SFU grad students demanding minimum pay of $32K from university

Published Jan. 26, 2023 8:53 p.m. ET
Updated Jan. 27, 2023 11:37 a.m. ET

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Dozens of grad students and staff from Simon Fraser University gathered outside the SFU Board of Governors meeting at the Vancouver Campus on Thursday morning to protest against what they call a "student funding crisis" at the university.

The noisy demonstration was part of their Cost of Living Adjustment campaign (Grad COLA), which they launched late last year.

With the cost of living rising, demonstrators said they're struggling financially, and are demanding more funding from SFU.

"As grad students, we're expected to work and teach and research for the university and in return, we barely get enough funding to pay rent," said SFU grad student Noemi Rosario Martinez.

She said their pay is inconsistent and they're looking for more stability.

The group also demands a guaranteed minimum offer of $32,000 — after tuition deductions — for all research-based graduate students.

"I know students who have multiple jobs. I know students whose funding is capped," Rosario Martinez said.

"So they get the same pay whether they work 20 hours or 40, or some people are working 50 hours a week in their labs. And it's not a sustainable situation," she continued.

The group chanted, blew horns and banged on pots and pants attempting to make as much noise as possible and draw attention to the crowd as a way to raise awareness of the issue.

The group is also demanding for paid practicums, affordable food on campus and graduate housing with more units.

"It's terrible right now. There are graduate students who are not finishing their degrees, that are having to decide whether or not to continue school or to leave and be able to afford living in the city," said Felix Ruiz De La Orden of the Teaching Support Staff Union.

He said this protest is just the beginning of the fight and he's hopeful the university will meet their demands in the near future.

In a statement, the university said it "recognizes the increasing cost pressures students are facing with inflation, the rising costs of living and limitations in grant funding."

It says it's addressing the challenges by striving to keep tuition low through student groups and government partners, offering scholarships, awards and bursaries to graduate students, including international students, and planning to set a university-wide minimum funding level for research graduate students within a year.

The Ministry of Post-Secondary Education also said in a statement that "the B.C. government has taken significant action to make life more affordable for both undergraduate and graduate students."

Such actions include investing $19.5 million in provincial scholarships and ending interest payments on student loans since 2019.

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