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UVA grad students push administration on 3 requests

UVA graduate students say the university is not treating them fairly and are demanding change.
UVA graduate students say the university is not treating them fairly and are demanding change.(WVIR)
Published: May. 6, 2022 at 2:24 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - UVA graduate students say the university is not treating them fairly and are demanding change. The gathered on UVA Grounds Friday, May 6, to make their voices heard.

“The union is hoping to kind of level that playing field to get us the best working conditions possible,” Kelsey Huelsman, a graduate worker, said.

The UVA United Campus Workers Union has three demands: Fair and clear terms of employment, good health care, and a living wage.

“We really just have not been seeing progress. As people said, the cost of living is rising, inflation is rising, and so the situation is really getting more and more dire,” union member Doctor Phoebe Cook said. “Even though I TA and teach courses, I’ve never signed a clear contract that defines the number of hours I’ll work and what happens if someone tries to, you know, overwork me.”

Grad students spoke about why they need these changes. Huelsman says one reason is to improve undergraduate education.

“The more free time that we have and the more financial stability we have to be well, means that we can provide our undergraduate students the best learning environment and mentorship environment possible, but when we’re spread too thin, working too hard. We can’t do that,” she said.

The union was create almost two years ago, fueled by the coronavirus pandemic.

“I joined early on during the pandemic, when graduate students were being asked to do an enormous amount of work transferring courses from being in-person to hybrid under a huge amount of stress and uncertainty,” Dr. Cook said.

Graduate students say they recently have received a $2,000 increase in their stipend.

In a statement to NBC29, a UVA spokesperson said: “The University of Virginia recognizes and appreciates the many contributions made by graduate students to the teaching and research missions of the University. With rising inflation, cost of living increases and the COVID-19 pandemic still in our view, the University continues its effort to improve compensation and support for graduate students, as evidenced by a recent stipend increase for doctoral students in the College and Graduate School of Arts & Sciences. The University will continue its efforts to maintain and improve upon the support offered to all our Graduate Assistants.”

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