Graduate Students Walk Out Nationwide—
Refuse to Have their Education Stolen by the Trump/Pence Regime!

December 1, 2017 | Revolution Newspaper |


Grad students at more than 55 universities across the country walked out of their research labs and the classes they teach simultaneously on November 29 and rallied, marched and held teach-ins to denounce provisions in the House version of the Trump/Pence-Republican tax bill that threaten their ability to continue their education. If the tax bill now in Congress becomes law and contains these provisions, for the first time the government will treat as taxable income the waiver (dropping) of the graduate students’ cost of tuition. This will affect the ability of an estimated 150,000 grad students, who work long hours as teaching assistants (TAs) and researchers, to be able to survive financially and continue their education.

For example, an article at titled “The Republican War on College” describes what effect the bill would have on a graduate student at MIT who studies mental-health disorders: “She is paid $33,000 for up to 80 hours of weekly work as a teacher and researcher, but she pays nothing for her tuition, which is priced at $51,000. By counting that tuition as income, the GOP plan would raise her tax bill by about $9,000.”

The November 29 demos were organized by two quickly formed student groups, #GradTaxWalkOut and #SaveGradEd, with support from the UAW (United Automobile Workers), which represents many working graduate students. In New York City over 100 students from NYU, CUNY, New School, and Columbia University held a spirited rally at Union Square to condemn the House bill. They brought signs such as “Tax the Rich, Not the Poor—You won’t have TAs no more”; “No Humanity without the Humanities”; and “Hell Hath No Fury Like Hungry Grad Students!” Students took the mic to share their stories and talk about the damage to higher education if the tax bill becomes law. An international student from the New School said he and many students like him won’t be able to afford to continue their education. And that means they’ll have to leave the country or be deported, because they won’t meet their visa’s income requirement anymore. An activist  with Refuse Fascism was invited to give a statement at the end of the rally.

In Southern California, graduate students at UCLA, UC Riverside, UC Irvine, USC and Cal Tech held walkouts and rallies. At UCLA over 100 graduate and undergraduate students rallied and marched across campus. Hundreds rallied at USC, where a grad student studying clinical science expressed the feelings of those who walked out: “If this bill passes, I don’t know if I will continue my [doctorate degree]—and this is my dream.” There were also protests at the Universities of Wisconsin, Kentucky and Oklahoma; at Duke, Yale and Harvard; and many other campuses. The walkouts were followed up the next day by the delivery of 3,500 petitions opposing the change to Democratic Party Congress members.

There are other provisions in the tax bill that attack higher education, including a cap (or limit) on the size of government loans for college tuition—making it nearly impossible for low-income students to attend the more expensive, elite universities. It also targets the endowments of the top-tier private universities. In all, the House tax bill cuts benefits to higher education by $60 billion over the next decade. A PhD student in sociology, who attended the rally of 150 students, faculty and administrators at the University of Colorado at Boulder, told Huffington Post how significant these changes could be on higher education overall:

Without graduate students as a workforce on campus, higher education as we know it will cease to exist. We teach the majority of introductory coursework at all research universities in the U.S. so without us disciplines like the humanities, social sciences, and the arts cannot function. This proposed bill represents the political agenda of the right—to dismantle liberal arts education and critical thinking.

Graduate studies play a key role in advancing knowledge: in medicine and in the sciences, including the study of climate change and what it will take to prevent a catastrophe for humanity. Scholarship in history has brought out important truths, for example about the history of Black people and slavery in this country and the continuation of oppression in new forms today. And grad students contribute to the education of undergraduates they teach and mentor. An atmosphere where critical thinking and the search for the truth have room to breathe is seen as an obstacle and threat by the Trump/Pence regime and their fascist cohorts in Congress, and they are moving to destroy the role and influence of academia in public life.

The students spoke to at the November 29 protest opposed Trump and were aware of the regime’s attacks on different fronts—and some expressed deep concern about what’s happening, in some cases calling it “neo-fascism.” Look for plans for further protests under #GradTaxWalkOut and #SaveGradEd. The struggle of the grad students must be broadly supported—and needs to become a part of the movement to drive the Trump/Pence regime from power.




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