The Graduate Student Assembly has called on the University to delay changes to the Teaching Fellow program.
Resolution S15-004, passed on Feb. 25, condemns the proposed changes to graduate teaching stipends and requests that these changes be deferred one year. Written by the GSA’s Academic and Professional Development Committee, the resolution draws attention to the financial burden faced by graduate students in their seventh year. Administrators said they object to the grounds of the resolution, claiming instead that the new teaching fellow compensations will actually increase the income of many students.
“Those who continue their work here at Yale beyond their sixth year are now seeing a significant reduction in the amount of money they can earn,” GSA Steering Committee member Brian Dunican GRD ’15 said.
This reduction, termed a “cut” by the GSA and a “restructuring” by administrators, will ensure that all students who teach in their sixth year earn the same departmental stipend. For some students, these changes will mean an increased salary. For others, it will reduce the amount of money they earn from teaching the same number of classes, the resolution states. As the number of teaching position types is reduced next year from over 100 to around four, any graduate paid on a per course basis — most seventh-year students — will see changed rates of pay. The University has tried to pay non-stipend students closer to the amount lecturers who teach fully independent courses are currently paid, said Dean of Strategic Initiatives for Yale College, the Graduate School and the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Pamela Schirmeister said in an email.
“Going forward, all students who teach in the sixth year will receive the standard departmental stipend,” Schirmeister said. “Students beyond the sixth year, and all non-Ph.D. students who teach, will be paid at the same rate as lecturers without Ph.D.s teaching fully independent courses.”
GSA members said they are critical of these changes, stating in their resolution that next year, students will receive $16,000 for teaching two courses per year. Currently, teaching two courses nets approximately $20,000. The resolution further claims that the new stipend amount is “well below the average cost of living in New Haven.”
Three GSA members interviewed said that by changing the way teaching stipends are allocated to graduate students, the University is making it harder for graduate students to complete their degrees, extending studying well beyond the average of 6.7 years it takes humanities students to finish their degrees. If graduate students receive lower salaries, they will be incentivized to take on more positions, thus devoting less time to their studies.
“Not only are the rates to graduation only going to increase, but the quality of teaching for Yale College classes will decrease commensurately,” GSA representative Rachel Love GRD ’19 said.
Yet Dunican said he does not think that students hold off on completing their degrees because they receive teaching stipends while they are enrolled.
By requesting that the changes to teaching fellow stipends be deferred for one year, the GSA hopes to give current graduate students in their fifth year enough time to adjust to the new stipend amounts, Dunican added.
In addition to criticizing the changes to TF compensation amounts, the GSA expressed discontent with the perceived inequality between departmental stipends. Love said students in the humanities are especially vulnerable to these changes because the stipend amounts for humanists are 15 percent less than their peers in the sciences.
However, Schirmeister said that not all science students receive 15 percent more than students in the humanities or social sciences.
“The fact in any case is that Yale’s stipend in the humanities and social sciences, with the sixth year included, is the highest in the Ivies,” Schirmeister said.
Three of four graduate students interviewed said teaching stipends are essential for financing the basic living needs of the student body.
Kyoko Tokuda GRD ’15 said there are few available jobs other than teaching for graduate students in New Haven, so students can only receive income from their stipends.
Dunican said he is optimistic, given the history of successful petitions made by the GSA to the University, that this resolution will result in concrete change.
On Feb. 25, the GSA also passed two other resolutions, on fellowships for conference travel and sixth-year funding policies.