Graduate students march to UF administration office

Shaking a bottle of peanuts, Paula Fernandez, a 31-year-old UF teaching assistant, protests fees for employees of the university 

Graduate students want the UF administration to pay up.

Lugging a giant check up to the steps of Tigert Hall, more than 40 graduate assistants protested being required to pay fees despite being employees of the university. The students from Graduate Assistants United rallied on Plaza of the Americas before marching to Tigert Friday afternoon.

The union advocates for the rights of graduate students, said Roberto Munoz, a 36-year-old paid assistant for the UF union.

Though tuition is waived for graduate assistants, they’re still liable to pay about $700 in fees each semester, said Munoz, a UF anthropology doctoral student.

“It’s not fair for graduate students to pay fees to work here,” Munoz said.

When Mandy Moore moved to Gainesville in August to attend graduate school, she spent her first month sleeping on an air mattress and grading English papers on a green yoga mat. Today, she has a bed, but she’s still doing work on the mat.

The 24-year-old UF English doctoral student said she finds it difficult to scrape together enough money to buy furniture for her apartment and pay for her rent, food and car insurance. Moore was charged about $750 in fees from UF this semester despite being an employee.

“It just really cuts out of my ability to save and to be financially stable,” Moore said.

University officials could provide graduate students an additional fee waiver to help remedy the cost, said Mary Roca, co-president of Graduate Assistants United. Starting in January, graduate assistants received a $100 waiver for the year that covers fees, but it wasn’t enough, she said.

“We’re here to show solidarity across our campus because this is an issue that unites graduate assistants and to point out the injustice of having to pay to work,” Roca, a 28-year-old UF English doctoral student, said.

Contact Gillian Sweeney at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @gilliangsweeney

Gillian is a PR student and Staff Writer. She grew up a New York native and is now exploring the Sunshine State. If you have a story idea, email her at [email protected]