Graduate students rally for higher wages

Katie Balevic

Two dozen graduate student employees gathered on the West Mall Thursday to rally in favor of pay raises, improved pay schedules and tuition waivers that match tuition increases.

“We need fair wages to live and love life in this city,” said Samantha Fuchs, an environmental engineering graduate student.

Graduate students, teaching assistants, staff and members of the Texas State Employees Union protested to demand higher wages to compensate for Austin’s increasing cost of living.

“We are standing here together in solidarity to work for better conditions …  so that we can afford to live in this great city and actually do the things that we enjoy, not just scrape by paycheck to paycheck,” Fuchs said.

Fuchs, a member of the Graduate Student Assembly, said graduate students and staff filed a resolution last spring with the administration to request higher wages, but only some departments received pay raises. Some assembled said they did not feel their concerns were getting enough attention.

“(There are) GRAs and TAs making $11.50 an hour, which is not enough to live on,” Fuchs said. “We are calling for an increase for those who are most vulnerable, as well as improving wages for everybody overall.”

Physics graduate student Guilherme Nettesheim said teaching assistants work long hours researching, teaching classes and grading papers.

“After all that’s done, we have to figure out how we’re going to pay the rent,” Nettesheim said. “We’re asking for a pay wage increase … so we can afford to provide the education and the research that this school is paying us for.”

The wage increase should be for all departments so it doesn’t come at the expense of other members of the University, Nettesheim said.

“We don’t want a pay raise that’s going to come out of the pockets of someone else that’s working at this University,” Nettesheim said. “We’re all standing together. We all need to make more money.”

As one of the richest schools in the U.S., the University should be able to afford to pay its staff more, said Mike Corwin, facilities technical staff member for the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History.

The University claims to stand for high morals but does not follow through, Corwin said.

“If they want to present themselves to the world as a moral leader, they should show that in a way that their employees have to live,” Corwin said. “And the money is there.”