‘We’ll have to revisit it’: GTA raises put on hold


Graduate assistants who were told they would be receiving a pay raise won’t be getting one in the foreseeable future.

Dennis Livesay, dean of the graduate school, had planned to distribute funds previously allocated for the graduate assistant health care between the lowest paid assistantships.

Portions of the Affordable Care Act made the university’s subsidized health care plan illegal, but the Department of Labor has recently announced that it will not enforce those parts of the ACA.

“We responded to formal guidelines from the federal government,” Livesay said. “Then universities lobbied (on behalf of their health care programs). As soon as we heard, we kept the health plan. We thought it was the right thing to do.”

With the health care plan remaining in place, this removes the funds that were previously to be used to raise assistantship levels.

Livesay said that raising the compensation for graduate assistants is something he has made a priority, but that leaving the health care plan in place has removed the funding that he was previously going to use to give raises.

“I absolutely want to raise assistantship levels, but I don’t know how we’re going to do it,” Livesay said. “I’ve had conversations with four or five departments.”

Livesay said that budget constraints were a hardship across the university and that funding from the state would most likely in decline for some time.

“I’m a pragmatist, and I don’t expect the state economy to improve,” Livesay said. “But we’ve hit our low.”

“We’re not the only state institution that’s suffering. We’re seeing an erosion of public will to fund higher education across the country.”

Livesay said that the funding the university gets from the state is the one used to pay faculty and graduate assistantships, and that funding from the bonds being issued to pay for Innovation campus and the endowment donated to the university could not be used to raise compensation.

“A bond is an infrastructure thing, and it has to go that project,” Livesay said. “The money endowed to the university is intended for specific things. If people donate for XYZ and we want to use it for ABC, we would have to ask those donors if we could use that money for ABC.”

Livesay also called for a graduate student association to be formed and give the students a voice.

“I’d like grad students to have a voice and chime in on things,” Livesay said. “I put it on my strategic plan. We planted a seed and students are organizing themselves.

With president-elect Donald Trump’s plans to reconsider the ACA, the future of the health care plan is also in question. There is also a possibility the Department of Labor could begin enforcing those regulations.

“Some say it’s still in conflict with the government, but right now they’re saying it they won’t enforce it,” Livesay said. “We’ll have to revisit it.”