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Letters to the Editor

BY DI READERS | JANUARY 26, 2015 5:00 AM

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Reimburse graduate-student fees

I am a graduate student at the University of Iowa, and I have signed the petition calling for full fee reimbursement for UI graduate employees, because graduate students are an asset to the university and thus an asset to society.

My fellow graduate employees and I recognize that we receive a wonderful opportunity from society, through the university, to pursue our studies in an environment and under an arrangement that not everyone gets to enjoy.

I would hope that it is obvious then that we are not asking for better terms out of greed or simply to be adversarial. Rather, we ask for better terms out of a desire to be more effective in our studies, as well as our service as the point-of-contact for more student hours than any other position in the university. We are working toward our degrees, and we are working for Iowa and even for a greater community beyond state or national boundaries.

When we are faced with extraneous fees, when we are faced with tuition to be raised, when we are faced with living near poverty in order to meet these financial demands in some case, we will become less effective as scholars and as educators.

It is not enough to argue that we are “following the market” when we are hurting the ability of our university to provide a valuable service to the residents of Iowa who attend this institution. It is not enough to speak of “cost-effective” measures that will stretch our human and material resources thin.

Nor is it appropriate to defund higher education at the legislative level, thus ensuring that higher education becomes — once again — the domain of the wealthy and those who indenture themselves to the wealthy by taking on debt.

Rather, we must all ask ourselves about the value students, graduate students, and society get out of a school such as the UI. If we think of value, rather than cost-effectiveness, about investment rather than bottom-line, we must then address that saving money is no laudatory virtue in an of itself — unproblematically freeing the residents of the state from a “burden” — but might rather be a smokescreen to cover actions that reduce this university’s service to the state and its contribution to society.

Noah C.G. Johnson

In 16 weeks, my time here at the University of Iowa will be up. And as I scan over my bank account ledger, I am terrified. Over these past five years, I have paid nearly $5,000 in fees to this university. I have sacrificed $5,000 of my already meager salary to the demands of a university that forces its graduate employees to pay to work. Just in case there are any questions, yes, you read that right: made to PAY $5,000 for my labor — not PAID for my labor.

During my time here as a graduate teaching assistant, I have taught more than 500 students, spent hundreds of hours grading, mentoring, instructing, and generally being there for my students. As have all my other graduate colleagues. I’ll save the countless reasons for why this fee system is exploitative and unjust for another time. For now, I just want to say I wish I had had those extra dollars in my bank account when money was always tight at the end of the month (maybe I can’t afford groceries this time?)

I wish I would have had some wiggle room to set aside just a couple hundred dollars to ameliorate some of my anxieties just in case something goes seriously wrong (maybe I shouldn’t fill that prescription?).  I wish this university would not subject hard-working graduate employees to pay to work (maybe this university doesn’t value me?).

Michaela Frischherz

I am a young husband and father of two small children. I am also a Ph.D. student and graduate teaching assistant. I am the primary provider for my family. My monthly stipend, in addition to my wife’s part-time work, supports our family of four. We have had to take out student loans to make ends meet. If anyone knows the struggle with rising tuition and fees, I do.

I love the UI, and I love being a graduate student here.

I am therefore writing to support the removal of graduate assistant fees, as per COG request. I wholeheartedly support the COG’s initiative and add my name and family situation to this important and timely effort.

Gavin Feller

‘In defense of snipers’

A sniper stalks and deliberately kills another human and doing so is what a sniper is willing to do, and both the killer and victim are only going to be considered a hero by the living that care to think of them as such — the dead are not going to be thinking that or anything else.

And among the living, if a deliberate act that kills others, such as pulling a trigger, is all that it takes to be consider a hero, the bombardier that pressed the button releasing the atomic bomb that killed 66,000 people of Hiroshima deserves to be considered the most heroic individual that has ever lived.

Sam Osborne


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