Not exactly easy street
Jason Morgan ("Nice Work If You Can Get It," Letters, 11/27/2013) devalues and distorts the essential and precarious situation of graduate students (recently featured in Noah Phillips' "The Life of a Teaching Assistant," 11/22/2013).
As graduate students, we are students, teachers and researchers. We meet with our advisers, develop research projects, keep up with recent scholarship, apply for grants and present at and attend conferences. All graduate students, whether in-state, out-of-state, funded or unfunded, must partake in this training if they want to be competitive on the job market.
Unfortunately, only some of us are lucky enough to earn tuition remission. We do receive a monthly stipend, though the actual take-home pay is low -- $1,067.98 (my last monthly check). Additionally, our positions rarely carry through the summer months, leaving graduate students scrambling to find work to get by until fall semester. The work we do is a necessary part of our training and absolutely essential to the functioning of the university, and our compensation would be even lower if not for the TAA, which worked to get us tuition remission, benefits and our stipend, though the latter remains frustratingly lower than those at peer institutions.
In addition to exaggerating our take-home pay, Morgan suggests that scholars in the humanities study esoteric and insignificant subjects. But being part of the academic community as well as upholding the Wisconsin Idea means finding, researching and presenting topics that speak to a variety of audiences on numerous levels of intellectual engagement.
Alyson Sewell (TA and PA in German and Dutch), Gregory Jones-Katz (history), Grace Allen (history), Jillian Slaight (history), Brad Baranowski (history/communication arts), Jackson Foote (journalism and mass communication)
"I'll gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today" is the classic logic of many a progressive like Ruth Conniff ("How Wisconsin Missed Out on Health Care," 12/6/2013). Always a two-legged rhetorical stool of need and urgency but lacking the third leg of economic reality, such emotional appeals inevitably crash over time for lack of a full analysis.
Accepting federal Medicaid support today and ignoring the risk of a future withdrawal of "trust me" federal funding is precisely the instant gratification that straightlines into unaffordable union pensions and half-baked rail projects (read: California high speed and the New Mexico Road Runner train).