Want a free master’s degree and/or Ph.D?


How about comprehensive medical, dental and health insurance for the entire family?

Four months off each year including university paid winter-and-spring breaks?

How about invaluable experience teaching at the university level?

And a monthly stipend around $1,000?

And how about being offered a 9 percent pay increase during the next two years?

Does all of the above sound like a great opportunity?

Yep, that’s what the University of Oregon provides to its Graduate Teaching Fellows (GTFs).

And yet … And yet …

Approximately 1,500 members of the Graduate Teaching Fellow Federation (GTFF) just voted to go on strike.



The last week of the fall term?

Right before finals?

As a former GTF for the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication, I want to cross this picket line big time.

Hallowed Graduate Teaching Fellowship

After 30 years working in both the public, private and non-profit sectors, I was looking for a change.

And that life-shifting event came in the form of a University of Oregon graduate teaching fellowship with all the benefits described above. The author of Almost DailyBrett literally died and went to heaven in 2010.

What an incredible deal.

If someone had suggested striking over these benefits, I would have questioned the sanity of the union and its members … not the first-time the “what are they thinking” question has been posed about organized labor.

As a result of my tenure as a GTF (Hate to admit it; I joined the GTFF), I was able to complete my M.A. in Communications and Society in 15 months. Two weeks later, I was qualified to teach at the university level. Today, I am a tenure track assistant professor of public relations/advertising at Central Washington University.

This position that I secured in the 59th year of my relatively brief stay on the planet would not have been possible without my master’s degree … that is my free UO master’s degree.

Unlike hundreds of thousands of undergraduate and post-graduate students, I have no student debt to pay back. My fellowship not only covered my out-of-state tuition and fees, it included health insurance for myself and my daughter, and a stipend.

Keep in mind, my degree was not awarded by the University of Phoenix, Capella University, DeVry University, Ashford University, Kaplan University or any of the other nod-and-wink universities and colleges, but the University of Oregon.gtff2

As the author of Almost DailyBrett writes this epistle, my framed degrees from the University of Southern California (undergraduate) and the University of Oregon (post-graduate) hang from my office wall here at Bouillon Hall on the CWU campus.

My fellow graduate teaching fellows also received their free degrees (yes, we worked as teaching assistants … not a chore but vital experience). They are now serving as tenure-track professors at the University of Akron, the University of Alabama, the University of Houston and California State University Dominguez Hills respectively.

They earned these tenure-track positions not because of a demanding union, but as a result of the opportunity that was provided to them by the University of Oregon.

Two More Weeks of Paid Leave?

Striking in the face of a 9 percent increase over two-years on the table, the GTFF is demanding two weeks paid family/maternity leave. Let’s see the GTFs want two weeks of  additional leave to be paid by the university? How many workers get the whole summer off on top of a university-paid (four weeks total) winter-and-spring breaks?

What is probably the most galling of this strike action is the sinister timing. This week is dead week with finals to follow next week. The University of Oregon’s 25,000 students are the ones, who are ultimately suffering as a result of this childish-and-selfish action. The same applies for the extra work dumped on professors and instructors at the end of the quarter.


The GTFF probably now regards itself as somewhat relevant. Maybe, it can transition into being a truly militant union?

Sure wish one or more of the GTFs would have commanded the temerity to remind the union membership how frickin’ lucky they are to receive such a generous deal from the University of Oregon.

Guess, courage is in short supply these days. Otherwise, they would be in the classroom where they belong.