Students get word in with regents

Jeremy Taff

For once the Board of Regents sat back and quietly listened while students and faculty took the floor.
Students had free reign Thursday at the annual budget forum in the theater of Coffman Union. They voiced concerns on tuition increases, graduate student benefits and disability services on campus to University President Mark Yudof and six regents.
Newly elected Minnesota Student Association President Nikki Kubista sat alongside eight other students who addressed the Board, urging them to keep tuition increases at or below 2.5 percent.
“The line was drawn last year at 2.5 percent,” said John Cahoy, a student representative to the Board of Regents. “This year the line has been crossed.”
Kubista told regents she worked two jobs and more than 60 hours per week the summer before coming to the University. Upon arriving, she said she realized it only earned her enough money for one quarter. Kubista qualified for an Evans Scholarship and is now a fourth-year Women’s Studies major.
“After paying for parking, food and housing, the University as a package is expensive,” Kubista said. She said just because the University is more accessible than other schools doesn’t give an excuse for hiking tuition prices.
Tuition wasn’t the only topic on the agenda. Sociology graduate student Amy Kaler complained to regents that teaching and research assistants need better health care benefits and higher salaries.
Graduate students teach about 40 percent of classes on campus. Officials from the Graduate Student Organizing Committee said University graduate students, in comparison with other Big Ten schools, are far underpaid.
“Every graduate student at the University of Michigan earns more than the highest paid graduate student at the University of Minnesota,” said Catherine Orr, a graduate student in speech communications.
University graduate assistants earn $868 per month on average. Similar jobs at the University of Michigan pay a monthly average of $1,354. Michigan’s graduate students receive free health care for themselves and family members. The University’s health care covers only the graduate student.
“Give us the respect we deserve,” Kaler said. “Give us the ability to take care of our families.”
Disability services rounded out the discussion. Amanda Perlman, a senior double majoring in neuroscience and genetic cell biology, said she has felt the effects of cuts in disability services the past few years. She said such cuts go against University initiatives.
“If they want to keep diversity alive on this campus they need to put more money into programs that promote diversity like disability services,” Perlman said. “That’s why I’m fighting to keep them right now.”
Regents Vice-Chair Patricia Spence said the board is looking into the matters proposed and will vote on the budget in June.