Graduate Assistants (GA) at USF are waiting to hear if they will be compensated fully for their work for the university. The conditions under which GAs are currently employed has made it incredibly difficult to maintain an adequate lifestyle. Hopefully, the university will begin to take GAs’ work seriously.
GAs work for USF by either teaching or conducting research. These assistants are also full-time students, meaning they can’t realistically pick up a second job to ease their pocketbooks. Even if they wanted to, USF heavily encourages their GAs to refrain from outside employment.
This wouldn’t be an issue if universities paid graduate students enough to live on. Unfortunately, the current GA minimum wage is below the poverty line, and approximately 12 percent of those funds go toward paying student fees.
This is where a majority of GAs are facing major issues. According to USF Graduate Assistant Union (GAU) Co-President and GA in the philosophy department, Megan Flocken, GAs are required to take at least 9 credit hours per semester to qualify as a full-time student and be able to work for USF.
While it is not impossible to work the long hours required of GAs and still juggle a full-time class load, it is not easy. GAs often are told only a week prior to beginning to teach a class that they must write syllabi and gather supplies, Flocken told the Oracle.
The workload is strenuous, and perfection is demanded of these assistants. GAU is hoping to create a contract that will allow for proper compensation and ensure the university takes the GAs seriously. GAs can’t seek out other employment, and even if they were allowed, the reality is they don’t have free time to dedicate somewhere else.
GAs are responsible for so much of the course load taught and research done at USF. Yet, they are not even paid enough to properly live. GAU is asking USF to increase the minimum wage — $12,000 a year with an annual increase of 3.5 percent to keep up with inflation.
They also are asking for a guaranteed 100 percent tuition waiver and fee reimbursement so GAs “don’t have to pay to work.” Apparently it has been a common practice for USF to waive the GA’s tuition, but the union wants this policy to be upheld in writing.
“That is only under threat, as the university seems to be making moves that seem in line with defunding master’s programs altogether,” Flocken said. “We want to stop that before it begins by solidifying what has been common practice, which is 100 percent tuition waiver.”
USF assured the GAU it would have a counter proposal sometime after Thanksgiving break. Increasing the wages allotted to their assistants and waiving those students’ fees is a simple request.
The GAs deserve to be fairly rewarded for their work. The university would have a difficult time functioning without them and should respect the effort each assistant pours into his or her job.
The GAU is not asking for unreasonable terms. Ensuring that they can make a living working for the university full time is necessary if they are expected to continue with their required workload. Hopefully, USF will recognize the importance of taking care of their employees and will agree to the terms without much of a fight.
Breanne Williams is a junior majoring in mass communications.