TAs Criticize Rise in Funds Awarded to New Hires
Last spring, graduate teaching assistants in the English department were unsure of the effect organized teach-ins would have on what many of them felt was an indifferent administration.
A few months later, with new compensatory fellowships being awarded to some incoming TAs, uncertainty remains about both the consequences of the past and possibilities for the future.
Beginning this fall, TAs entering the College of Arts and Sciences are eligible for "an excellent new array [of fellowships]," said Munroe Eagles, associate dean for graduate studies. This includes an additional $3,000 from the State University of New York Mission Review for English and geology TAs, an increase that has caused some unease among faculty and students.
Since last year, CAS has added or increased four types of graduate fellowships: 13 Presidential Fellowships, renewable $8,000 awards available to incoming TAs; 33 Dean's Fellowships, which rose to $4,000 each; 35 Dissertation Fellowships, 1-year, non-renewable $4,000 bonuses given to outstanding doctoral candidates; and up to recently announced College Fellowship, worth $2,000, for continuing graduate students. At least 50 Tuition Scholarships, a continuing form of aid to teaching assistants, will also be awarded.
Up to 97 fellowships will be awarded next year to graduate TAs throughout CAS.
Jonathan Stalling, a graduate English student and teaching assistant this fall, received the Dean's Fellowship along with an ethnic poetics scholarship. The Dean's Fellowship was crucial to his decision to attend UB.
"I knew I probably wouldn't be able to come unless there was some kind of enhancement," said Stalling. "[The low stipend] would have made the other schools look a lot more attractive," he added, noting that the other schools' stipends ranged from $10,000 to $16,000.
The UB financial-aid office currently places the cost of living in Buffalo at $11,563, $3,163 more than the baseline CAS stipend. Rent costs for an unfurnished graduate apartment in UB's Flickinger Court complex alone exceed some TA stipends at $730 a month, or $8,760 a year.
Graduate English TA Andrew Sutherland was surprised to hear additional assistance is being offered, but feels the fellowship does nothing to address the underlying concern of low base stipends for the TAs.
"It certainly does everything except to promote cohesiveness," said Sutherland. "To disperse fellowships across the CAS is ludicrous ... separating those TAs with fellowships from those without is nothing except disruptive."
Members of the English Graduate Student Association (EGSA) approached Provost Elizabeth Capaldi, Dean of CAS Charles Stinger and Dean of the Graduate School Kerry Grant shortly before the teach-ins with a petition meant to bring attention to the fact that stipends that have not increased in over a decade. The petition was signed in support by numerous faculty.
They were told "there would never be an increase in stipends [for English TAs]," said Sutherland.
"They said, 'If we increase it for English, we'd have to increase it across the board, which we can't do right now'."
No provisions have since been announced for increasing the stipends of current graduate TAs.