Discourse and Power: Building Educational Pathways with Undocumented Students.

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From: Afro-Hispanic Review(Vol. 38, Issue 2)
Publisher: Vanderbilt University, Department of Spanish and Portuguese
Document Type: Essay
Length: 9,330 words
Lexile Measure: 1400L

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On September 12, 2013, undocumented undergraduate and graduate students testified before the University of California (UC) during the labor contract negotiations for UC Teaching Assistants, Readers, and Tutors. (1) Students described how current university policies and systems prevented equitable participation--demanding that the UC Office of the President (UCOP) administrators permit universal access to graduate Teaching Assistantships. On that day and in subsequent negotiations, undocumented students explained the profound implications university policies had on their personal and professional livelihoods. Illustrative of the sentiments expressed, a student stated the following:

I am a first year Ph.D. student at UC Berkeley. As an AB 540-eligible student and recently as a beneficiary of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA), I have navigated our school system with the access to financial aid and on-campus work opportunities. To this benefit, I was able to finish my undergraduate degree at another UC and receive graduate fellowship to assist with my current study. (2) However, having such access remains to be a critical issue for many other undocumented students, especially those who are not AB 540-eligible and/or not DACA-eligible. As of now, undocumented students must be eligible for AB 540 to be considered for UC graduate fellowships and DACA-eligible for teaching assistantship.... As a fellow student, I cannot imagine going through the same hardship and stress had I not received DACA to be eligible for work on campus. Not only would I have to find other means to pay for my education, risk my mental and physical health, and future career. Allowing all undocumented graduate students to have the same access to teaching assistantships and other means of funding would tremendously alleviate the students' burden and further demonstrate the university's commitment to providing educational equities to all members of our community. (University of California student, personal communication, September 12, 2013)

For at the UC, a Teaching Assistantship position provides graduate students with tuition remission, is oftentimes a component of students' financial aid, and/or a requisite for degree completion. (3) Evidently, undocumented students' inability to engage in this significant professional development process prohibited their retention and success in graduate school.

Undocumented student testimonies were an integral part of the contract negotiation process. Testimonies not only provided additional information about the obstacles that undocumented students navigate, but also demonstrated how operating university policies were so far removed from their reality. However, despite undocumented student participation and support from the graduate student labor union, the UC maintained its position: equity for undocumented students did not merit the university's intervention. (4) Statements such as, "We refuse to spend any more time discussing this, as this is not in the bargaining purview," (UCOP Administrator, personal communication, September 16, 2013) and "We understand that it is difficult for undocumented students to make their way into graduate school, but this discussion is not advancing the bargaining process," (UCOP Administrator, personal communication, August 8, 2013) established the university's disposition and the challenges that lay before the labor union and undocumented students. Essentially, university administrators recognized an...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A672359743