This weekend incoming students were treated to a mild display of dereliction. In an exhibition of insurrection, George Washington’s teaching assistants held a rally on campus focused on bringing their case to students. Teaching assistants at The George Washington University are unhappy with their current contract with the University. The teaching assistants might have a legitimate concern. However, the assistants’ overzealous attempt to plead their case to the students, and in the process, their efforts of demeaning the institution those students were about to enter, were remiss and negligent.
Why did the teaching assistants have to throw taunt after taunt at GW? Call me old-fashioned, but don’t we want the students starting their school years with inordinate amounts of school pride? Everywhere in Welcome Week, the message to students was about getting involved at GW. Students should support the athletics at GW. Students should get involved in student government, theater, ceramics and origami. The teaching assistants’ message was contradictory: Do not support the institution, support us, we are your friends; trust us; do not trust the University.
This week, in classrooms all over the GW campus, students will look at teaching assistants with a perplexed expression of recollection. Weren’t you the TA who was yelling “1,2,3,4, GW keeps its TAs poor?” However minor a form of insurrection the teaching assistants believed their behavior to be, the rally was a message of mutiny. A small one at that, but a message of revolution toward the administration. Every small message of mutiny is another tear at the social fabric of this campus. East Lansing, Mich. was the site of four student riots in the last two years. I will contend that student disregard for authority started with a trickle and now flows like a waterfall at Michigan State University .
Now, in regards to teaching assistants’ benefits, perhaps there is a point. I am about to take a job for GW, and the benefits were very generous. However, teaching assistant contracts are different. But was this the only method possible to elevate the discussion? Did the teaching assistants have to garner students’ support and divvy them up between the administration and the teaching assistants?
My other question is, if the pay is so bad, do you have to work at George Washington? The economy is fantastic, and there are a cornucopia of employers who will pay top-dollar to hire smart people, such as the teaching assistants at George Washington. Instead of participating in a rally where the apathetic union members make a pained expression making the observer believe they were coerced into participating, why not pursue other employment possibilities?
Or stay and negotiate in a more respectable method. Tearing down the establishment is too commonplace. Dragging students into the contract dispute, is like bringing children into a divorce trial. It has the potential to hurt all parties and should only be done in worst-case scenarios. In the immortal words of Dennis Miller, “Of course, this is only my opinion, I could be wrong.”
-The writer is a student at the GW Law School