October 31, 2008

Right aid

In the coming months, cuts will have to be made across the University, but graduate aid should not be one of them.

In his e-mail to the University community Tuesday, President Zimmer sought to allay concerns regarding the U of C’s response to the fiscal melee unfolding on Wall Street. From families to Fortune 500 companies, Americans are reexamining their financial priorities; at the University, the endowment has been hit by falling stock prices, while administrators are bracing for a possible decrease in donations. Yet Zimmer did not so much say how the University would respond—“efforts” were alluded to several times—as make vague promises about the quality of education and financial aid.

Zimmer shed more light on how students would be affected in a meeting with the Maroon later that day. While undergraduate and individual graduate financial aid packages were deemed untouchable, he explicitly left open the possibility that fewer graduate students would be accepted in the future. Such a step would reduce the total cost of providing financial aid without reducing the individual packages matriculating students would receive.

In the coming months, cuts will have to be made across the University, but graduate aid should not be one of them. Aid to upper-level students must be given the same priority as it is to their College counterparts.

Graduate students are an integral part of the U of C. As instructors and T.A.s, they help undergraduates realize their full academic potential while easing the burden on full-time faculty. As research assistants in the laboratory or library, they help professors undertake the type of groundbreaking research for which the U of C is known for worldwide. After they graduate, they carry that tradition of teaching and scholarship with them to other universities—and sometimes back to the U of C, if they return as faculty members. A reduction in enrollment would not only stretch current graduate students thinner and harm current research and teaching, it would reduce the future impact of the University.

After years of fighting for an increase in funding, graduate students are finally beginning to be compensated fairly. The University is right not to reduce their compensation. But to reduce their numbers would be a step in the wrong direction.

The Maroon Editorial Board consists of the Editor-in-Chief, Viewpoints Editors, and two additional Editorial Board members.