Graduate students paid less for same work during summer intersession

(Jason Jiang/The Daily Campus)

The University of Connecticut is currently in negotiations with the Graduate Employee Union of UConn (GEU-UAW) due to issues with the pay rate allocated to graduate students during summer intersession. On Wednesday, GEU-UAW and the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) held a joint rally focused on the issue.

One of the main goals of the negotiations is to ensure that graduate assistants working during the summer are payed at an equivalent rate for the same amount of work as during the normal semesters, GEU-UAW President Todd Vachon said.

“Most graduate assistants working in the summer are hired as research assistants (RAs), some are hired to teach classes, and a smaller number serve in teaching assistant (TA) roles,” Vachon said. “The pay rates for RAs in the past have been very inconsistent while the teaching pay rate has been equal to the adjunct professor pay rate – an issue which the faculty Union (AAUP) is currently bargaining over as well.”

Based on 2015-2016 estimates for student salaries available from the UConn Office of the Vice President for Research, entry level graduate students working 20 hours a week in the summer receive about $2,400 per month. In contrast, graduate assistants are estimated to receive about $2,700 a month for equal amounts of work done during the course of the main semesters.

The issue of GA salaries was originally discussed during last year’s round of GEU-UAW and UConn negotiations, but both sides agreed to postpone the discussion of the issue until December 2015. Except for the issue of appropriate summer stipends, GEU-UAW seeks to ensure that GAs working in the summer receive the same workplace protections as those outlined in last year’s negotiation contract.

During its current round of negotiations, the Graduate Employee Union has received support from UConn-AAUP. Both groups have been particularly frustrated by the university administration’s perceived neglect of students and faculty.

“The UConn-AAUP stands in solidarity with the Graduate Employee Union and supports their efforts for better working conditions,” AAUP internal organizer Chris Henderson said.

The university’s position on this issue is that it does not hire graduate assistants during the summer- rather it hires adjunct instructors or places graduate assistants on a special payroll.

“The university does not have graduate assistants during the summer, so any of those individuals who are hired over the summer are either serving as an adjunct instructor (when teaching) or are hired through our special payroll system to allow them to work 40-hour weeks,” UConn spokesperson Stephanie Reitz said.

In order for an agreement to be reached, the UConn Board of Trustees and the GEU-UAW membership must vote in favor of it. Following this, the Connecticut State Legislature must receive the agreement before May 4, which marks the end of the legislative session.

Due to a pledge between both UConn and the Graduate Employee Union, neither side is at liberty to discuss the other’s current position to the media. Nonetheless, both groups are hopeful that an agreement will be made in the near future.

“There is a productive discussion going on between the Graduate Employee Union and the University’s negotiating team, but it wouldn’t be appropriate to publicly discuss specifics at this time,” Reitz said.


Fatir Qureshi is a staff writer at The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email atfatir.qureshi@uconn.edu.