Soili Smith has limited choices: She can work a $12-an-hour job and fail to pay her bills, risking eviction. Or she can take a higher-paying summer position that requires her to miss the last few weeks of classes and fly thousands of miles to northern British Columbia, where she’ll work 14-hour days in the bush.
She chose the latter, since it’s really not much of a choice. As a result, she says, “I’m often writing my final papers in a tent.” By day, she’s building bridges, clearing access roads and reforesting recently logged clear-cuts. At night, she’s still knocking out papers for a doctorate in American studies.
Smith is a graduate employee at Rutgers University, and she’s not the only grad who struggles to make ends meet. That’s why she and the vast majority of other members of Rutgers AAUP-AFT voted to go on strike if they don’t make significant progress toward a fair contract.