On Tuesday Feb. 21, over 50 graduate students from across the University filled the Humanities Center for a town hall discussing the state of current graduate student stipends. Graduate and Ph.D. students from Arts, Sciences, and Engineering, School of Medicine and Dentistry, and Eastman attended the town hall. The Graduate Student Collective, a group that describes itself as “a non-hierarchical, grassroots group of graduate students,” hosted the meeting.
“We want a minimum stipend across the University, which there isn’t currently, that is at minimum the living wage,” second-year Clinical Psychology student and organizer Gwyneth Delap told the CT. “I think students deserve to make more than the living wage, but at minimum people should be able to pay for their housing, pay for their transportation, food, be able to see their family.”
Stipend increases are the “overarching theme” of what graduate students seek according to Delap, who emphasized a need for comprehensive healthcare and to index stipends to inflation as the cost of living continues to rise.
The town hall lasted over an hour with students voicing a wide array of concerns relating to the stipends and the structure of the Graduate Student Collective. Students shared stories of barely being able to afford rent, working multiple jobs, selling plasma, and volunteering for every study they could to put food on the table. Many students also shared that the University’s on-campus graduate student housing is unaffordable.
The town hall also allowed students to share concerns and grievances on communication across various departments.
“What’s going on in the English department? What’s going on in the physics department? Why isn’t the physics department getting their health insurance coverage when the University said they were going to cover it? Do people know about that?” Delap told the CT. “Students can’t come together if we only know what’s going on in our own departments.”
At the meeting, two information packets were distributed to those interested, one containing information from the Graduate Stipend Working Group, which conducted a cross-campus survey on graduate student stipends and finances from May 27, 2022 to June 3, 2022, and the second containing anonymous personal anecdotes from students about their financial situations.
According to the survey, which was completed by 498 students across the University, the average monetary support is $28,500, with some students receiving lower than $20,000 and others receiving over $35,000.
The meeting comes as graduate students across the nation continue to demand higher stipends to meet living wages. Students at Temple University, Cornell, and the University of California system among others, have pushed administration to increase stipends.