Graduate Student Senate wages not in compliance with pay laws

The Graduate Student Senate meets on Wed., Nov. 18 to discuss graduate student issues, including the wages of executive board members. (Daily Campus/Rebecca Newton)

The Graduate Student Senate was found to not be in compliance with federal and state labor laws due to some executive board members not making minimum wage, Wednesday.

Ross Dardani, the administrative assistant for the Graduate Student Senate, said most of the problem was in semantics within the laws.

The executive board members are not creating a “tangible” production, therefore, it can be hard to measure wages. Some executive board members are paid in a stipend and some in a salary.

The meeting and discussion, which occurred on Nov. 18 at 7 p.m., featured many senators and graduate students from different departments across the university.

The Student Employment Office also found other groups on campus are not being paid full wages, such as the yearbook, UCTV, WHUS and The Daily Campus in their meeting on Nov. 13.

“I’ve always interpreted the stipend as a nice gesture,” Dardani said. “I don’t think it’s the main incentive for why people want to be on the executive board. It’s a thank you for putting the work in.”

The Employment Office did not have definite answers for the problem, but more information and decisions will come.

The other major issue discussed was diversity on campus, amidst a time of social activism after the terrorist attacks on Paris and a racist comment on Muslim student Mahmoud Hashem’s door tag.

Anthony Patelunas, the president of the Graduate student Senate, mentioned the recent search for a university Chief Diversity Officer, which he called a “hot topic.”

Patelunas said there was desire for an immediate, midterm and long-term university action regarding diversity issues.

The Graduate Diversity Committee discussed the struggle the task force is having with hiring people of color.  Last year 200 faculty members were hired, but only 25 were people of color, said Chriss Sneed, graduate sociology student. Sneed said “sustainable” diversity is needed, rather than “shake hands and be friends” diversity, which is the rhetoric inside the task force currently.

Jeremy Jelliffe, a graduate student representative to the board of trustees and a current agricultural and resource economics Ph.D. student said he thinks the university is doing a great job at enrolling diverse students.

Additionally, more sexual harassment/prevention and diversity training for graduate assistants will be required starting next semester. This training will be in person at the Storrs campus. Starting next fall, all graduate students will take another training online.

Other issues in the agenda included nominations for a replacement vice president, because the previous vice president, Vanessa Lovelace, resigned. The vote will take place at the next meeting on Dec. 9.

Ashley Boyle asked for a special allocation fund for the Center for Behavioral Education Research to hold a research symposium, which was granted.

Starting next semester the graduate student senate meetings will be livestreamed to the other campuses so graduate students can be included in the meetings without traveling.

The proposed budget cut to the Homer D. Babbidge Library was also discussed, with most of the members being adamantly against it.

“I think adding a library fee is a slippery slope,” Patelunas said. He wants the senate to draft a letter to the university advocating against library fees.

“We are here for an academic research mission, and that is the purpose of the university.”


Claire Galvin is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at claire.galvin@uconn.edu.