proctors to monitor finals.

Despite the reassurance, Sophomore Tiffany Mar was concerned about her math class, which has about 1,000 students.  Her professor is moving forward with the exam.

"Even though the math department may or may not give proctors to adminster the exam, (the professor) will be the one to pass out and then grade all 1,000 plus student exams, which is crazy.  I'm not sure if he has enough time to be doing that," said Mar.

Gilmore said they are doing everything with the limited resources they have to make sure both professors and students get enough support.

"We have extended the deadline for the submission of grades by 10 days to allow instructors more time to grade work, and have implemented a system that will allow them to submit and post grades for the students who need them most urgently, while leaving grades for other students to be added later," said Gilmore.  

She said students who need their grades to receive financial aid funding will have priority.

"We expect to be able to notify instructors about which students need grades submitted on time. Students in this situation include those who are graduating in December and moving into jobs that require certification of academic performance, students who receive certain kinds of financial aid [including veterans' benefits], and student athletes and some other students who need grades to attest to being in good academic standing," said Gilmore.

Many students said despite the big disruption, they support their striking GSI's. Their labor union said many GSI's make around $24,000 a year.  The UC system said most GSI's work part-time.

"We're just hoping that it concludes soon and the GSI's get what they want," said Saigal.

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