Column: We cannot sit idly by while our fellow students are being exploited

Our graduate students are being exploited right under our noses, and too many undergraduates aren’t even aware of it.

In the classroom or at the columns, armed with chalk or a megaphone, we’ve all witnessed our crimson-clad graduate students in action. They’re an impassioned breed, fervently teaching undergraduates new concepts, all the while soaking up their own lessons and balancing their lives at home.

University-vetted, graduate students have plenty of wisdom to share, so students often find themselves hanging onto each word in English classes and seeking them out during their office hours for help with those pesky problem sets. They have so much to offer, so we listen; but it seems the university isn’t offering them the same courtesy.

Since early August when MU sent out a very last-minute email informing them that the university would no longer be subsidizing their health care, graduate students have been raising their voices and fighting back for their rights. They’ve staged walkouts and protests, peaceably raising awareness and attempting to get their needs met by administration. Now, in the aftermath of these demonstrations, it’s more important than ever not to let the struggle of our graduate students silently slip away.

Their outrageous demands included: Subsidized health care A living wage On-campus childcare More affordable university housing Full tuition waivers Removal of departmental fees

How can we have extra money just lying around for such frivolous spending when we have sports teams and new Starbucks operations to finance? What next? Are they going to demand clean drinking water and an asbestos-free teaching environment? The absurdity!

Without our grad students, this university would be so much lesser for students and faculty alike, and yet administration continues to dismiss their basic human needs, tossing them out in the rain like flea-infested puppies.

They are using our students as workhorses, sending them out to the fields without the compensation their diligent work has earned. This cruel treatment is unacceptable from anyone, but it is absolutely deplorable that this blatant disrespect comes from the very people who are supposed to be protecting and advocating for the students at MU.

This issue of unthinkable disrespect is happening right under our noses, and perhaps the most unfortunate fact is that many undergraduates aren’t even aware of it. Undergraduates make up the majority of this campus and we are not using our power effectively. We seem to be pitifully absent at the events the graduate students have organized, and many aren’t even aware of what they are going through at all.

Just because undergraduates are not being directly persecuted does not mean that we aren’t affected, and it does not mean that it isn’t our concern. When the university treats a group of students unfairly, it has treated us all unfairly. When the well-being of each and every student is not at the top of the checklist, something's very wrong with our system.

We cannot sit idly by while our fellow students are being exploited. We must be active participants in the politics of our university. We must celebrate our administration when they do great things, and we must hold them fiercely accountable when they have done their students wrong. Together we are 35,000 voices, and 35,000 voices can carry quite a distance. We must stand and we must scream with our graduate students for the justice they deserve as human beings.

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