Friday 7th April: Weekly Review

Flyer from the original GET-UP campaign. Not much has changed.

I’ve incurred thousands of dollars in out-of-pocket dental expenses for root canals and other unavoidable procedures, despite having purchased Penn’s dental plan. These costly procedures were essential to my health, but were not covered by Penn insurance.

— Anonymous, Graduate Student in School of Arts and Sciences


If my funding package had matched the length of my degree, I would be able to focus on my research instead of being anxious and distracted about my finances.

— Miranda Weinberg, Educational Linguistics, Graduate School of Education & Anthropology, School of Arts and Sciences


While we could be earning 3 times more money working in industry, we decide to share our passion for research with Penn, devoting our time and our effort to do high-quality research. But only Penn seems to be benefiting from this research, since we are not compensated enough.

— Anonymous, School of Engineering and Applied Sciences


I have tried to find external funding, but all I’ve gotten so far is rejection letters. Unless my wife can find a job next fall, we’ll be running out of money around September.

— Aaron Freeman, Linguistics, School of Arts and Sciences


I do not come from a rich family and the salaries in my home country are much lower than in the United States, so for me this was a serious cost that I had to incur after what was already a very costly application process and before paying for my plane tickets, security deposit for the apartment, and furniture. My visa expires and has to be renewed every year, so if I want to be able to travel outside of the United States, I have to go back to my home country and pay the visa application fee every year.

— Anonymous, Graduate student in Wharton School of Business


As an Ed.D., woman, person of color, I’m faced with unique obstacles of having to struggle more as a doctoral which affects me financially and personally. It should not be that I have to choose between starting a family and getting an education.

— Victoria Singh Gill, Reading, Writing, Literacy, Graduate School of Education


Personally, I am pushed to constantly thinking of getting another job to make our ends meet, meanwhile working day and night to finish the research projects and helping take care of the baby (because we cannot afford daycare).

— Anonymous, Graduate Student in the School of Arts and Sciences


Graduate student workers at Penn formed GET-UP to fight for a voice at the table to negotiate and improve our material conditions. Throughout Penn’s “graduate student appreciation week,” GET-UP has released multiple testimonies from graduate student workers in different schools and departments who feel that the university has not adequately addressed their grievances. These are not small issues. Nor do they apply only to a tiny minority of the graduate student body.


Graduate students face insufficient coverage for dental and vision care, leading to mounting financial costs. Funding varies dramatically from department to department. Support for families remains sporadic and inadequate. International students face little help with visa costs or tax issues.  


Sadly, this is only the tip of the iceberg. Despite today’s end to Penn’s “graduate student appreciation week” ending today, GET-UP will continue to release statements about issues graduate student workers face, and how a union could help solve them, all throughout next week.


We know we are worth more. Without us, Penn would not run. And the administration should acknowledge that. But without a contract and a platform to negotiate with the administration over our conditions and rights, we have no voice. GET-UP can provide that voice.

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