AMHERST, N.Y. -- Teaching assistants and their supporters marched across UB's campus Monday and into the school president's office with a list of demands for university leaders.
"We have pages of comments from concerned faculty, graduate students, and community members," UB graduate student Nicole Lowman announced to a crowd gathered in front of the school's student union Monday afternoon.
Those pages contained 885 signatures demanding a higher stipend for UB's teaching assistants. They were hand-delivered to the office of the school's president Monday by a large group of students who marched across north campus.
"We do research as graduate students, we also assist professors with some of their research, and more importantly, we interact with undergraduate students," said Lowman, who also works as a TA in the English department
The group says, right now, TAs get an average stipend of $13,190 for that work. That doesn't match up with the $17,343 UB says is the average. Both amounts are below the more than $22,000 that the MIT Living Wage Calculator estimates is the cost of living in Buffalo. It's a gap that some say has led to tough decisions for some.
"One of my most talented late-term TAs last year had to make a choice between daycare for her child and continuing her degree. So, she had to take a leave of absence," said Barbara Bono, an associate professor in the English department.
"UB works because we do!" protesters chanted during their march.
They're asking the school to boost their stipend to a minimum $21,310.
UB says students who receive assistantships get about $38,000 in financial assistance. That includes the stipend, free tuition, free health care -- in exchange for 20 hours of service a week in whatever their field of study is. The school says it is looking into raising the stipend in certain fields of study.
"Any respectable PhD program does give their PhD students tuition remission -- that's just how the industry goes," said Lowman. "We pay back over $2,000 of our stipends to the university in the form of fees."
A school spokesperson says some departments in social sciences and humanities have low stipends compared to national averages. He notes it's individual departments, not the administration, that ultimately set stipend levels.