SDSU student workers protest losing health benefits

SDSU student workers protest losing health benefits

Nearly 400 graduate student workers and their dependents would be affected by these changes.

SAN DIEGO COUNTY, Calif. — Teaching Associates (TA) at San Diego State University gathered Wednesday to protest a recent university decision to remove health benefits and cut hours for hundreds of student workers. 

Affected student workers said SDSU plans to cut TA job appointments from 20 hours per week to 16 hours per week and drop them from university-supported health insurance plans. Nearly 400 graduate student workers and their dependents would be affected by these changes.

“I stepped away from my career in order to pursue this degree, with the understanding that I could make that sacrifice as long as my son and I would still be able to access quality healthcare through my position as a TA,” said Garland Gerber, SDSU Social Work PhD Student and TA. “My son and I rely on daily medications that we would not be able to afford if SDSU succeeds in taking away TA health benefits.”

Over 800 Teaching Associates and SDSU community members have signed on to an Open Letter to SDSU President Adela de la Torre and Dean of Graduate Studies Tracy Love. UAW Local 4123 said they’ve filed an “Unfair Practice Charge” related to the changes with the California Public Employment Relations Board.

“It is abhorrent that SDSU would choose to drop graduate student workers and their dependents from health insurance,” said Lark Winner, President of UAW Local 4123. “UAW Local 4123 calls on President de la Torre and Dean Love to rescind this decision.”

SDSU released the following statement:

“The university is implementing a plan during the 2022-23 academic year in support of master’s and doctoral teaching assistants (TAs) who have instructional responsibilities next year. This plan is designed to accomplish several goals that include the following:

  • Defining clear and predictable workload expectations for graduate students while meeting the needs of undergraduate instruction. Aligning graduate student compensation with workload and teaching expectations, and specifically aligning with the California State University’s policy.
  • Improving the level of compensation offered to graduate students and support for students as they progress toward degree completion.
  • Ensuring that students are able to make good progress towards degree completion in their academic programs of study. 

It is true that this plan will result in changes to some instructional appointments that were in place last year, but – and this is important: It is not accurate to say that TA hours are merely cut. It is true that this plan will result in changes to some instructional appointments that were in place last year, but – and this is important: It is not accurate to say that TA hours are merely being cut; any change in hours will be made to ensure that TA appointments align directly with teaching loads and expected instructional effort. Further, TA appointments appropriately aligned will remain as such. 

Changes in time-base will occur on a case by case basis and, specifically, based on instructional needs and the defined instructional duties agreed upon by each college and each TA. SDSU has prepared to invest $1.5 million in additional funding to support graduate students in the next academic year, and is introducing a centrally funded non-salary in-state tuition waiver for qualifying graduate students whose TA appointments are at a level of 0.2 and above, which will be determined at the college level. Some have also raised questions about access to health insurance. The university has ongoing plans to help ensure that graduate students have health insurance, which is required for graduate students in SDSU and SDSU Imperial Valley state-side graduate programs.

Some have also raised questions about access to health insurance. The university has ongoing plans to help ensure that graduate students have health insurance, which is required for graduate students in SDSU and SDSU Imperial Valley state-side graduate programs. The university last year launched the Graduate Student Health Insurance Program (GSHIP) to ensure that all students enrolled in state-side graduate or post baccalaureate programs are enrolled in a health insurance plan. Students have options, not a single choice for their health care needs. To support our graduate students, the university has designated specific staff members to support them and to ensure that they have coverage – and that dependent care needs are also addressed before the start of the fall semester.”

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