Around three dozen University at Buffalo students and faculty members gathered on the university’s North Campus Wednesday to protest what they say are unlivable wages for undergraduate and graduate students who work on campus.
The protest led to the group demonstrating to UB president Satish Tripathi's office in Capen Hall to deliver a petition calling on the university to raise the wage amount for undergrad students to $15 an hour, and stipends for graduate students who work as Teachers Assistants to $24,000 per year.
UB Graduate Student Employees Union organizer Willis McCumber works as a teacher’s assistant. He said with what the university brings in annually, it would be a drop in the bucket to increase stipends.
“Our requests represent a very small fraction of what the UB administrators control,” McCumber said. “We want them to change their budget priorities and put people first. People instead of priorities.”
McCumber believes UB is prioritizing athletics and “vanity” architectural projects, including the One World Café, slated to open in the summer of 2021.
Undergraduate student Snigdha Motadaka works on UB’s South Campus, where she currently earns $11.40 an hour.
“I do agree that the minimum wage is extremely low, and three months ago it was even lower,” Motadaka said. “It was like $10.50.”
Another point of contention for the protestors was the amount of fees they have to pay. One of those fees is called the “Death Fee” for international students for repatriation should they die while enrolled as a student.
UB said international students are required to have health insurance and the insurance covers costs associated with repatriation, but would not go as far as to call it a fee.