Why Strikers Submitted Winter 2020 Grades

May 1, 2020

Dear all,

This week we entered the third month of our wildcat strike. Looking back, the explosive growth of this movement into marches by the thousands bolsters our spirits. Looking forward, we realize our best tactics to win a cost of living adjustment have evolved: continuing to withhold winter grades is no longer strategic in light of UCSC COLA’s recent decision to submit Fall and Winter grades. Without foreclosing the withholding of Spring grades, we have made the difficult decision to end our Winter grade strike, and marshal our full strength behind building a union-sanctioned unfair labor practice (ULP) strike.

The COVID-19 pandemic and financial crisis exacerbate existing inequities for workers of the world. The UC system is the third-largest employer in the sixth-largest economy in the world. With its resources, the UC system has the groundbreaking opportunity many smaller universities would envy: to set a principled precedent for the treatment of its workers now, rather than devaluing the education its students receive as a way-station towards a precarious career during a major recession (if not depression). Instead, the UC system continues business-as-usual, rather than prioritizing the welfare of its students and workers. 

While COLA organizers at UC Santa Barbara and statewide have implemented mutual aid projects in our communities to try to fill the vacuum left by the UC leadership, and launched Strike University as a space to build political education for weathering the storm ahead, Chancellors across the state have been busy with countervailing measures:

  • The UC has moved to online-only education, giving zero support for graduate students, faculty, undergraduates, and staff to transform our living conditions into our working conditions. Because of this, UC San Diego wildcat strikers had no other choice than to reorganize their efforts around these new vulnerabilities. UCSD strikers submitted their Winter 2020 grades at the beginning of the month.
  • The UC Davis administration issued threats of disciplinary action to tenure-track faculty, teaching assistants, career and adjunct lecturers, and instructors of record unless withheld winter quarter grades were submitted, forcing wildcat strikers to submit grades earlier this month or risk losing their healthcare and incomes during the global health pandemic.
  • At UC Santa Cruz, the administration has decided to convert all withheld grades from winter and fall into Ps on May 1. This, of course, after the wildcat strikers had been met with police violence, disciplinary action, and firings. UCSC wildcat strikers decided to submit grades earlier this week to ensure that their students received the grades they earned (despite the administration’s continued indifference towards undergraduate education). 
  • Meanwhile, here at UCSB, the COLA movement has been ignored, disrespected, or patronized by an administration hoping this movement will wither and die. A callous Chancellor has ignored our demands for over two months, and refuses either to respond or to take remedial action himself. Instead of engaging with us in good faith, the Dean of the Graduate Division suggested we seek support at Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS). 

We are not the only ones the UC has neglected during this time: our undergraduate students have been denied tuition and fee adjustments while being jockeyed around by their university housing. All workers of the university continue to be expected to pay rent despite losing access to supplemental income streams, the only cash flow keeping many afloat. We must figure out affordable health care for dependents in the midst of a pandemic, with no relief for exorbitant dependent premiums through UC-SHIP. All this, while the UC denies that graduate student workers’ living conditions are our working conditions, under a gubernatorial stay-at-home order.

Although we end our winter strike, we remain impoverished and unhoused. This is why we remain adamant that Chancellor Yang acknowledge and meet our list of demands. The UCSB administration must commit to transparency of stimulus funds, dedicating a portion of that money to assisting graduate students with families and dependents and immediately address the need for accessible healthcare for partners and children during this global pandemic. They must endorse the University Committee on Planning and Budget (UCPB) letter to address the continuing structural issues that particularly affect graduate students. Finally, we urge UC labor, students, alumni, community, and professional organizations to move toward winning a fully funded public university and college system that is not dependent on private sources of funding.

As we close one path by ending the Winter grading strike, our way forward is multilayered and builds on the valuable lessons we have learned thus far. Since the only language this university understands is bureaucratic – a major reason the grading strike would have, pre-COVID-19, been an effective tactic – we join UC campuses in the push for a union-sanctioned, legally-protected ULP strike. Sign up to phone bank in order to spread the word. We encourage wildcat strikers and supporters to join us as we build a community of mutual aid and care through the Social Welfare Campaign (SWC). While the campaign seeks to mitigate the immediate vulnerabilities within our communities, the SWC is also an effort to grow and solidify our base for further radical action. Our move online has crystallized in Strike University that can continue our campus activism, be a think tank for an intercampus COLA movement, and help train future activists to organize.

When the pandemic passes and our campus reopens (and both these events will occur), we do not intend to return to business as usual.

We are submitting our grades, but the struggle continues. Today, May Day, we begin again.


In Solidarity,

UCSB Striking Grads

Strike University

A UC-wide Strike University is underway, with virtual trainings, teach-ins, and COLA office hours. Please check out the calendar, and contact us if you want to get involved planning events for Strike University.

Zoom backgrounds

Download this and other Zoom backgrounds from here! (note that they’re backwards because Zoom mirrors your background).

How to Support COLA

Read this fabulous article – The Balance of Power has Already Changed: Why the UC grad student strike is exactly the kind of new militancy we need at this moment… and why we should support it.

See our action list for additional information!


If you are a TA, see our Grade Withholding FAQ and How-To Strike Page, use this email template to inform your students that you are withholding grades.

Download and use one of our COLA Zoom backgrounds. Add your rent burden as a line in your email signature, like this: “Rent Burden: ____% (what’s this?)”. Set up an “out of office” automatic email reply, like this one. Take our COLA Survey, submit anonymous testimonials here, talk to your colleagues about COLA and encourage them to come to our events. Contact us if you would like to get more directly involved in organizing.


Download and use one of our COLA Zoom backgrounds. Fill out this undergrad support petition. Submit anonymous undergrad testimonials here. Tell your friends about COLA. Follow and share our posts on social media. Please consider donating to our strike fund if you can. Contact us if you would like to get more directly involved in organizing.

Check our grade request chart to see if your circumstance requires a grade immediately. If not, email your TA and professor that you would like your grade withheld using our template.


See our Faculty COLA Info guide for specific suggestions. Download and use one of our COLA Zoom backgrounds while you teach, attend meetings, and hold office hours. Add “I support COLA and graduate student wildcat strikers (what’s this?)” as a line in your email signature. 

Read our call-to-action letter to faculty here. Sign the faculty petition and non-retaliation pledge. If you have TAs, communicate to them that you support the strike and will support them in whatever striking decision they make (many TAs want to withhold grades, but are nervous that their professor will retaliate). Talk to others about COLA. Follow and share us on social media. Please consider donating to our strike fund if you can. Contact us if you would like to get more directly involved in organizing.


Talk to others about COLA, follow and share us on social media. Come to our meetings to share your thoughts and let us know how we can best support you during this strike! Please consider donating to our strike fund if you can. Contact us if you would like to get more directly involved in organizing.


Sign this alumni support petition (made by a fellow alum and passed along to us). Call administrators at UCSC and UC Office of the President and tell them that TA firings are unacceptable and that you support the COLA movement. Email UCSB & UC Office of the President administrators and politicians using our email templates (you can adapt our parent template to contact admin). Please consider donating to our strike fund if you can. 

Photos: left @photosbybolden, right @tblucsb

Quick Links

UCSB4COLA Documents
Looking for more information? The folder below contains documents and flyers pertaining to our efforts for COLA. #spreadthestrike

UCSC’s Rent Burden Calculator
Check out UCSC’s handy rent burden calculator! Remember that if 30 percent or more of your income goes to rent, you are rent burdened, and if 50 percent of your income goes to rent, you are extremely rent burdened, according to the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Make sure to check out our calendar with upcoming events!