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Tuesday, May 28, 2024
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Graduate workers union sends Valentine’s love to Tripathi days before contract bargaining begins

GSEU puts pressure on Tripathi to fund broad-based fees for all graduate workers

Satirical Valentine's day cards addressed to university administration litter the conference table of the Graduate Student Employee Union's (GSEU) office. | Courtesy of Gabriela Pascuzzi
Satirical Valentine's day cards addressed to university administration litter the conference table of the Graduate Student Employee Union's (GSEU) office. | Courtesy of Gabriela Pascuzzi

Members of the Graduate Student Employees Union (GSEU) gathered last week to write satirical Valentine’s Day cards asking UB President Satish Tripathi to lower the cost of attendance for graduate student workers. 

GSEU — the bargaining unit that represents graduate students working as teaching assistants (TAs) and graduate assistants (GAs) — hosts a Valentine’s Day write-in every year to advocate for better pay and conditions. Some of this year’s cards, made of pink and red construction paper, bore slogans like “I work for the university, and I pay rent too,” “Love is free, but groceries aren’t,” and “Paying below a living wage, it’s really a drag, the students today call that a big red flag. 

The university started paying for the fees of full-time, fully funded Ph.D. students in June 2021, but graduate workers in master’s programs or earning a Ph.D. part-time still pay broad-based fees. GSEU members argue that fees make graduate worker stipends — some of which are as low as $12,000 per year — unlivable. 

“The problem is that we consider broad-based fees as a work tax basically,” GSEU president Joey Sechrist said. “When you come in as a graduate worker, you get hit with a $1,400 bill, before you even get your first paycheck. In any other employment scenario, that’s completely ridiculous.” 

Graduate workers hope that bringing attention to the issue — especially as they began bargaining for a new contract on Friday — will pressure Tripathi into doing more for GSEU members. 

“I would emphasize that money is very, very tight for graduate students, and it’s particularly tight for master’s students,” Graduate Student Association president Isaac Kolding said. “People are skipping groceries while people are taking out student loans, and something about it feels a little imbalanced.” 

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article incorrectly attributed a quote. We regret this error.

Henry Daley is an assistant sports editor and can be reached at henry.daley@ubspectrum.com  


HENRY DALEY
henry-daley.jpg

Henry Daley is an assistant sports editor at The Spectrum. His work has featured on other platforms such as Medium and Last Word on Sports. Outside of the newspaper, he enjoys running and watching sports (when he’s not writing about them). 

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