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President Ryan commits to another meeting with graduate students

Thursday’s meeting was held after graduate students protested late and incorrect stipend payments at the Board of Visitors meeting in March

<p>After the meeting, leaders of the Cut the Checks <a href=""><u>campaign</u></a> held a press conference on the stairs of Madison Hall. &nbsp;</p>

After the meeting, leaders of the Cut the Checks campaign held a press conference on the stairs of Madison Hall.  

Although no solutions to recurring payment problems were reached at Thursday’s meeting between University President Jim Ryan and graduate student leaders, Ryan and other University administrators committed to holding another meeting, with the intent to find a permanent solution to their concerns. Graduate students at the meeting said they were updated on current initiatives to resolve the late and incorrect stipend payment issues and that they hope the next meeting will be where they can discuss staffing levels, which many graduate students see as the root of these ongoing payment problems.

Ryan agreed to meet with graduate students after they sat in on the March 1 Board of Visitors meeting carrying signs that protested late and incomplete stipend payments. After Thursday’s meeting, leaders of the Cut the Checks campaign — an initiative organized by the University's chapter of the United Campus Workers of Virginia to raise awareness of the payment issues and demand a resolution — held a press conference on the stairs of Madison Hall, where Ryan’s office is located. Supporters of the campaign were heard chanting “cut the checks, we deserve respect.” 

At the press conference, graduate students who were at the meeting with Ryan said that he committed to another meeting, though a date has not yet been determined. Graduate Arts & Sciences student Lucas Martinez, who was present at the meeting, said that he and the other graduate students involved in the campaign hope to schedule the next meeting to take place before the end of the semester.

Deputy University spokesperson Bethanie Glover said that at the meeting, graduate students were handed a printout detailing the current progress of the Graduate Stipend Task Force’s recommendations. She added that in the last year, the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences detected approximately 60 disbursement errors out of around 21,000 payments issued by the school.

“The University processes tens of thousands of payments per year to more than two thousand funded graduate students, each with unique aid packages that vary by semester,” Glover said. “Given this complexity, some errors are inevitable … Steps [detailed in the report] have minimized the errors that occur and have helped us to detect and correct errors early in the process, before graduate students are affected.”

Martinez said that the graduate students were made aware of new systems and initiatives implemented this academic year. While late stipends have still been a problem, according to Martinez, he was reassured by the fact that the administration has been working to resolve the issue, in part because of the Cut the Checks movement’s continued activism.

Graduate students have said that they believe the problem stems from staffing issues, with low salaries and a small number of staff making departmental administrators excessively busy and causing a high turnover rate amongst the employees handling stipend disbursements. 

Martinez said that while Ryan and administrators were “hesitant” to discuss the graduates students’ concern over staffing levels, the next meeting is supposed to focus more on the subject.

While the date for the future meeting is still uncertain, graduate Arts & Sciences student Ethan Evans said that the union will continue its campaign until a solution is found.

“Until the problem is fixed, we will keep showing up,” Evans said. “[We will] keep showing up at [Board] meetings, we will keep showing up at [Madison Hall], and wherever else it takes to cut the checks.”


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