For students walking through campus Wednesday afternoon, the chants of over 60 University graduate students could be heard echoing from Wescoe Hall where a protest on taxes was held.
“Tax the rich — not the students,” “This taxation means no graduation,” and other chants rang out from Wescoe Beach, which was the site of a “walk out” this afternoon that was held by the KU Graduate Teaching Assistants Coalition: a group that’s adamantly against the recently proposed tax plan.
It was because of this opposition that the group, along with other University graduate students, spent their afternoon wielding signs and megaphones instead of teaching at the fronts of classrooms.
“I think it’s not just going to hurt students; it’s going to hurt the whole country,” said Misty Porter, a first-year doctoral student in the geology department. “Because if you don’t fund higher education, you don’t fund the people who are making your cell phones, that are going to build your roads, build your cars, build your houses.”
The current proposed changes to the U.S. tax plan, which the U.S. House of Representatives passed earlier this month, includes multiple changes to the way graduate students are taxed. This includes tuition waivers and remissions becoming taxable.
“You already have to pay taxes on the GTA money and your grants and scholarships sometimes are taxed as well. So you already have to pay taxes on that income which is hard enough,” Porter said. “So to pay taxes, more taxes, on money that’s half our salary because tuition is pretty much twice our salary.”
Kait Salley, a second-year graduate student in the goology department, attended the protest with Porter. Holding a sign that said, "Don’t tax graduate student tuition,” Salley described her feelings on the importance on the involvement of other individuals at the University.
“People need to know what’s going on, and they need to support the local student community,” Salley said. “Because we already have very little money.”
Along with advocating, Salley and Porter said they were making phone calls to their representatives to express their wish for a “no” vote for the tax plan.
“I’ve been calling the Senate’s office and encouraging other people to do that as well because the more that the Senate feels the pressure from people,” Porter said. “The more that they might go against it hopefully.”
The protest, which was organized by GTAC, was also joined by the American Federation of Teachers of Kansas, or AFT Kansas. In between handing out hand-made posters to attendees and leading chants, organizer Jennifer Hymon-Harpe talked about what students can do to have their voice and opinion heard on the tax plan.
“Students definitely have a voice,” Hymon-Harpe said. “If everybody could vote no and then maybe ask one other person to do the same — it would be a huge impact”
AFT Kansas, the ‘parent organization’ of GTAC, has a national ‘day of action’ each year. This year, Hymon-Harpe said they chose to make that day Wednesday and made the trip from Topeka to Lawrence to get the word out to University students they feel can make a difference.
“At least if you’re doing it, you’re doing your part,” Hymon-Harpe said. “You have a voice, use it.”