To the editor:
The week of Oct. 28 to Nov. 3 is the nationally recognized Campus Equity Week, which focuses attention on issues of fairness and equality of education. It falls at an awkward time for the University of Kansas administration, because the negotiations for a new contract between KU and graduate teachers have extended into a second year.
The negotiations process involves KU administrators and their legal team meeting to exchange counter-proposals with the Graduate Teaching Assistants Coalition (GTAC). GTAC is the union representing all GTAs and is affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and the Kansas Association of Public Employees (KAPE).
Undergraduate education is greatly affected by GTAs, who teach around one-third of undergraduate courses. But despite their valuable and essential labors, GTAs are not fairly compensated by KU.
Working conditions for KU's graduate teachers remain sub-par when contrasted to institutions with which KU compares itself. For example, the minimum salary at the University of Iowa is $14,130. At the University of Michigan, GTAs' minimum salary is $12,560.
KU doesn't even have a minimum salary. Pay varies widely. According to KU, the average GTA pay is above $9,000. And graduate teachers in some departments receive only $8,400 for the school year. The university administration needs to allocate enough funds so that all GTAs earn closer to a living wage. That also helps recruit and retain the best graduate teachers.
If KU wants to be a top-ranked university, it needs to fund education adequately and to treat its employees better. Then perhaps in future years, Campus Equity Week will be more of an occasion for celebration.