This semester is the first semester when, thanks to your resolute activism, graduate students are no longer paying unjust and exploitative fees. As we promised you at the beginning of our fee strike, we left these fees behind us as history, and won a de facto 10-15% raise for ourselves. We are now preparing for a living wage campaign, and we need your help by filling out this survey.
We know that your financial problems are far from over. Last semester we shared with you a net stipend vs cost of living comparison for all AAU universities, which includes SBU. Before our fee scholarship, we were at the bottom. With the fee scholarship, we only went up 6 ranks so that now we are only 57th out of the 63 AAU universities in terms of the ratio of net stipend to cost of living: https://tinyurl.com/AAUcomparison
This means we are still far away from achieving the human standard of living that graduate students deserve, let alone reaching the average standard that our peer universities provide. In her email announcing our fee scholarship, President McInnis said that each graduate student “plays an integral role in our community and in our drive to educate, create, and discover.” However, what kind of community is this, where those who do most of the work, graduate students, can barely survive and sustain themselves as part of a university with a nearly 3 billion dollar budget? The truth is that as long as we graduate workers don’t receive what we deserve, we are not part of an equitable and just community.
President McInnis also said in the same email that as “a member of the Association of American Universities and one of the major public research institutions in the country, Stony Brook is committed to growing our research and scholarly portfolio.” If the administration acknowledges graduate students’ role in making Stony Brook a top research university amongst other AAU universities, it should also recognize that we deserve the same standard of living that our peers in other AAU universities receive.
President McInnis’ most recent announcement of new awards for doctoral students echoes again the value of graduate students for SBU. We appreciate these new awards, which will help some graduate students significantly. The majority of graduate students, however, will not receive these rewards. It is not only a select minority that deserve and need increased financial resources, but all graduate students—and for the entire duration of their graduate work. Also, we should not be competing with each other for increased support at the end of our programs, while for most of our time at SBU we live well under a living wage. True support for graduate students does not come from instituting more selective awards, but from increasing pay to a living wage for everyone.
Please let us know of your hardships and opinions on a living wage campaign below.