Are you thinking about joining us, but unsure about the consequences? Let us clear up a few things!
Wait I’m a little confused–in what ways are fees unfair?
We’re glad you asked! UB’s fees are some of the highest out of all of the public AAU universities. Additionally, as TAs and GAs, we have to pay fees for services that we need to do our jobs (such as the technology fee), which crosses into the territory of a pay-to-work scenario (which would be illegal) except that the university can get away with it since these expenses are branded as “student” fees. Fees have been steadily increasing in recent years, including the 2020-2021 academic year, despite the fact that we’re in a global pandemic!
Can’t we just meet with the administration and have an honest conversation?
As part of the PhD Excellence Initiative unveiled in Fall 2019, the College of Arts and Sciences, which houses the largest percentage of GAs and TAs, stated that they would begin covering broad-based fees for graduate students in the 2020-2021 academic year. However, when it came time to follow through on that promise, CAS turned their backs on graduate students when we could have used the financial assistance the most–as we’re in a global pandemic. This lack of follow through is simply one example of the university’s inability to hold good faith conversations with its graduate students. Several graduate students have written Spectrum Op-eds about the undue burden fees places on us, and GSEU representatives have attempted to meet with the Provost to no avail. When we’ve exhausted all other attempts to sit down and discuss how fees impact our lives, we have no choice but to withhold them!
How have administrators responded in the past when confronted with the financial burden fees place on grad students?
Administrators have predominately been silent. They have refused to acknowledge the burden that fees place on graduate students–particularly at the beginning of every new academic year, when we’re asked to pay approximately $1,500 often before we’ve even been paid for our GA or TA work. Additionally, when GSEU representatives attempted to push back the Spring 2021 fee deadline, they were told that it wasn’t possible without an explanation. Administrators have continuously calculated our pay without including fees, thereby creating the pretense that they pay us more than they do and falsely inflating our standings among AAU publics, who have much lower fees.
How can the university pay for our fees in the long term?
There are a number of ways the university could pay for our broad-based fees in the long term. We approximate that to cover broad-based fees would cost the university $2.5 million per academic year (with 1,500 TAs and GAs paying between $1,500 – $2,000 per year on average). According to the Bunsis Report, UB spends $23.5 million more per year on upper-level administration when compared to other similar universities. In 2017, President Tripathi’s salary was nearly $700,000, and it’s undoubtedly grown since. Additionally, UB subsidies its Athletics program by approximately 76%, which is equivalent to $30.8 million. And while COVID-19 has financially impacted the university and the SUNY system, UB is by no means experiencing a budgetary crisis. Simply put, if UB valued its graduate students labor and dignity, they could afford to cover our fees!
Will this impact my department’s GSA club?
Not at all! Broad-based fees include all fees except for international student fees and the student activity fee. The money collected from the student activity fee is what constitutes the GSA yearly budget.
What happens if my PI / Department / the university retaliates? What are the consequences?
While there is a very real chance that they may try to, your PI / Department / the university are limited in what they can do without violating our contracts as GAs or TAs, or drawing negative attention and potentially running the risk of hurting their reputation–especially for a school hoping to be in the top 25 in the AAU! And if the university does try to violate your contract, our union has legal resources to fight on our behalf.
The university can charge you a late fee, which varies depending on how much you pay in fees. Additionally, not paying fees can create a hold on your account, which can prevent you from registering for classes or ordering transcripts.
Is there a way to see where all of my fees are going?
Yes and no–if you have the spare hour to manually dig through every individual fee, you might be able to get a better sense of where your fee money is going, but even at that, there’s no way to know where exactly it’s landing. Last summer, LSM did a breakdown of fees based on what was publicly available and you can find that here on Twitter.
How can I support the boycott if my fees are automatically paid by a fellowship or loan?
We’re glad you want to sign our pledge in solidarity! You can do so by opening up the pledge and signing under the “in solidarity” portion.