On Friday Queereka’s Vince posted this article about the Duke Collective, a group of Duke University graduate students who have decided to pool their funding as a means to collectivize risk and help provide for international students unable to earn additional income by working off-campus. Vince raised a lot of good points in the article, including the fact that many graduate students do not earn a living wage during the time they work toward their degrees and that this can present a significant obstacle for these students. The Duke Collective is certainly a creative means of dealing with this problem, and I wish those students who have decided to participate in that project all the best with their endeavour.
There is, however, a major unstated premise in Vince’s article that I think bears further examination: the idea that graduate study is equivalent to work, and therefore all graduate students should be getting financial packages on par with what they would be earning in full-time employment. This is a perfectly reasonable position to take. Grad school, after all, certainly feels like a full-time job, and as Vince says, it can be incredibly demoralizing to work very hard for, say, five-to-seven years without actually making enough money to live on. Unfortunately, we do not yet live in Star Trek’s post-scarcity economy, and therefore it’s important to think through why the current system is the way it is, what fully funding graduate studies would entail, and what effects it would have on academic labour generally.
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