W&M Grad Students Plead for More Gruel

Please, sir, I want some more..

Working graduate students at the College of William & Mary are launching a campaign to demand better treatment, pay and benefits, reports WY Daily. The grad students want health, vision, and dental insurance paid as part of their yearly compensation and benefits, says Jasper Conner, a spokesman for the William & Mary Workers Union.

“The William & Mary Workers’ Union is also fighting for a living wage for all employees of the university, which would raise the annual pay of many workers by $4,000,” Conner said. Health care costs for graduate workers increased 11% this year. Members of the union plan to rally on campus Friday to bring attention to their demands.

This is just another example, as if any were needed, that American institutions of higher education, which profess a commitment to social equity, fail grotesquely short of their own ideals. The higher-ed labor force is a hierarchical caste system. An aristocracy of highly compensated superstar professors are the Brahmans. Under them, there exists a sub-hierarchy of assistant, associate and full professors; a tier of “instructors” who aren’t on the tenure track; a lower tier of poorly paid adjunct professors; and the lowest of the low, graduate students who teach in return for meager stipends. Graduate students comprise, in effect, a class of indentured servants. No health benefits? Really? No wonder the W&M graduate students are unionizing.

— JAB

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9 responses to “W&M Grad Students Plead for More Gruel

  1. “This is just another example, as if any were needed, that American institutions of higher education, which profess a commitment to social equity, fail grotesquely short of their own ideals.” Well — I suppose that’s true, if their ideals include equal treatment of employees. But how about looking at this from another direction: why should employers be responsible for health care for employees at all? That is, after all, what puts these institutions of higher education in the business of drawing such distinctions as, who should receive health benefits.

  2. I support comprehensive health insurance for all graduate students. The average grad student is 33 years old. This group is not eligible for their parents’ insurance and should not be expected to risk medical bankruptcy or forgo needed care. The downside is the high price tag. The employer portion of Virginia’s health plans runs 7-22K per employee per year. That’s an enormous sum of money, and may require tuition hikes unless the state appropriates extra funds. I do not favor cheaper, bare-bones plans for grad students, I have seen these plans at work and they are basically worthless.

    • That the average age of grad students is 33 is hard to believe, unless it includes folks who are getting their MBAs at night or taking a graduate course to satisfy professional certification requirements (teachers, for example). If those groups are excluded and only full-time graduate students are counted, I would expect the average age to be closer to 26, for which they would qualify for their parents’ insurance.

      • The younger half would be under 26; the other half over and therefore ineligible for parental insurance, if 26 were the median (i.e. “the average”).

        • You are right, of course. I neglected to use the little math I know. Leaving that aside, one would need to see the age distribution of grad students after deleting the older ones, with jobs, seeking a graduate degree, and the ones taking only a single course here and there.

      • Dick, I understand you logic, but I can attest that many grad students still fall within an insurance gap. Under 26 grad students may fall in the gap when they study out of state, if their parents do not have employer/ACA insurance, or if parents can’t / won’t cover their adult children. Medicare/ Medicaid plans drop adult children by 21.

        You are correct that some grad students are benefited employees taking classes at night. But many grad programs are not compatible with a full time job, and some require students to work as TA’s. It’s not unusual for a grad student to teach/ research/ study 60+ hours per week. Medicaid would be an ideal option for this group of people, however stipends are intentionally set (just) over typical poverty standards. A typical TA is too poor for decent ACA insurance, but not poor enough for Medicaid. It’s a really tough situation, especially for grad students who are also parents.

        Grad student age ranges, as of 2007: https://cgsnet.org/ckfinder/userfiles/files/DataSources_2009_12.pdf

        Census data on 2017 insurance utilization:
        https://www.census.gov/content/dam/Census/library/publications/2018/demo/p60-264.pdf    

  3. Good post

  4. I’m with Acbar – why should employers decide who gets health insurance and who does not?

    I wonder if these folks are now covered by the Medicaid expansion?

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