(LAUREL Md.)—Rose Ying, a fourth-year doctoral student at the University of Maryland College Park and a member of the university’s Graduate Student Labor Union, talked to The Click about the ongoing dispute between graduate students and the university’s administration. The university does not support collective bargaining for graduate students as a means to address concerns. Graduate students would like to see reforms in housing, wages, and working conditions, according to Ying.
What organization are you a member of that the university disacknowledges and why?
Ying: I am part of the [University of Maryland] Graduate Labor Union. At the moment, Maryland law doesn’t prevent us from organizing. The university is not compelled to collectively bargain with us, and so we’re hoping on getting rights to collective bargaining. We have to essentially pass the bill to change the law.
Do you want the university to do something policy-wise?
Parental leave for students, it’s only six weeks right now, which is a really short amount of time. That’s a particular issue that’s been brought up year after year, and the university doesn’t really have to do anything about it. They[The university administration] have to sit there and listen to the complaints but don’t really have to do anything about it.
Have you expressed your concerns to the university through any other route?
Ying:As a member of the Graduate Student Government, I provide feedback to the university in its shared governance program, where grad students voice their grievances. The university can choose (to) abstain from action, which it has done with our grievances, or help resolve them.
Who in the administration has the ability to resolve these issues at the university?
The dean of the graduate school and the provost have the most power over what happens for graduate students specifically. [In Annapolis when we go to testify, the] dean of the graduate school is usually there testifying against us.
What are the other issues?
Another big one[issue] is stipend(s). Our stipends are extremely low for the cost of living in this area, it’s not cheap. They did a survey of grad students, and over 2,000 people responded to it. Forty percent of people said that they think they couldn’t pay rent on time (or) worried they would run out of food.
Other schools with grad student unions have been able to get significant increases in their stipends for grad students. There’s been a lack of affordable housing in this area. For graduate students specifically, there’s Graduate Gardens and Graduate Hills, I believe, where grad students can live that are just grad student-only-housing from the university. But, there’s way more graduate students than spaces available in those places.
What are you doing to get this resolved?
Right now, we’re going around collecting signatures from students basically saying that they support or would support a union. Not exactly a petition, but every year we go and you know propose a bill, introduce a bill in the state legislature. We all go to Annapolis [Maryland’s state capitol]. We testify why we want this bill.