This past Thursday, on April 5, the Graduate Employee Union held a sit-in protest in the Student Union regarding changes to their contracts and an increase in student fees that totals about $650 per semester. This is the sit-in hosted by the graduate union this year, following a sit-in at president Susan Herbst’s office hours on March 27. The students who were protesting did so peacefully, and helped remind the university how important their presence is on our community, and their efforts and abilities need to be valued more than they currently are. It is unfair that our graduate students feel underappreciated here at UConn, as they are at the core of what keeps our school so successful.
UConn currently has over 7000 graduate students from over 102 countries that are continuously working to make our school a better place. Whether it is through teaching courses, working on research, or establishing connections with professors and undergraduates, the role of graduate students is to work tirelessly at all of this while also pursuing degrees themselves. Every undergrad here interacts with graduate students on a day to day basis, sometimes more than they interact with professors and other faculty, so the importance of these graduate students cannot be understated.
However, when all of this work is put in by students, it only makes sense that they should be getting some reward for their work. Unfortunately, due to new changes in grad student contracts, these students do not feel they are receiving fair compensation for the work they are doing. “The university has fought for raising graduate student fees, as well as doubling health insurance premiums and removing parts of the contract that protect graduate employees from sexual harassment and discrimination.” These proposed increases in fees would mean that students would be losing money, and many would have difficulty affording things like healthcare. The idea for removing protections against sexual harassment and discrimination are not even provisions that relate to money, so the idea of eliminating them seems even more questionable. Overall, these proposed changes to contracts are unfair to graduate students, and only serve to make higher education at UConn less attainable.
The graduate students at our university are an integral part of everyday life for all members of the UConn community. While they put in so much work to help teach, complete research, and get their degrees, they are not being treated fairly with regards to their compensation. If we want to maintain the quality of education we have for all students, and continue to attract top notch prospective students, our school needs to seriously rethink how we are treating our graduate students.