Taking Back the Academy! History of Activism, History as Activism

By Jim Downs; Jennifer Manion | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 14

2.5 Cheers for Bridging the Gap Between Activism and the Academy; or, Stay and Fight

To Which Is Added an Account of Radical Scholar-Activists in the Wake of the Iraq War

JESSE LEMISCH

The conference on "History of Activism, History as Activism" in April, 2002 was not sponsored by or officially connected with the Columbia University teaching assistants (TAs) and research assistants (RAs) union, Graduate Stu-dent Employees United (GSEU), and the program included some antiunion students. Ironically, union activists were at a crucial stage of organizing and were too busy to give the conference much attention, although some partic-ipated. However, the conference took place in a context that I think had been largely produced by union activism at Columbia, which is part of a larger movement at many universities across the country, including Yale, Brown, the University of Minnesota, Michigan State, Cornell, New York University (NYU), Tufts, and elsewhere. (On March 29, 2002, one week before the Columbia conference, a radical history conference at the University of Minnesota surprised its organizers-and university administrators-by drawing two hundred people.) Many history graduate students are active in GSEU.

Less than three weeks before the conference at Columbia, research and teaching assistants had voted on whether to be represented by GSEU, which seeks higher stipends, better health care, a grievance procedure, and workload guidelines. 1 Although union poll watchers believed that they won, the bal

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