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No, Graduate Students will not work for Poverty Wages!

This petition had 1,710 supporters

Join us in telling Dean Falk—NO, Graduate Students will not work for Poverty Wages!

Starting next fall, some doctoral students at Rutgers University will be living in poverty as paid Rutgers fellows, earning as little as $11,000, which is 670 dollars bellow the poverty wage for a household of one in NJ![1]

In February 2014, Dr. Richard Falk, Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences, announced a new policy without consulting the graduate departments. This policy, which follows a long trend of budget cuts at Rutgers, orders the transmutation of graduate departments’ Teaching and Graduate Assistantship (TA and GA) lines into fellowships. The argument put forward by the Dean to justify this decision is that students will have more time to focus on their work if given fellowships, but the truth is when you are broke you can’t focus! The stress induced by worrying about whether or not to pay our heating bill or to pay our student fees is not conducive to quality education for us or for our students, and it is appalling that this situation is normalized in a top U.S. research institution.

Dean Falk’s decision makes it difficult for departments in the School of Arts and Sciences to offer funding for doctoral students for the full length of our education, given that TA/GA lines have traditionally been a major way for our departments to support students with no funding. Furthermore, if graduate students cannot survive off the fellowship money given to them (if any), they are forced to work as Part-Time Lecturers (PTLs), in effect doing the same work they would have as TAs but for a fraction of the salary, without full health benefits and with severely reduced collective bargaining powers. International students are at risk of getting hit especially hard, since the structure of fellowships makes it more expensive for departments to fund non-US residents.

Why must graduate students bear the burden of SAS’ budget cuts? We are NOT disposable workers—our labor is just as valuable as paid faculty members.  We teach tomorrow’s leaders, publish in highly ranked journals, and conduct cutting-edge research! Rutgers could not function without our labor, yet we are being asked to work more, for less.

In an effort to get Dean Falk to help us work toward decent wages for all graduate students, Rutgers Graduate Organizing Committee (RGOC) members contacted Dean Falk on March 3rd asking for a meeting, but he is too busy to see us until May 20th. In solidarity with all Rutgers employees fighting for a living wage, we will meet with Dean Falk and remind him that Rutgers personnel, including graduate students, must not be forced to accept poverty wages!

When you sign this petition, Dean Falk will receive an email, urging him to put graduate employees first—we demand he guarantee competitive healthcare coverage for all graduate students, restore his cuts to SAS’ TA/GA lines and invest in the creation of living-wage graduate fellowships. This policy reform will demonstrate Rutgers’ commitment to ensuring living wages for all Rutgers’ employees, particularly non-tenured academics.

If possible, call Dean Richard Falk today to tell him that you support our efforts. His office number is 848-932-7896. If you have any questions, or if you want to join our effort, please email If budget cuts are affecting you personally and you have a story to share about your particular situation as a grad student (or the situation of someone you know), share it with us and we will bring it to the Dean. Go to our tumblr: and post your story, or send us an email and we will post it anonymously. Also, if you would like to know how these latests cuts by SAS are related to larger issues of budget allocation and decision-making at Rutgers, you can find out more here:

[1] This figure is based off of some graduate students being paid $15,000 a year. Without tuition remission and student fees’ exemption, graduate fellows are required to pay approximately $4000 annually to cover costs.

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