NEWS

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October 7, 2008

Provost announces grad student pay increases

The University has significantly increased the remuneration levels for graduate student teachers beginning this quarter, Deputy Provost for Graduate Education Cathy Cohen announced in an August 25 e-mail to the University.

Lecturers, teaching assistants, interns, and preceptors will all receive pay hikes, in some cases earning as much as double the amount they have received in previous years.

Lecturers will receive $5,000 per course, up from $3,500. Core interns, course and teaching assistants, and lectors in the language departments will receive $3,000 per course, up from $1,500 per course, and studio assistants, writing interns, lab assistants, and preceptors will also get raises.

The announcement came after Provost Thomas Rosenbaum reviewed the recommendations drafted by a committee of faculty, graduate students, and administrators established by Cohen to review issues related to graduate student teaching on campus. It is the latest in a series of announcements coming out of the Provost’s office in the 20 months since a contingent of graduate students mobilized to request increased funding benefits.

In February 2007, the Office of the Provost announced the $50 million Graduate Aid Initiative, which provided hefty funding packages to graduate students matriculating beginning in the fall of 2007. Graduate students already enrolled at the University were largely excluded from the initiative.

Since then, the Provost has announced increased stipends for current graduate students, has increased the number of fellowships, and has promised the formation of committees to review a variety of graduate student life issues, including teaching remuneration, health care, and pedagogical training.

In her e-mail, Cohen said that the Provost had decided to adopt all of the recommendations presented by the latest committee, effective this quarter.

The announcement was met with praise and surprise by graduate students involved in the negotiations and in organizing graduate students to demand increased benefits, which they have argued lag far behind those provided to graduate students at peer institutions.

“It was by no means inevitable that the numbers would be adopted by the Provost,” said Andrew Yale, a fifth-year English language and literature graduate student and one of the three students on the committee that drafted the recommendations. “It was up to the Provost to accept or reject the recommendations,” he said.

Yale said he was surprised “that the Provost would adopt [the committee’s report] wholesale, mainly because of the decision on the [Graduate Aid Initiative] last year.” In February, the Office of the Provost announced that it would increase stipends and fellowships for graduate students, but the provisions fell short of what most graduate students had requested in the discussions that followed the promulgation of the $50 million initiative.

In addition to the increase in pay, the University will suspend until next year its plans to decrease graduate student stipends by the full amount of their teaching compensation, instead decreasing them only by the amount of the previous remuneration levels so that students have the opportunity to plan for the full decrease that takes effect next year, according to Cohen’s e-mail.

That has some graduate students worried.

Toussaint Losier, a graduate student in the history department and the Student Government vice president for student affairs, said that the decrease in stipend amounts by the amount paid for teaching could effectively neutralize the pay increase.

“[W]hen the amount being taken out of graduate students’ stipends increases...the ‘increase’ in pay will disappear,” Losier said in an e-mail.

Beginning next year, the raise could only benefit students beyond their fifth year of residency who are no longer eligible for stipends.

“The rest of us will actually continue to have the same amount of income,” Losier said.

Still, Yale said that the increases could portend well for the future of graduate student discussions with administrators.

He praised Cohen as a “judicious and responsive leader” who has taken graduate student concerns seriously, and who he expects will continue to address their various concerns over health care, training, and reforms in the structures for monitoring graduate student experiences at the U of C.