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Letter to the Editor

BY DI READERS | SEPTEMBER 25, 2012 6:30 AM

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Response to ‘Grad Students Lobby to Add Fee for Advising Services,’ Sept. 19

The Campaign to Organize Graduate Students, COGS UE Local 896, the graduate employee union representing 2,500 teaching and research assistants at the University of Iowa, would like to make clear our members’ opposition to any increase in mandatory fees proposed by the Graduate College.

The headline of the Sept. 19 article “UI Grad Students Lobby to Add Fee for Advising Services” was misleading. Not only did graduate student organizations not lobby to add new fees, the Sept. 20 response from Graduate Student Senate President Kimberly Hoppe suggests that Senate and the Executive Council of Graduate and Professional Students were not given any proper notification of such a proposal so as they could inform members and elicit any representative or democratic response or opinions from graduate students on the matter.

In the 2010 COGS contract negotiations, our union was able to reach a 16-year goal of 100 percent tuition remission for graduate employees at the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences level.

While this was a great victory, graduate employees have continued to be charged mandatory fees that for the 2012-13 academic year now total $706.50. These fees have continually increased over recent years from $136 in the 2000-01 year. There are already fees of $74 per academic year for “professional development,” and $60 for “student services,” so why tack on another $20 for “advising fees” that a graduate college should provide for its students free of charge? Another example is that graduate employees are charged $123 for “buildings fees” to use the buildings where we work — where we do our employment-related teaching, researching, holding office hours, etc.

Through COGS’s bargaining survey and other communications with our members, we find near unanimous opposition to not only any new fees but also to mandatory fees as a whole. We urge the state Board of Regents to stop any plans for increasing graduate-student fees, with the understanding that there is minimal support among graduate students for additional fees.  We also call on the Executive Council and Graduate Student Senate to voice graduate students’ opposition to new or increased fees. COGS is resolved to represent our members’ opposition to mandatory fees and will campaign and bargain aggressively for their elimination. 

Jason Whisler
COGS president


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