The Ohio University Graduate Employee Organization is attempting to "put pressure" on the university to increase graduate employee stipends and benefits.
A report by the organization compared the compensation rates of graduate employees for 10 colleges and universities around the country and found that OU's graduate employee compensation is below average. After the report came out in September, the organization met with Graduate College Dean Joseph Shields and OU President Duane Nellis.
“President Nellis asked about how Ohio University compares to other Ohio institutions at the first Graduate Student Senate meeting of the semester when a student asked him how he plans to improve working conditions for graduate employees,” Elliot Long, co-president of the OU Graduate Employee Organization, said in an email.
Because government funding varies from state to state, the organization is compiling a second report to compare compensation of graduate student employees at public universities in Ohio.
Long said Nellis asked how OU compares to peer institutions within the state, and the organization generated the second report.
OU graduate employees’ average stipend is lower than the minimum stipend at nine peer institutions, according to the report. The report's goal is to urge the university to "reprioritize" graduate employment.
“Graduate assistants do a lot work for the university (and) teach a lot of introductory classes, so (we) think that we should be compensated fairly,” Long said.
Along with the disparity the report found in base pay for graduate assistants, the graduate student organization said OU does not offer paid parental leave to graduate employees.
When the organization met with Shields, he asked for an example of an Ohio institution that provides paid parental leave, Long said. Graduate Employee Organization members found that Ohio State University provides paid parental leave and forwarded the dean OSU's policy.
The organization is attempting to organize graduate employees to urge the university to address some of the issues around graduate employee compensation.
“(The Graduate Employee Organization) is not trying to legally unionize,” Long said in an email.
In the state of Ohio, graduate assistants cannot legally unionize because such jobs are classified as training, Long said.
The report has brought attention to graduate student stipends and benefits.
“Leadership will be working on plans to make this goal a reality,” OU Spokeswoman Carly Leatherwood said. “There is no definitive timeframe as to when this will be achieved.”
According to the initial report, fully appointed graduate assistants earn an average of about $13,000 annually. The organization asks OU to raise the minimum stipend for graduate assistant jobs to about $14,000, which is the average pay institutions in the report provide.