April 15 Demonstration

In the past few months, the UB Living Stipend Movement has been working hard to increase the often poverty-level wages of graduate student workers at the university.
Despite this increasing pressure, President Tripathi refuses to respond to the Movement’s demands and the requests from GSEU representatives to negotiate.
The UB Living Stipend Movement staged a demonstration on April 15, Accepted Students Day, to draw attention to the exploitative practices on campus. We marched from Student Union to Capen Hall and finished in the Student Union lobby, where we held a rally to inform prospective students and their parents and push President Tripathi to take action to raise our wages.
Local labor organizations, including WNYCOSH and the Central Labor Council, Marc Cohen, SUNY Student Assembly President and SUNY Trustee, and local politicians also joined us.
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UB TAs, GAs, and RAs pay $1500 more in fees per year than the average graduate student.

Sample of mandatory fees elsewhere, compared to UB’s $2513

$850 University of Pittsburgh(entire year: https://ir.pitt.edu/graduate-tuition )

$1020 Penn State University (University Park only; per semester: $252+258, apparently inclusion of grad students:http://tuition.psu.edu/tuitiondynamic/tuitionandfees.aspx ).

$328.38, University of Michigan (per semester: $164.19 http://ro.umich.edu/tuition/tuition-fees.php#otherfees ).

$1538.60 SUNY at Stony Brook. (per semester $769.30: https://www.stonybrook.edu/commcms/bursar/tuition/_documents/Graduate%20-%20Fall%202017.pdf )

$1590 University of Maryland (per semester: $795 https://bursar.umd.edu/t_grd1718.html ).

$864.80 Ohio State University (Columbus only). (per semester: $184+37.50+123+74.40+13.50:https://bursar.umd.edu/t_grd1718.html )

 Average of the sample: $1031.96

 

December 4 Demonstration

Members of the UB Living Stipend Movement marched to the administrative offices of President Satish Tripathi, in 501 Capen Hall on Monday, December 4th. We occupied that space to draw attention to the threat UB administration’s continued refusal to address our demand for a living stipend poses not only to graduate students’ livelihoods, but also the strength and reputation of the university. We also called on Tripathi to publicly condemn the GOP tax plan that would have decimated higher education.

We were met with armed guards and a locked door.

Read coverage of the event from The Buffalo News.

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October 26 Demonstration

The UB Living Stipend Movement demonstrated outside President Tripathi’s “Celebration of Academic Excellence” on Thursday, October 26, 2017, at 3:00 p.m. outside Slee Hall on North Campus.

The UB graduate student workers involved in the movement celebrated their colleagues and advisors while drawing attention to the ways that meager stipends prohibit graduate students from achieving the excellence to which they aspire.

They peacefully assembled outside the ceremony with a banners and signs showing graduate student workers’ commitment to UB’s mission and the need for university administration to invest in a minimum living stipend of $21,310 for all graduate assistantships.

Read coverage of the demonstration from UB’s The Spectrum.

Press Release, October 9, 2017

UB LIVING STIPEND MOVEMENT REAFFIRMS DEMAND WHILE ADMINISTRATION AVOIDS ISSUE, INTIMIDATES

BUFFALO, NY, October 9, 2017- On September 25, more than one hundred University at Buffalo students and faculty marched through the campus to Capen Hall to demand a living stipend of $21,310 for graduate students. The same day the university released a public statement arguing that stipend levels are “nationally competitive,” noting that the average graduate stipend is $17,343, and that students with assistantships receive a “total financial package” including stipend, “free tuition and free healthcare,” which averages $38,000 annually.

But members of the UB Living Stipend Movement are questioning every aspect of the statement. They said that the statement fails to acknowledge that graduate stipends in some departments are lower than $13,000, and that even students receiving such stipends would have to pay over $2,000 to UB in mandatory fees. “That the average stipend is $17,343,” said Global Gender Studies PhD student Elif Ege, “is actually irrelevant to our petition. We’re demanding a minimum living stipend of $21,310 for all teaching assistants.”

The graduate students also said that the statement obscures an underlying contradiction. “Insufficient financial support seriously undermines one of the institution’s major aims,” wrote English PhD student Andy Lindquist, “specifically, the aim of fostering the next generation of researchers and teachers and increasing the university’s rank and reputation.”

According to some, the administration’s statement mystified the economic hardships faced by graduate students. “No reputable university charges its teaching assistants tuition,” said English PhD student Simon Eales, “so for UB to suggest that the $38,000 is generous is actually devious on two fronts: the first being that the majority of that amount is merely the valuation on the tuition we rightfully receive as graduate students, and the second being that there is nothing remarkable about receiving such tuition without paying for it.”

The administration’s statement also asserted that teaching assistants receive “free health care.” “For those TAs who have families, the monthly family cost of health insurance is $156,” said Transnational Studies PhD student Karolina Kulicka. “This is not free, and not even cheap, especially if your bi-weekly check revolves around $400 and the insurance covers only the most basic services.” Graduate student instructors without families generally pay about $50 per month, according to English PhD student Nicole Lowman.

On September 26, the provost and other members of the administration met with Living Stipend Movement representatives. President Satish Tripathi mentioned the meeting in his State of the University Address on October 6, saying, “We are listening to our graduate students’ concerns, and the Dean of the college, the Dean of the Graduate School, and department Chairs are having discussions with them about the issues they have presented.”

Lowman said that Tripathi’s promises rang hollow. “In response to a peaceful demonstration,” she said, “UB administrators commissioned a squad of armed campus police officers to guard the doors during the meeting.”

The press release on September 25 stated that the university “is providing guidance to academic departments on how to increase stipends to nationally competitive levels.” But the Living Stipend Movement reaffirmed its demand for a minimum $21,310 for all graduate student workers, and suggested that stipend levels need to be increased through budget allocations at an administrative level.

The demand for a $21,310 stipend is partly based on Cost of Attendance data released by the university last year, said Biological Sciences graduate student Ozgur Taskent. “The administration has somehow revised its estimates for the 2017-18 academic year down, to suggest a lower cost of living. But it has only gotten more expensive to live in Buffalo.”

Members of the Living Stipend Movement say that, thanks to the overwhelming support of university staff, community members, undergraduate students, faculty, and graduate students, the movement is now stronger than ever. Their petition currently has 937 signatures.

English PhD student Sean Pears wrote: “As long as the university continues to release public statements that misrepresent the financial position of certain graduate students, and discount the basis of our demands, we will continue to make our voice heard.”

First Annual UB Uppity Talk

UB English Professor Jim Holstun delivered a lecture titled “The Moral Economy of the UB Precariat in the Twenty-First Century”: a working homage to E. P. Thompson’s great essay, “The Moral Economy of the English Crowd in the Eighteenth Century,” first delivered at UB in 1964. Holstun helps us see what early modern bread riots can teach us about winning a living stipend and wage for UB TAs, RAs, and adjuncts.

Read the talk here: Jim Holstun, THE MORAL ECONOMY OF THE UB PRECARIAT IN THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY

Thursday, September 14, 3:30-5
104 Knox Hall, North Campus