Originally created 04/24/98

Graduate student group seeks better pay, benefits



ATHENS, Ga. -- A graduate student English teacher is upset that the University of Georgia docked his pay for 10 days because he went to England last year to be with his dying father.

So Ben Salt decided to do something to improve his working conditions, forming a graduate student advocacy group, the Georgia Graduate Forum.

Mr. Salt said his supervisor explained his pay loss by telling him, "You're a temporary, part-time worker." Mr. Salt said, "I've been here six years. I'm not temporary. I am not part time. It is an insult and it needs to end now."

About 80 graduate student assistants rallied at the Tate Student Center on Wednesday for better wages and benefits. Mr. Salt urged them to join his group, and possibly a union, to goad the administration into raising stipends and extending their health coverage.

The fledgling 260-member advocacy group was formed as a way to draw attention to the university's 2,800 graduate students with paid assistantships in research and teaching. The students earn about $7,400 a year on average for nine months of work and receive no sick leave or retirement.

Graduate School Dean Gordhan Patel said he has begun to poll other universities to compare their compensation packages to the University of Georgia's.