To the Editor:

We all should certainly applaud the University for its latest increase in graduate student funding. In particular, the extra two years of summer funding will play an important role in helping students make year-round progress on their research. Especially for the large number of graduate students, whose dissertation research entails time-intensive methods such as qualitative data collection, this improvement is essential given the increasingly exacting time-to-degree schedule expected of us by the administration.

On the other hand, simple arithmetic reveals that the latest increase is not, as reporter June Torbati claims, “the most significant stipend policy change in recent years.” Rather, it continues and repackages the incremental increases that have long been underway. Last year, the administration announced an increase in the nine-month stipend of $1,000 and in the summer stipend of $200, for a total year-round increase of $1,200. The year before that also brought a nine-month stipend increase of $1,000 and a summer stipend increase of $500, for a total increase of $1,500. The latest announcement amounts to a total annual increase of $1,300, from $23,700 to $25,000. In absolute terms, the current increase falls toward the lower end of recent trends. As a percentage of base compensation, it falls even lower.

The real innovation is the addition of two more summers of funding. Two years ago, one additional summer of funding was added. Last year brought no such addition.

So the current announcement effectively revives the trend begun in 2006 and abandoned in 2007. Meanwhile, no increase in the amount of the upcoming summer’s funding has been announced at this time.

Effectively the administration has recategorized summer funding as part of year-round compensation, but assessing the true rate of increase requires that we compare apples to apples. One should have extrapolated five-year packages based on the prevailing funding policies in each given academic year. Using this metric, graduate student compensation in the social sciences and the humanities will increase by a five-year total of 12.5 percent. This is a laudable increase, but it falls far short of the 20 percent misleadingly reported by the News.

Michael Yarbrough

Feb. 14

The writer is a graduate student in the Sociology Department.