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Twin Cites grad students protest fees

By staff |
March 31, 2010
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U of M grad student workers march, 3/31/2010
U of M grad student workers march for fees reduction, 3/31/2010 (Fight Back! News/Staff)

Minneapolis, MN - About 150 graduate student workers and their supporters marched across the University of Minnesota campus here, March 31, to demand a reduction in student fees. The march started at the Social Sciences Tower and proceeded to the central administration building - Morrill Hall. The march and rally was joined by members of AFSCME Local 3800, which represents clerical workers.

Graduate Student Workers United (GSWU) insists university administrators reduce graduate student fees by $200. Currently graduate students pay over $500 in student fees each semester - which amounts to an average of 10% of their university pay received as teaching or research assistants. This pay cut impacts graduate students in 22 departments, from Forest Resources to Educational Psychology. GSWU argues that this fee reduction can be easily achieved by reallocating a mere $900,000. For example, the top administrators at the university, 100 of whom make over $200,000 a year, could lower their salaries by 2.8% to cover the fee reduction. Graduate student workers, a class of workers who are overworked and underpaid, urgently need this fee reduction.

In February 2009, GSWU, formally known as Emaciated Gopher, marched with 80 fellow graduate student workers demanding an end to paying student fees. The administration refused to answer their demands. GSWU is hopeful that administrators will be open to a more gradual reduction of costs for a group of workers that work tirelessly for professors and students.

A statement from protest organizers notes, “This march occurs the day before President Bruininks’ State of the University address. On March 16, 2010 Bruininks announced an official university-wide pay cut of 1.15%. GSWU is pleased to hear Bruininks calls for a higher pay cut for administrators of 2.3% Unfortunately, the pay cuts are not scheduled for reallocation where it is most needed and do not impact highly paid administrators as much as those with substantially smaller incomes. An earlier announced university-wide pay raise of 2% has been postponed.”

Video clip from the march