Dean Schmiesing, Provost Moore, Chancellor DiStefano, CFO Fox, President Benson, and the Regents of the University of Colorado:
We, the graduate workers of the University of Colorado, write to reiterate concern about the state of our inadequate compensation.
The statutory mission of the University of Colorado — to provide Colorado with a "comprehensive graduate research university" — relies heavily on the work graduate employees perform. We teach a vast portion of undergraduate courses and CU’s research prestige profits from our research labor. But the current conditions of our employment threaten to hinder our contributions.
The regional self-sufficiency standard is 57% higher than the average fully-funded TA's salary at CU. The CRC's research suggests this is the lowest portion of self-sufficiency standard paid to any other TAs in the PAC-12 due in part to high housing cost.
Our low income compared to the high cost of living hurts recruitment. Those who do choose to attend CU often find themselves deeply in debt and overworked. Economic constraints often cause our workforce to make cumbersome living and work arrangements, such as second or third jobs, that can detract from our contributions and delay graduation. This forces some people to quit, harming retention. Continuing to undervalue our work prevents CU from remaining competitive as a top center for research and education. To maintain its reputation, CU must pay its graduate employees enough.
We appreciate your involvement in the raises to the base TA stipend in the last two years (6.5% and 5.9%, each an additional investment of approximately 0.2% of the annual instruction budget). Those raises came in response to the CRC's demand of adequate compensation, starting with a resolution the CRC authored and ratified through unanimous vote of the UGGS assembly in Spring 2016.
CU Boulder administration conceded that our pay is inadequate. Unfortunately, their calculations of what we need to live are still flawed. Their calculations are based on a 9 month basis. We are still obliged to pay our bills during the summer, a time during which we often have no option of gainful employment because we continue our research from which the university profits. These issues mean that a true self-sufficient wage needs to account for 12 months of living expenses, after mandatory student fees. To make matters worse, graduates in numerous departments receive far less than a maximum appointment (50% FTE), regardless of the amount of work performed. These graduate workers live under even greater economic constraints, which negatively impacts their retention rate and their time to degree.
We demand a self-sufficient wage. We demand emergency action to get us there.
Our substandard pay is only one of many serious concerns we have. Our health insurance is inadequate when we need it the most, and lacks comprehensive vision and dental coverage; our exorbitant mandatory fees are not competitive with other PAC-12 institutions; we lack sick and maternity leave. You will continue to hear from us about all of these issues.
Committee on Rights and Compensation
Signing this letter will help make graduate employees a priority.
Joining the CRC helps us present a more united front for grad students.