Indiana University Faculty Letter in Support of Ending Graduate Student Fees
IF YOU ARE NOT INDIANA UNIVERSITY FACULTY (TENURED, TENURE-TRACK, or NON-TENURE-TRACK), PLEASE DO NOT SIGN THIS PETITION!
Dear Provost Robel:
As faculty of Indiana University Bloomington, we write to express our strong support for graduate students’ request that the university eliminate their mandatory fees and the international student fee. While we applaud the College of Arts and Sciences’ recent decision to cover the graduate tuition fees for students who receive a College fee remission, we are concerned that this will not alleviate the burden on student academic appointees and other student employees outside the College. We are also troubled that they still have to pay mandatory fees (e.g., the activity fee, repair and rehabilitation fee, student health fee, technology fee, and transportation fee), and that international students will continue to pay a fee that has increased by 281% in the last three years. These fees constitute a significant percentage of graduate stipends, which lag behind peer institutions. We believe that the university has a responsibility to treat our graduate students fairly and to eliminate these fees for all graduate student workers at Indiana University.
Graduate students receiving stipends in recent years have paid back at least 8% of that stipend (more for international students) in the form of fees. As faculty who recognize that our university’s reputation for excellence is based upon the contribution of its workers, we believe that this is wrong. Graduate students staff our offices and labs and teach sections and courses. They are workers according to any understanding of the word. And as such, they have the right to organize, to receive a fair wage, and to be treated with dignity and respect. Requiring workers to pay back a portion of their wage to their employer in the form of fees is fundamentally unjust. To make matters worse, students take out loans, work as hourlies, and work in food service to make ends meet. For example, one M.A. student works in two hourly positions and at a local food truck to supplement their stipend. For doctoral students, the need to find supplemental work has a negative impact on their time to degree.
We believe that the financial burden placed on our students by the mandatory and international fees, in and of itself, is sufficient reason for the university to reconsider its policy on fees (as well as to allow fee remissions to cover 100% of charges, and to raise stipends to a level competitive with peer institutions). However, even if it were not, the issue of the university’s competitiveness remains. While we consider ourselves fortunate to work with remarkably talented grad students, not all prospective students are willing to accept our comparatively low stipends, and all our departments routinely lose promising students to universities with better funding packages. While the basic stipend offered in the College has remained unchanged since 2013, local housing costs have risen dramatically in the last six years. The requirement that students pay back a portion of their stipend in fees, including the international fee, adds insult to injury.
We are aware of the financial constraints the university faces due to state budgets that fail to prioritize higher education, declining international student enrollment, and demographic changes. Some might argue that these difficulties prevent us from eliminating graduate student fees. Nonetheless, one of the things we most appreciate about Indiana University is its ability to find innovative and practical solutions to seemingly intractable problems. We can do this.
Purnima Bose, Associate Professor of English and International Studies; Department Chair of International Studies
Hamid Ekbia, Professor of Informatics, Cognitive Science, and International Studies
Sara Friedman, Professor of Anthropology and Gender Studies
Jeffrey Gould, James H. Rudy Professor of History
L. Shane Greene, Professor of Anthropology
Rebecca Lave, Associate Professor of Geography; Department Chair of Geography
Lauren M. Maclean, Arthur Bentley Chair and Professor of Political Science; Department Chair of Political Science
Benjamin Robinson, Associate Professor of Germanic Studies; Department Chair of Germanic Studies
Micol Seigel, Professor of American Studies and History
William E. Scheuerman, James H. Rudy Professor of Political Science and International Studies; Director of Graduate Studies of Political Science