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Bloomington Faculty Council passes resolution on tax bill



The Bloomington Faculty Council met Tuesday and focused on three main topics: A resolution in opposition to the taxation of tuition waivers, a discussion of the suspension of fraternities belonging to the Interfraternity Council and the passing of policy changes on a previously discussed policy.

Resolution in Opposition of Tax Bill: 

The GOP House of Representatives tax bill contains the possibility of taxation of tuition waivers for graduate students. It also raises concern for some IU staff and faculty with lower incomes whose taxes will also increase. 

“It would be apocalyptic to us if it did pass,” Secretary Jesse Molesworth said. 

Abby Ang, a graduate student and associate instructor in the IU Department of English, said at a graduate student walkout last Wednesday that $14,500 of her tuition is waived each year. If the waiver is taxed, her taxes would jump by $2,000. For some, she said the tax spike would be by 400 percent.

The tax bill left many graduate students panicked and questioning what the University was going to do to help them. He said the University is looking at restructuring the way grad students are funded as a potential strategy to combat this tax bill, Molesworth said.

However, the wording of the proposed resolution was heavily debated as many faculty members wanted to clarify aspects of the language, such as Katie Siek, associate professor in the School of Informatics, Computing and Engineering, who proposed emphasizing the educational value of the graduate students as teachers. Siek's amendment was passed.

Many of the proposed amendments did not pass, and after the list of proposed amendments became large, Provost Lauren Robel said it was important to not dwell on the wording but rather to get the message across. 

Robert Kravchuk, a professor in the School of Environmental and Public Affairs, said it was important to support the graduate students now more than ever and find strategies to help them. 

“This is a nice resolution," Kravchuk said, "It needs to be said, and it needs to be passed. But we need to do more.”

The resolution passed with majority vote. It stated that the Bloomington Faculty Council supported President Michael McRobbie's statement against the bill and urges the University to develop a strategy to protect those affected. 

Suspension of IFC fraternities:

Provost Robel used her report as an opportunity to discuss the recent suspension of the fraternities who belong in the Interfraternity Council. She pointed out there have been four deaths in the last several months nationally due to fraternity activity. 

“Nothing keeps me up at night more than this particular issue,” Robel said, adding that she has been having fraternities sign agreements to protect the safety of their members. 

Robel said 31 fraternities on campus are Interfraternity Council fraternities. She said many of the multicultural fraternities fall under a different council and are not apart of the suspension. Social activities, activities with alcohol and new member activities for IFC fraternities have been suspended until March. 

Robel said during this time, the University is working with these fraternities to get firm commitments about the principles and values they should abide by. 

“It is a short-term development for the fraternities but it is a good development,” Robel said. 

Policy Changes and Additions:

Alan Dennis, chair of the Faculty Affairs committee, also brought forth the changes made to the proposed royalty policy for instructor-developed classroom materials. The policy says there is a conflict of interest when instructors require students to buy materials they created, and they charge the student more than the cost of materials.

The changes included the appointment of a faculty committee who would review the material and royalty being charged and the scope of the policy.  It will not just restrict the charge of a royalty for a professor charging a royalty for their materials in their own classes but also in classes that they have a lot of influence over. 

This policy and its proposed changes were also passed with a majority vote. 

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