Letters to the Editor

Our Reader: Graduate child care subsidy is absurdly insufficient

Last month the administration, with much self-congratulation, announced that it will offer graduate students a child care subsidy of $1,000 per academic year.

“Syracuse University is fortunate to have such a vibrant community of graduate scholars,” Dean of the Graduate School  Peter Vanable explained, “and we want to be sure they have the support they need to thrive during their time here.”

This inspired spell of generosity, he continued, “underscores the University’s and the Chancellor’s own commitment to do all we can to attract and retain outstanding student scholars at every stage of their academic career.”

However useful, the subsidy remains absurdly insufficient — particularly when we consider what graduate student employees, those teaching assistants, graders and researchers are actually paid by our suddenly concerned and caring university.

According to the latest available report by the Graduate Student Organization, on average graduate employees working full time take home — before taxes and health care deductions — only $17,070 over the academic year. This is barely a nine month calculated living wage for the City of Syracuse. Such calculations neglect that grad students must live all 12 months of the year.

Parents of a newborn in Onondaga County, on average, pay $12,792 per year for child care. For grads already scraping by, such costs are impossible. SU’s own child care center, thankfully, has a sliding tuition scale, where the poverty wages of the school’s “outstanding student scholars” bring the yearly cost down to $7,384. Unfortunately, parents can expect to wait at least two years — the time it takes to get a master’s degree — before their kid might be admitted.

The timing of the subsidy betrays the administration’s gesture of noblesse oblige, occurring as it is among a nationwide movement of graduate employees demanding unionized, democratic workplaces where they can confidently afford rent, groceries and, of course, child care.

So, and despite the genuine benefits of maybe covering 1/13th of child care costs, this act of ostensibly gratuitous charity is but a cheap, calculated diversion from the broader system of crass economic exploitation that defines grad student life at SU, a system that produces the need for such a subsidy in the first place.

The labor of graduate students, we know, puts a whole lot of food on the administration’s table. Grad students should neither be grateful for nor content with these miserable scraps. We need, and deserve, a seat at the table.

Brian Hennigan

Geography Ph.D. Candidate


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