MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (WBOY) — WVU Graduate students are demanding change for what they are calling “unlivable wages” from the university.
On Monday several TAs from the English department came together in the Mountainlair to speak about their struggles with making ends meet with their salaries from the university.
“What we do is important, we’re told by the department of what we do that our work is important and the university would have you believe that they think what we do is important, but it’s not reflected in our wages,” a speaker at the gathering said.
The graduate TAs teach undergraduates courses all while taking their own courses and doing a research project for their thesis. Under their contract with the university, the graduate TAs are not allowed to have a second job with WVU. So, at the gathering, many of them signed up for SNAP benefits together to be able to buy food.
“We’re doing this publicly because it’s frankly shameful that WVU does not pay us enough to teach these classes and to eat,” another speaker at the gathering said about signing up for SNAP benefits in front of the crowd.
To be eligible for SNAP benefits as a single person in a household of one a person must make less than $17,667 a year before taxes among other requirements. The salary range for WVU graduate TAs in the English department is $14,000 to $16,500 and is even lower in other departments.
However, SNAP benefits only cover food items and advocates for higher wages said they are also struggling to pay for hygiene items, gas and rent costs.
“Nobody wants to go to class and smell bad or not look nice but unfortunately that’s often something that we contend with because we are having to decide ‘do I want to buy professional clothes to teach on or do I want to buy food that I can eat and get the energy to get up and teach every day?” Taylor Miller, a WVU English Graduate Teaching Assistant said.
Advocates for higher wages said using SNAP benefits is only a “Band-Aid” for the issue and hope the university increases their salaries and lowers the fees they are required to pay.