In this blog, I envisioned talking about aspects of my life, in terms of how these specific varying aspects of me, relate to my own personal politics whilst in grad school. This has been a bit hard to do, as it seems my being in grad school is currently under-attack. Quite literally.

On Wednesday I participated in the #GradTaxWalkout and with good reason.

I will paste a more in-depth analysis on why I am personally opposed to the GOP tax-plan, and I would also like to thank refinery29.com for reaching out to myself and other graduate students about the GOP Tax Bill.

Here is my elongated response to refinery29:

As an FIU graduate student, I am not allowed to work outside of the University, otherwise, I could lose my graduate funding. By this, my university contract stipulates that as a graduate student, I do not have to pay tuition and I receive a small stipend— that is currently taxed— for the work that I do at the university.  However, because the pay grade does not account for Miami inflation, myself and many other graduate students around the country, are effectively part of the “working poor.” Personally, 86% of my stipend goes towards bills— not including things like gas or groceries. I live in the 25th district of Florida. Our district has a per capita income of a little less than $23,000 and a median household income of less than $44,000. As a graduate student at FIU, I subsist on less than $20,000 a year, which is below the per capita income of our district. To make matters worse, the recent bipartisan report by the CBO revealed that those earning less than $40,000 a year will see an increase in taxes. So as a graduate student and member of Florida’s 25th district, this bill is just a disaster.

I’ve already outreached to my Representative, Mario Diaz-Balart, via email, phone call, and twitter. And all of those times, his responses have been disheartening. It is really as if he’s not paying attention to his constituents. Yesterday I partook in the #gradwalkout for good reason.

This tax plan would tax fictitious income that graduate students simply do not receive. Imagine being paid $20,000 a year in the form of a stipend due to TAing and GAing at your university. Your university costs $20k-60k to attend but your tuition waivers cover those costs due to your low stipend costs. With this GOP tax bill, you’ll be taxed as if you receive $40k-$80k when you only see $20k. That is unfair, unjust, and an obvious attack on higher education.

To say that the bill is not in its final version or form is just not enough for myself and graduate students like me. Myself and many other graduate students, would like a commitment from  our representatives to vigorously reject and/or oppose any stipulations within the Republican tax bill that would harm our access to higher education, in the form of increasing taxes on fictitious income that we simply do not receive.

Current discussions about the GOP tax plan worry me, because the disaster that it reaps for those students in higher education–- over worked due to decreasing tenure ships and increased adjuncting-– is hardly being discussed. Who is fighting for us?

Some have argued that the easy fix to this is to either change our tuition waivers from waivers to scholarships, or simply put the tuition for us at $0. However, both of these disregard that as underpaid workers, if we receive a scholarship and/or our tuition becomes effectively 0, we would no longer need to work at the University and could probably work elsewhere for a bigger salary whilst in school. Tuition waivers guarantee that we are being underpaid to complete our PhD’s in a timely manner via working at the University. In terms of benefits to the University, this tuition waiver status of graduate students, allows them to not have to hire an adjunct or professor— that get paid more than we do. As the Washington Post article rightly said, “charging us tuition, only to waive it, helps to define us as students instead of the essential workers we are.”