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Binghamton graduate student workers protest for "living wage" from university

Graduate student workers (GSEU) at Binghamton University protesting
Emily Blakley
/
Binghamton University Graduate Student Employee Union
Members of Binghamton's chapter of the Graduate Student Employee Union protest outside BU's student union building.

Binghamton University graduate student workers held a protest last week, calling for the university to raise the minimum yearly stipend to better reflect the cost of living in Broome County.

It's part of larger union campaign by the Graduate Student Employee Union, which represents graduate student workers at several SUNY campuses.

BU's graduate students who work part time as teaching, research, or graduate assistants receive yearly stipends ranging from $7,000 to $30,000, according to the university’s website.

Psychology PhD candidate and union representative Emily Blakley said that’s not enough to live on. She said she wants the university to increase the minimum stipend to reflect the cost of living in Broome County — $34,574 for a single adult without children, according to MIT's living wage calculator.

"It's stressful to have to worry about [whether] I am going to have to bounce a rent check," Blakley said. "And we don't want to have to bring that stress into the classroom."

She said graduate student workers play an integral role in the operation of the university, particularly when it comes to teaching.

"Our job is to hold office hours, we help create the exams, we help grade the exams, we'll handle the makeup exams," Blakley said. "Doing the makeup exams has been a pretty big burden recently, just due to the fact that everybody has been sick."

Blakley said some workers receive cost of living raises — about 2% — though she said in light of recent inflation, it doesn't feel like enough.

The protest came one day after newly minted SUNY Chancellor John B. King paid a visit to the campus.

In an emailed statement, a spokesperson for the university said a potential pay raise for graduate students will depend on how much BU receives in the next state budget.

New York State typically finalizes its state budget in April.