The nine-month stipends for some doctoral students in most of Loyola’s graduate schools will get a nearly 56 percent increase, or an extra $10,000, effective next semester, the university announced in an April 23 email. Stipends were previously set at $18,000 with a $500 increase per year — one of the lowest among Chicago area universities.
The increase only affects doctoral students on research assistantships, teaching assistantships and fellowships in four of Loyola’s graduate schools: the School of Education, School of Social Work, the Graduate School and the Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing.
It’s one of “a number of initiatives underway to improve the quality of graduate education [at Loyola],” according to Emily Barman — Dean of the Graduate School and Vice Provost for Graduate Education.
Barman and representatives from the Loyola Graduate Workers’ Union (LGWU) have been meeting monthly since last summer, and stipend increases were, among other things, one of the main topics discussed, — according to Nathan Ellstrand, member of the union’s organizing committee and a doctoral student.
Barman — who started at Loyola in July — said there was a “wide consensus [$18,000] was inadequate,” and the decision came after meetings with several groups on campus, including the Graduate Student Advisory Council, graduate program directors and the LGWU.
“The representatives of the [LGWU] organizing effort were clear and vocal about the request for higher stipends, but they were one among many who voiced severe dissatisfaction with the amount,” Barman said.
Alec Stubbs — a member of the union’s organizing committee and former co-chair — said this “enormous success” was the “result of five years of hard work and organizing,” but there’s still more work to be done, and the fight for recognition isn’t over yet.
“The next step is to make sure we get to the bargaining table to actually solidify a contract,” Stubbs, 27, said. “While this increase is obviously welcome, and we view it as a success, we need to make sure it’s backed by the force of law.”
In a press release from LGWU, the group said they’ll “continue the fight for all graduate students,” — including master’s students — as well as for better health insurance and benefits.
Before the raise, Loyola had one of the lowest graduate stipends in the Chicago area at only $18,000 per nine-month academic year. The University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) sets baseline stipends at $20,615 in accordance with the contract between them and the Graduate Employees Organization, Local 6297 (UIC GEO Local 6297) — UIC’s recognized graduate workers union.
Northwestern University and the University of Chicago had baseline stipends set at $34,176 and $31,000 respectively.
The increase was celebrated by graduate workers’ unions across the city.
“[The increase] is really good news for graduate students everywhere,” Laura Colaneri, a member of Graduate Students United at the University of Chicago said. “It’s great to see our graduate colleagues get closer to a stipend they deserve.”
Colaneri, 29, said the increase not only helps Loyola graduate students, but organizing efforts at the University of Chicago as well.
“A common argument [the University of Chicago] has used is ‘our stipend is generous’ since it’s higher than stipends at other public and private schools,” the fifth-year doctoral candidate said. “So for Loyola to finally recognize the value of their graduate workers really shows to our own administration they have to be competitive.”
Jared O’Connor — co-president of UIC GEO Local 6297 — echoed Colaneri and said he hopes the increase at Loyola will let his school “see that it’s not an impossible wage.”
“We’re all endlessly happy and excited for them and hope it opens a broader conversation of how labor is assessed at the graduate level,” O’Connor said.
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