Real graduate student appreciation

Graduate student workers unite to petition for a reduction in fees.

The University of Minnesota has designated this week âÄúGraduate and Professional Student Appreciation Week.âÄù ItâÄôs a nice gesture, but not a real show of appreciation to the graduate students who perform much of the UniversityâÄôs research and teaching. As The Minnesota Daily noted in its front-page article April 14, graduate studentsâÄô heavy workloads and meager compensation make it hard for them to research, teach and keep on track to graduate. So, weâÄôre asking the University to ease these burdens by reducing our fees. Nearly all of the 4,600 graduate student workers on campus pay some version of the mandatory student fees. For more than 1,000 grad students, this means giving up about 10 percent of their income; some students (e.g., international students) pay even more. The fees go to a number of different services that grad students only tangentially use: Annually we pay $250 for Coffman Union, $25 for the TCF Bank Stadium, $120 for recreational sports and $230 for Boynton (regardless of where we go for health care). These fees amount to an after-tax reduction of our salaries and a backdoor means of gathering tuition from graduate students, whose tuition is supposedly waived because of the work we do for the University. A group of concerned grad students, Graduate Student Workers United, has organized a petition asking the University to return a fraction of our fees. Given current financial difficulties, weâÄôre not asking for a full remission, just an annual reduction of $200. This would cost the University about $900,000: Less than one-third of one percent of the UniversityâÄôs budget for the academic year. Administrative salaries over $200,000 might be a good place to cut. Graduate student workers havenâÄôt seen a cost-of-living raise since 2007. We have more than 500 signatures from graduate student workers in departments ranging from aerospace engineering to writing studies. Appreciation Week is a great time for the administration to show real respect the work we do. Elissa Hansen and Kevin Riordan University graduate students