Takeaway: Incoming international graduate workers and continuing international masters students living abroad face the threat of not receiving their fellowships and salaries for teaching and working this fall. Our union and the Rutgers International Students Working Group (ISWG) urge the university to honor its commitments to incoming international graduate workers, just as it did for continuing international grad workers. Please take a moment now to click here and participate in an email campaign to flood the inboxes of Interim Senior Vice President of Academic Affairs Dick Edwards and Senior Vice President of the Office of General Counsel John Hoffman.
On July 31, the Rutgers administration relented and announced that continuing international graduate students living outside the United States “will be paid as usual, where possible, through existing pathways established during their residence in the U.S.” However, this victory for our international graduate workers did not include newly admitted and funded international graduate students and continuing international masters students, who would only receive Chancellor scholarships or other forms of tuition remittance if they do not live in the U.S. this fall.
This has left our colleagues-to-be in an intolerable state of uncertainty about a future that is days away (hear their voices in this video from the ISWG). With the status of borders, consular/embassy services, and flight availability all in flux, incoming students traveling from many countries in Asia and the Global South may not even be able to enter the United States at this late date. Many incoming international graduate students quit their jobs and ended their rental contracts with the expectation that they would be able to begin their PhDs with stipends or salaries in Fall 2020, only to be abandoned by the administration.
This is unacceptable. We understand there are some bureaucratic obstacles to paying stipends and salaries for our incoming international students without on-boarding procedures that typically happen when they have moved here. However, these are unprecedented circumstances. We believe that Rutgers can follow its Big Ten peers like University of Michigan, Michigan State University, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Northwestern, and University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, which have all chosen to pay their international students still living abroad during the pandemic. The bureaucratic obstacles can be overcome if top administrators decide to do the right thing.
The ISWG communicated with graduate deans regarding the impossible situation facing our new colleagues, and we didn’t receive an adequate response. We learned that some graduate program directors also reached out about this issue and likewise received an unsatisfactory response. The only explanation we’ve seen came in an email from one of our deans to the Graduate Students Association New Brunswick; it read, “Due to lack of documentation, Rutgers will not be able to onboard them into our HR and Payroll systems, they cannot receive compensation (salary/stipend/health insurance). This is absolute. There is no way around this.”
But why is this “absolute”? Why can other peer institutions in the Big Ten pay their incoming international students if Rutgers claims it can’t be done? We are aware that our graduate deans are not the main decision-makers on this issue; that’s why we are directing this email to SVPs Hoffman and Edwards and asking them to take immediate steps to support all international grad workers.
We previously commended President Jonathan Holloway for defending our international students when ICE threatened their legal status and for reversing the previous administration’s decision to not pay international graduate workers if they chose to study and work abroad. We hope that the administration under his guidance will follow through on its promise to ensure the safety and well-being of some of the most vulnerable members of the Rutgers community. Rutgers needs to pay continuing international masters students and deliver stipends and salaries to incoming international graduate students.
Rutgers has only a week to go to do the right thing, so time is of the essence. We’re asking you to help us flood the inboxes of Interim Senior Vice President of Academic Affairs Dick Edwards and Senior Vice President of the Office of General Counsel John Hoffman. We’re concentrating our emails during work hours today, so please click here now to participate.
Rutgers International Student Working Group
Todd Wolfson, President, Rutgers AAUP-AFT
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