Purdue’s recent memo (sent last Friday, April 8) states that approximately 21% of Purdue graduate student staff can expect to see an increase in their compensation at the start of the next academic year. In reading this, I wondered...only 21%?

Missing from the memo was clear information about how these decisions would be made and who would be affected by these changes. Would I, a graduate student in one of the least funded departments on campus, be part of the lucky few?

The last few years of the pandemic have made it more apparent than ever that choosing to include some groups at the expense of excluding others has considerable implications for the well-being and livelihood of the graduate student community that has chosen to invest in Purdue. As much as I want to applaud Purdue administration for taking a step forward and highlighting a need to retain and recruit top talent, citing market research as the primary basis for decision making only perpetuates a culture in which the most powerful stakeholders are comfortably distanced from the needs and perspectives of those that hold less power.

To make progress, Purdue administration must stop treating graduate students as expendable resources and equating their value to a numbers game. We need greater transparency in how monetary resources are allocated.

We need greater representation of people at the table making informed and equitable decisions about compensation and about the institutional structures that marginalize and oppress graduate students, particularly students of color. Pay increases do little to communicate that Purdue cares if the culture of capitalizing on graduate students’ labor to serve critical teaching, research and community building roles continues to be reinforced as the dominant narrative.

- Brenda Shein, graduate student in counseling psychology

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