Graduate Student Employees Oppose University Student Fees

Posted on: 
March 29, 2013

The GSEU and RA Union attended the Open Forum on Broad-Based Fee Increases at Stony Brook University last Wednesday, to hear from University administrators about the new fee increases for graduate students, and, more importantly, to voice our disagreement with these student fees. The fees that will be increased for GSEU members, including technology fee ($7.50 increase), transportation fee ($4.50 increase) and health fee ($1.50 increase), bring the total fee cost for full-time graduate students to $503 per semester. The document below is what GSEU members have created to articulate our response to the fees. We distributed this statement to administrators, and hope to circulate it to fellow GSEU members.

"The Graduate Student Employees Union (GSEU) asks that the administration of Stony Brook University reconsider their current position on all graduate student fees. The GSEUopposes any fees that are instituted without substantial graduate student input. We have outlined our reasons for opposing graduate student fees, and have listed proposed alternatives and requests below.

-The proposed service improvements enhance the University as a whole to the benefit of the administration, the faculty, and the undergraduate student body as well. Expecting that the financial burden of these improvements fall solely on the shoulders of some of the University's most poorly compensated employees, TA and GAs, is unreasonable.
- As student-employees, we recognize all graduate student fees to be unfair, because they are essentially a tax that is charged upon our labor. Since many graduate student employees are not enrolled in “traditional” courses, as we perform most of our research independently and not in the classroom setting, we rely on fewer traditional resources. In these cases, our positions as employees of the university make us essentially pay a fee only to work. We oppose these fees because of the unethical concept of charging mandatory fees to employees in their workplace.
- The average Teaching Assistant, Graduate Assistant and/or Research Assistant does not earn a living wage with their salary at Stony Brook University, even despite the recent pay increases that have been implemented. Considering the high cost of living in the Stony Brook area, as well as the average salary of a graduate student employee, student fees add further difficulty for graduate student employees to maintain a sufficient quality of life.
-It is disingenuous of the university to market a teaching assistantship as being of a certain salary and including a tuition scholarship, only to then nickel and dime these paraprofessional positions to the tune of $1189 per year, which is 6.9% of the minimum Stony Brook TA line of $17,145 (7.8% before the Provost's raise this semester), and even more for international students.

We propose the following:
- That administration work with representatives of both unions that represent graduate student employees: the Graduate Student Employees Union and the Research Assistants Union, to create a plan for the fees that seeks to relieve union members of all university-based graduate student fees. We request the participation of our university administration because we feel that this is their responsibility to meet our request to relieve students of the aforementioned fees (i.e., this cannot be a point of contract negotiation with the state and/or Research Foundation, because fees are implemented at the university level). Our proposal includes all graduate student fees, regardless of the time of their original implementation.
- We ultimately suggest either a graduate student fee waiver for all union members of the GSEU and/or RA Union, or a void of these fees altogether."

For more information, or to voice your input about the fees, please email: SBUGSEU@gmail.com

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