Earlier this week, the UW–Madison Bursar Office posted a new policy for how Graduate Assistants pay their segregated fees. The Teaching Assistants’ Association Executive Board recognizes that this policy puts fees first and graduate workers second. While respecting the demand that no fee payment be due before our first paycheck, it does not relieve the undue burden on graduate workers, and reflects the inability of the administration to acknowledge what’s best for its students.
Last summer the UW–Madison Bursar Office unilaterally announced it would require all graduate assistants to pay their mandatory fees during the first ten days of each academic term, a drastic shift from the current policy which allows Graduate Assistants to accumulate three paychecks before paying their fees. This policy change would financially stress a student population that already has a salary among the lowest of the University of Wisconsin’s peer institutions, and pays nearly 10 percent of its salary to university fees.
Last month TAA leadership and several administrators were able to meet to discuss the financial strain such a policy would impose on graduate workers and brainstorm solutions that the University had not yet considered, building a conversation that first started in May 2017. TAA members asked for an additional meeting to share their stories and signatures from a petition that demanded a) no fee payments will be required before our first paycheck, b) that the University lessen the financial hardship of their employees by remitting segregated fees and c) administrators should consult with graduate workers before making drastic policy changes. Our ask is simple — we want a fee payment policy that is nothing worse than the current policy, and we believe we deserve something better. That meeting is scheduled for this afternoon.
Graduate workers must be consulted before making sweeping changes to graduate student payment policy — it’s the only way to ensure the implementation of sustainable policies. The university works because we do.