Graduate students protest high fees

Published: Thursday, November 1, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, November 1, 2007 at 7:01 a.m.

University of Florida graduate students marched on Tigert Hall on Wednesday to protest graduate fees and show support for a payroll deduction to pay those fees gradually over the course of the semester.

The protest was organized by Graduate Assistants United, a labor union made up of UF teaching and research assistants.

Bret Seferian, GAU co-president, said graduate assistants pay about $800 to $1,000 in fees yearly. For some of the poorest graduate students, that can mean up to 25 percent of their annual salary goes back to the university, Seferian said.

"We're paying to teach," he said.

Around 50 protesters dressed in Halloween costumes, handed out candy and held up signs that said "$30,000 in late fees = treats for Tigert Hall."

They also left for UF administrators a petition with about 250 names of students who support making fees payroll deductible.

Seferian said graduate assistants are charged fees at the beginning of the semester. Costs vary, but fees are usually about $400. The problem, he said, is that they are due before graduate assistants have received their first paycheck, and many students are unaware that they even owe fees.

In a survey conducted by the GAU, around 62 percent of about 800 surveyed said they did not know they had to pay fees before coming to the university. Because of this, Seferian said, many students end up having to pay a $100 late fee.

The protest was meant to bring attention to the problem, which Seferian considers one of the biggest issues graduate students face. GAU hopes to make a fees payroll deduction system that would allow students to pay gradually, he said. Eventually, the union would like for the university to waive the fees.

"This is not an unusual request," he said. "We're not demanding for them to get rid of them overnight."

Seferian said the GAU on Oct. 23 requested a meeting with Kenneth Gerhardt, associate dean of the graduate school, but have not heard back yet.

Gerhardt could not be reached for comment.

UF's Senior Vice President for Administration Kyle Cavanaugh said current negotiations with the union allow for consultation, and the university would respond to their requests.

Cavanaugh said the university would "continue to bargain in good faith with the graduate student union."

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