Friday, September 4, 2015

How the U. of Missouri Became a Hotbed for Graduate-Student Activism

The Chronicle of Higher Education
September 4th, 2015

On a recent Sunday evening, nine graduate students at the University of Missouri at Columbia met in a cramped room on the third floor of Ellis Library. They were leaders of the newly formed Forum on Graduate Rights, and after two weeks of organizing protests and jousting with the administration over the working conditions of graduate students, they were catching their breath and plotting their next steps.
The forum came together last month, somewhat spontaneously, to fight a university move to cut health-insurance subsidies for graduate students. In the wake of a public outcry, the administration reversed the decision, if only temporarily, and now the forum and other graduate students are figuring out how to turn the newfound grass-roots activism on the campus into a sustained campaign. Their goal: Make graduate-student needs a top priority for Missouri administrators.
They argue that the university has long neglected them and cite a list of complaints: the closing of a child-care center, the elimination of student housing, and low Ph.D. stipends. They argue, for example, that the minimum stipend, of about $12,000 a year for a graduate assistant fellowship, is far from adequate and falls below what most major research universities offer.

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