Stony Brook Worker Editorial
In the fall of 2020, graduate student workers here at Stony Brook University – one of the largest and most prestigious public universities in the country, and the flagship university of the SUNY system – won an important victory against the university’s administration and its fees policy. Even though graduate workers at Stony Brook provide more than half of the labor required for teaching and grading, the university has for years charged graduate student employees an array of what they call ‘broad-based fees’ every semester. These fees are vaguely defined and non-transparent. As part of this fee package, for instance, grad student employees were forced to pay line items such as an ‘Academic Excellence Fee’ or a ‘College Fee,’ which, put together, amounted to over a thousand dollars each semester, without any tangible information as to what these fees pay for and why they are levied in the first place. The total tally of these broad-based fees stood at around $700 per semester in 2013, but in recent years – due to alleged budget deficits, and in keeping with the general neoliberal trend of further commodifying higher education – the university had consistently increased these fees every semester, to the point where they had spiraled out of control and had become untenable for generally underpaid and overworked graduate student employees.
In countries around the world, May 1 is commonly recognized as International Workers’ Day. But when it comes to honoring the accomplishments of organized labor, the United States occupies quite a different ideological and symbolic terrain compared to most western industrialized democracies.