February 29, 2008

Editorial: Show them the money

When a committee convened by a high-ranking University official issues a report, it’s reasonable to expect accurate information. Unfortunately, this month’s report by the provost’s working group on graduate aid has challenged this notion.

The provost’s committee stated that it would cost about $57 million to make the new aid package universal for all graduate students. Embarrassingly, this number was based on a simple methodological error by the working group. The real figure is $33 million retroactive to last fall and only $17 million if the proposal were instead enacted at the start of the next academic year. Based on the faulty estimate, the provost decided against fully funding graduate students.

It is hard to believe, however, that the provost’s office, or the administration as a whole, took the report with the seriousness it warranted. Otherwise, they would have sooner discovered the mistakes that inflated the estimate by tens of millions of dollars. But for the efforts of one student, the perceived cost of an equal aid package to all graduate students might have remained permanently distorted.

The error stands out, but the rest of the report also disappointed. It set out to address two of the most pressing issues facing graduate students: health coverage and compensation for teaching. For both, the committee recommended convening additional committees to do further research. The prospect of bureaucratic committees spawning bureaucratic committees ad infinitum was already unsatisfactory—and that was before the competence of these groups was questioned.

This most recent error only reminds of the misguided decision the administration made last winter when it announced that the new Graduate Aid Initiative would not cover current students. The decision to leave some students in the cold was unfair and harmful. If the administration persists in its obstinacy, it risks fostering a division in the graduate student community between the well funded and those unlucky enough to have enrolled in the wrong year. The latter may not look upon the U of C fondly when it comes time to help fund the next building project or advise future college students on graduate school.

By refusing to extend its aid package to current graduate students, the U of C has opened itself to allegations of stinginess. Now its credibility is in question. It’s time for the administration to do what it should have done a year ago: Fund graduate students fairly.

The Maroon Editorial Board consists of the Editor-in-Chief, Managing Editor, Viewpoints Editors, and an additional Editorial Board member.