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Ryan Powers (center) pets a dog outside Baker University Center on Sept. 28, 2017 during a protest to get fair wages for graduate students. (Hannah Ruhoff | For The Post)

Graduate students protest outside of Baker

Members of the Ohio University Graduate Employee Organization (OU GEO) protested outside of Baker Center to raise awareness for their organization and have people sign their petition.

OU GEO’s goal is to get OU to measure up to the average of what its peer institutions offer for graduate students. 

“We are not asking for the best benefits,”  Elliot Long, doctoral candidate and co-president of OU GEO, said. “We are far behind our peer institutions in terms of stipends, in terms of our health insurance being much, much more expensive, in terms of our fees being higher than average.”

The group has four central demands, according to the OU GEO press release. These demands include an increase in health insurance subsidies for graduate assistants, reduce and subsidize the graduate fee and provide graduate parental leave for new parents. Additionally, they want to increase support for international students by allowing students who already have coverage to opt out of the student health insurance plan and by providing legal support for them.

“We’re not asking the university to give us freebies or something,” Long said. “We do real work for the university. We teach many introductory level courses on campus, so we are asking for fair compensation.”

Their goal is to get signatures from the majority of the 5,000 graduate students that are on the Athens campus, Claire Eder, OU GEO secretary, said. Anyone can sign to support their petition, including undergraduates, faculty, staff, alumni and anyone else associated with OU who wants to support. 

“This is our first sort of protest event that we have done,” Eder said.  “We’ve been holding meetings and forums for graduate students, but we do hope to organize more actions in the future.”

Later in the Fall Semester or early Spring Semester, OU GEO is looking to do work log actions where teaching assistants and research assistants will log the number of hours they actually work in a normal week. Those hours will then be compared to how it lines up to the 20 hours a week that they are paid to work for and see where they fall. 

During the protest, OU GEO members talked to people about their goals and demands in order to gain support and signatures. They received about 70 signatures on the petition.

The protest took place after the new OU policyFreedom of Expression was enacted. The policy bans demonstrations, sit-ins, speeches and more inside of university buildings. 

Long said when OU GEO went to reserve the outside space, it was no longer available to be reserved, and it was being removed from the possible spaces to reserve. 

“I’m going to do what I can to ask they not remove this as one of the spaces that can be reserved,” Long said. 

The organization was told they could still be out there, they just couldn’t reserve the space. Baker Center and the Ohio University Police Department both said they were allowed to be out there without reserving the space and wanted to have everything go smoothly for the organization.


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