Indiana Daily Student

IU grad students protest Monday for higher wages and better conditions

<p>A protester holds a sign with the message “Fees suck” during a protest Aug. 24 in Dunn Meadow. The Indiana Graduate Workers Coalition is calling for graduate students to boycott IU&#x27;s mandatory fees.</p>

A protester holds a sign with the message “Fees suck” during a protest Aug. 24 in Dunn Meadow. The Indiana Graduate Workers Coalition is calling for graduate students to boycott IU's mandatory fees.

A group of about 50 graduate students gathered Monday morning in Dunn Meadow to protest inadequate pay and the increased risks graduate workers face due to the coronavirus.

Protesters chanted slogans over speakers, supporting better pay and treatment for graduate students, each masked and socially distanced to allow for pandemic safety. They said they have not seen an increase in their living wage even in the face of the pandemic.

“We do just as much work as anybody else,” said Nathan Schmidt, a graduate student in the Department of English.

Organizers created the protest with safety guidelines in mind,with flags spacing out masked protesters and Zoom links available for anyone who could not attend.

“We made sure that there was enough space to actually spread out everybody,” said Mallika Khanna, a graduate worker at The Media School and media liaison for the protest. 

They were also protesting to avoid fees usually associated with undergraduate workers.

Schmidt said graduate students teach and grade for classes at the university and shouldn't be subject to the same fees as undergraduates.

The disparities seen among graduate workers stretch back to before the pandemic.

“I’ve been here for about five years, and I haven't seen a pay rise,” Ph.D. student Pallavi Rao said.

Simon Luo, a Ph.D. candidate, said in addition to mandatory fees, international graduate workers have to pay international fees, which have increased each semester.

International graduate workers can work in campus facilities such as libraries, but these hours are often limited, Luo said.

He said visa limitations only allow graduate workers to work at these on-campus facilities for 20 hours per week. 

Luo said without the money to sustain themselves and their families, international graduate workers cannot make enough to stay in the country.

He said international workers face difficulties with visa renewal and working in their home countries, and IU legally cannot pay employees who are not in the country.

The group used the protest as a platform for these testimonials, relying on the large amount of graduate workers as a base.

Graduate student Cole Nelson said the group has a committed base of about 50 organizers and a membership base of 1,600 graduate workers on campus.

An earlier version of this article misspelled a students name. The IDS regrets this error.

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