Hundreds of supporters rallied Friday at UC Santa Cruz behind graduate students working as teacher assistants.
The students are on strike to get a raise in living wages, which is now generally $2,000 a month. The teacher assistants are withholding undergraduate grades until they do, but UC President Janet Napolitano has given them a midnight deadline to release the grades or be fired.
Demonstrators and students at the UC Santa Cruz on Friday also organized a so-called "Doomsday Party" at the campus entrance. Organizers said the party mocks the midnight deadline by Napolitano. But for graduate students, the consequences are extremely serious.
"To threaten us with firing if we don’t submit our grades this evening rather than just having a substantive meeting with us, I think is a really shameful thing for them to do," said Veronica Hamilton, graduation student union chair.
The protest also highlighted the plight of international graduate students.
"Those students need to be employed for their visa status," UCSC Professor Vilashini Coopan said. "So students in their situation could very well be deported."
Caught in the middle are undergraduate students -- though many on Friday said grades are delayed, not lost.
"I have another quarter. So, at this time it's not really affecting me," said Rebecca Ramirez, an undergraduate student. "But I'm sure for the students who are immediately attending graduate school or applying to gradudate school, they will be affected."
The university in a statement said the 11:59 p.m. deadline remains and those who meet the deadline will be eligible for future teacher appointments, and a $2,500 annual housing stipend.