Nearly two months after the University of Virginia’s provost promised to establish a task force in response to graduate student workers who protested a pattern of late wages at UVa, those workers says their concerns remain unresolved.
And some still aren’t getting paid on time.
“Graduate student workers teach in classrooms, develop curriculum, grade, carry out research, and contribute to our professors’ work,” says a letter sent Friday from graduate student workers to university leadership with more than 120 signatures. “Unfortunately, we still can count on neither our stipend payments, nor our teaching wages, nor reimbursements for work-related costs to come on time.”
The United Campus Workers at UVa union said the university response to graduate students has been lacking.
“We did not find the responses to satisfy our concerns about both the Task Force’s outcomes or how its progress was being communicated,” Crystal Luo, treasurer for the United Campus Workers at UVa union, told The Daily Progress in an email on Tuesday. “In particular, we are concerned that none of the current recommendations being considered by the Task Force actually allocate more resources to the problem, which we believe is essential to making sure it does not happen again.”
Graduate workers have been experiencing delayed wages since winter break in 2022, with students sometimes “missing thousands of dollars in pay for weeks at a time,” according to Friday’s letter.
The push for the university to address late graduate student wages came to a head in December when several students reported that their wages were at least 10 days late, according to the United Campus Workers at UVa.
UVa Provost Ian Baucom promised on Jan. 5 to establish a Graduate Stipend Task Force. He formally charged the task force with identifying the “precise cause of the delay and to ensure that delays are avoided in the future” on Feb. 9.
The Graduate Stipend Task Force sent an update on March 2 with recommendations to get to the root of the wage delays and identify solutions.
Recommendations included better communication of and adherence to established deadlines; aligning monthly stipend payments with bimonthly wage payments in order to minimize the time gap between payments; and creating more ways to upload stipend and wage information to a professional portal.
In its Friday letter, students said that they were cautiously optimistic at the outset of the task force’s work.
“That optimism has been eroded by the total lack of communication regarding the Task Force and the continued problem of missing and delayed payments for graduate student workers,” the letter reads.
The letter makes its own recommendations to university leadership:
Implementing and enforcing a policy that reimbursements for travel and research expenses must be made within 30 days of the request being received, both for graduate students and for faculty and staff, or else it shall accrue late penalties.
Implementing and enforcing a policy that internal grant funding must be disbursed within 24 hours of the date it was promised to the recipient in their award letter, or else it shall accrue late penalties.
Hiring of more Student Financial Services staff, in consultation with current employees.
Approving hiring lines such that all Graduate School of Arts and Sciences departments have enough graduate and financial administrators to support their graduate student worker communities.
Ensuring these positions are paid competitive, livable wages such that departments are able to recruit and retain talented staff employees.
All of these changes could be communicated on a university webpage and via email, the letter suggests.
Assistant Vice Provost Phil Trella responded the same day the letter was sent and directed student workers to their respective student councils; in this case, that is likely the Graduate Student Council in the School of Arts and Sciences as most of the students whose wages were delayed are studying and working within the School of Arts and Sciences, according to the chair of the United Campus Workers at UVa.