Queen’s needs to pay graduate students livable wages to reflect increased living costs

With the rapid increase in the cost of living, it’s imperative Queen’s pays its graduate student workers livable wages.

Graduate student workers have long been the backbone of the university system. Graduate teaching assistants like myself serve as extra support for professors by marking assignments, running tutorials, and holding office hours. Research assistants aid professors in greater research projects, whether through reading manuscripts, conducting experiments, or running labs.

In return, the University pays us a monthly salary to supplement the cost of living while we complete our studies.

Since starting my graduate degree and teaching assistantship in September, I’ve been receiving a monthly stipend of $1,186. While this is enough to cover the cost of rent and utilities in the home I share with other grad students, it leaves me little left over to pay for other expenses, like my phone bill and groceries.

As a result, I’m required to work a part-time retail job to supplement my other living expenses.

When graduate students are admitted to Queen’s, the University prides itself on making funding available to its students in addition to offering a prestigious environment for doing research.

It’s a shame the University hasn’t expanded their funding packages to reflect the changing needs of students associated with increased costs of living.

Basic costs of living have increased exponentially, which is reflected in the university housing market and the grocery costs. With the removal of rent freezes and the ever-expanding cost of purchasing homes, housing costs in Kingston eat up most of the monthly stipends we are given.

With the rising cost of food, leftover funds often don’t cover a full month’s bill worth of groceries.

Since the beginning of the academic year, PSAC 901—the labour union for graduate teaching assistants, research assistants, teaching fellows, and postdoctoral scholars at Queen’s—has been negotiating with the University to get better funding along with better access to mental health supports, creating a more equitable work environment for Queen’s graduate student workers.

While representatives from PSAC continue the bargaining process and graduate students confirm a strike mandate, it’s critical for the University to recognize the increased cost of living and reflect this in funding packages.

Queen’s accepts graduate students into their program assuring them their research will be financially supported. To fully support students throughout their studies, Queen’s should ensure livable wages are available to all students throughout their degrees.

Cassidy is an MA candidate in the Philosophy department and The Journal’s Opinions Editor.

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