In Spring of 2017, the University of Rochester removed the existing employee classification that pertained to graduate workers. This change in classification, as well as the end of providing W2s, has greatly impacted the lives of graduate students at this University.
This change has heightened the hardships and adversity that graduate students face as employees on campus– especially as they still rely on graduate stipends that are below a living wage. This classification of employment creates challenges and restricts access to benefits and resources that they would otherwise qualify for if classified differently. These benefits and resources include things such as:
1. Eligibility for government assistance programs like food stamps and subsidized housing
2. Easier tax reporting (Ability to file W2s instead of 1099s)
3. Access to federal and state childcare subsidies
4. Improved access to unemployment aid after graduation
5. Resolution of international student tax-related issues
6. The right to form a union and collectively bargain with university administration
Graduate student work is essential to the University of Rochester. In almost every department and discipline, graduate students are an integral part of University operations. The importance of graduate student workers must be acknowledged, and therefore classified – and compensated – accordingly. Reclassifying graduate student employees would take meaningful action toward improving the conditions of graduate student workers, both in and out of the workplace. As the University continues claiming to strive for an exceptional undergraduate and graduate education experience in the strategic plan, the importance of graduate student employees and their movement for reclassification is inherent more than ever.
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