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The Point: Boston on 18K a Year!


Greetings, Colleagues:

I am honored to share with you a very important message that was recently sent to the chancellor and the provost.  The letter below was written and signed by the Department Chairs Union, the Faculty Council Executive Committee, and the FSU.  As you will see it is a simple—though shocking—statement of facts with respect to contract negotiations currently taking place between the Graduate Employee Organization (GEO) and management.

It seems clear that as UMB works to transform itself into an “anti-racist and health-promoting” institution, we all have to take a hard look at how graduate workers fit into that aspiration.  So far it looks like they are being purposefully left out of the equation. The painfully low rate of remuneration graduate workers are being offered speaks volumes about who can attend UMB and how they can sustain a healthy life while here.

Dear Chancellor Suárez-Orozco and Provost Berger,

The Department Chairs Union, the Faculty Council Executive Committee, and the Faculty Staff Union are reaching out to advocate on behalf of UMB graduate students as GEO negotiates decent pay for the next three-year contract.   UMB currently pays our graduate students $18,000 a year (that is, for the lucky few who are “fully” funded).   This not only makes them the lowest paid graduate students in the Boston area; it makes them the lowest paid graduate students among our “peer” institutions (virtually all of which are in cheaper locales).  

More to the point, no one can live decently and attend school on $18,000 a year in Boston.   This means that not only is UMB failing to live up to its “anti-racist and health promoting” standards.  It means that UMB graduate students are forced to work multiple jobs and still end up with crippling debt.   And it makes potential students increasingly difficult to attract to the university at all (apparently, word is out that Boston is an expensive place to live).  We know this as faculty who are responsible for mentoring/advising UMB graduate students while also recruiting prospective students (it’s hard to sell a university that does not pay enough to live on).

Given this, we are extremely disappointed to learn that the Administration first offered to increase graduate student pay by only 1.5% -- or less than $300 in gross pay.  This is clearly unacceptable and not a respectable place to even start the discussion.

GEO is currently asking for a $1000 bump plus 4% increases over the course of the contract -- putting graduate student pay at just over $20,000 by the end of the contract. Although far too little, it is at least a start.   But what we really need is a health promoting vision and plan to get graduate student pay over $25,000 within the next few years.  A fair and just bargaining process should advance such a goal for the sake of our graduate students and the broader university.

Paying our graduate students a living wage is not only the decent and moral thing to do.  It is good for the university.  It will help build our graduate programs, drive research, allow working and middle class students to access graduate education, and improve the overall quality of the university. 


Department Chairs Union

Faculty Council – Executive Committee

Faculty Staff Union

This is your union! Let us know at how you think we can all best support the bargaining efforts of our graduate student workers.


Jeff Melnick

American Studies Department

Communications Director, Faculty Staff Union Executive Committee

For information on the FSU, links to our contract and bargaining updates, and a calendar of events, see the FSU webpage