USC graduate students organize, participate in national walkout

Graduate students participating in a national walkout gathered at Tommy Trojan on Wednesday to protest a provision that would raise taxes on graduate students by almost 400 percent. Kyle Kawaguchi | Daily Trojan

Gathering around Tommy Trojan on Wednesday morning, hundreds of graduate students and professors rallied to oppose provisions in the House of Representatives’ Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. Some held signs demonstrating their opposition, while others chanted “Kill this bill!” and “Fight on!” in Hahn Plaza.

The provisions the crowd opposed would raise taxes on graduate students by almost 400 percent, according to the Grad Tax Walkout website.

The Grad Tax Walkout, a national protest, was planned and organized by five USC graduate students: Hannah Khoddam, Nina Jhaveri, Marie Gillespie, Hannah Rasmussen and Miriam Rubenson. They are all clinical psychology students pursuing doctorate degrees.

Since the USC students put the plan into action, hundreds of students attending 50 universities spanning 32 states registered to participate. The proposed tax bill, which passed the House of Representatives two weeks ago with only Republican support, would change the current law that allows graduate students to receive free tuition without being taxed. The new bill, if signed into law, would reclassify free tuition as income, which can be taxed.    

This prospect has left many graduate students, who often earn little income on top of receiving free tuition, worried about not being able to afford to continue their higher education.

“If this bill passes, I don’t know if I will continue my [doctorate degree] — and this is my dream,” said Mariel Bello, a first-generation college student studying in the clinical science program.

Bello ran a photo campaign table during the Grad Tax Walkout at Tommy Trojan on Wednesday.  Bello sat behind a foldable table ,helping students, faculty and general passers-by fill out signs explaining why their tuition waiver was important.

The table was filled with write-in signs with examples of what graduate students do: provide free services to veterans, work to cure cancer and provide therapy to low-income children in the community.

“Ultimately, I’m here to provide an avenue for students to fight against this bill,” Bello said of the rally’s photo campaign, which helped gain social media traction for the movement.

Stanley Huey, an associate professor of psychology and American studies and ethnicity, was one of the first speakers to kick off the event. He spoke to the crowd about his own experience as a graduate student.

“I got a very modest stipend because the government was investing in me,” Huey said. “Debates at the time were how you opened up access, how you increased opportunities for students to get a good education. But the House bill is the inverse of that.”

Following Huey, her adviser, Gillespie marched up to the steps of Tommy Trojan with a bullhorn and instructed protesters to pull out their cell phones. Several hundred protesters pulled phones out of pockets and backpacks, as she instructed everyone to take a picture or video of the event.

“I need you to post [that] on social media,” Gillespie said. “Do it loudly, do it proudly. We are higher education and we will not be taken away from America!”

Gillespie encouraged rally participants to approach the surrounding tables, which were organized around different themes to help individuals get involved.

One table hosted a phone bank and laid out step-by-step instructions about how to call state senators and representatives, as well as a word-for-word script on what to say.

Graduate students also circled the crowd with clipboards and laptops, aiming to get signatures on appropriate petitions.

“I think this is hopefully the beginning of something,” Lyden said of the event. “Graduate students across the nation, I think, are a great group. If we can come together to fight something so absurd, we should keep going.”

22 replies
  1. Mom with Greek Son
    Mom with Greek Son says:

    Once again this current group of young people want more freebies while the rest of us pay the bill. Free food, sex without marriage and unrestrained licentiousness without judgement.

    I pay taxes, lots and lots of taxes because the Lord has blessed my family with his grace. I have written checks to the US Treasury (not the IRS for you that don’t pay any taxes) that would make many people gag in disbelief. I would much rather take the blessings my family receives and pass those funds directly to those in real need. Instead my money passes through the hands of our immoral government and subsidizes new i-phones and spring break vacations for those unwilling to pay anything on their own behalf.

    Regardless, I am going to pray for all of you!

    God Bless!

        • satriale_1
          satriale_1 says:

          Many grad students go to school because they are offered a tuition waiver. This is not income. Your assumptions about me are wrong as well. You are sick.

          • satriale_1
            satriale_1 says:

            You can’t explain away the inadequacies of your arguments by calling the younger generation entitled while simultaneously ignoring how pampered your generation was.

          • satriale_1
            satriale_1 says:

            Pampering is not the best word. Comparatively, boomers had it much easier when they were coming of age (economically). Riding progressive reforms from the 1930’s and the post-war boom, boomers had strong unions, higher labor share, higher real wages, affordable schooling, affordable health care (for-profit health care was illegal until the Nixon administration), and affordable housing. Considering housing, LA’s median home value in 1996 was $163,800. Using the BLS inflation calculator that comes out to $252,811 in 2017. The median cost of housing stock in LA in July 2017 was $589,000. Even during the recession it only dipped to $369,200.

          • satriale_1
            satriale_1 says:

            You can refuse to accept that millenials face a tougher economic climate but my statements are based on economic reports and data. If you google anything related to this you can find hundreds of reports. Keep your head in the sand

          • Thekatman
            Thekatman says:

            Pampered? Perhaps there are some, but most people I know had to work for our successes. The younger gens want it provided for them. I have first-hand knowledge of such behavior and requirements from the Millenials….. though not all M’s are crybabies, but most are. Just watch the news.

    • ProsperoWeeps
      ProsperoWeeps says:

      Stop with the “I am going to pray for you” BS… You sound exactly like the Pharisees that Jesus mentioned on how NOT to pray. Keep your rat infested prayers to yourself, you self-righteous Delphic priestess.

  2. Thekatman
    Thekatman says:

    The whole point of this tax bill is to out everyone on solid ground all to be treated as fairly as possible. Free tuition is a benefit that others don’t get so why should you be n somspexial. If you cannot afford to pay tuition, get loans grants and scholarships to help what you can pay. If you tried to get public assistance for foods stamps, housing subsidies, etc… you’d find that your free tuition is considered income and you won’t qualify. This has been going on for decades and is nothing new.

    What you should be protesting is not the fact that the government wants to reclassified the free tuition as income,but that the high cost of getting an education in this country has skyrocketed because the feds have ex been subsidizing your cost of tuition.

    USC amongst most universities have outrageous costs to attend the university, except when they provided that info M to the NCAA, during the discussi I ns abiut paying student athletes a subsidy to help with the cost of attending the university. USC undervalued that number so much that USC get less than half of that benefit than student athletes at the University of Tennessee. Give me a break. You guys are protesting the wrong entity. It is the university that you should protest, for enacting the highest fees in the world, rather than the federal government. … this n sin why the feds are pulling out of augmenting the out of control university cost of education. Get loans, grants, academic scholarships. Free education? You know better than that. Nothing is free.

    • satriale_1
      satriale_1 says:

      This adds tax burdens to poor graduate students who are working for the school on top of their studies. Many will be forced to stop attending their respective programs. The U.S. will have less people with advanced degrees. You are incredibly misinformed.

      • Thekatman
        Thekatman says:

        No. not misinformed. Perhaps you should pursue your PhD certification from a university that provides for the same or similar research for your doctorate, but without the heavy burden of paying income taxes on the assessed value of the free tuition. Or protest the university to stop increasing tuition fees. Nikias is all about fund raising and the high cost of tuition does not have to happen. USC can certainly reduce the cost of tuition, but then that wouldn’t be cool in the eyes of university presidents who are always trying to outdo one another.

        Everybody has to pay taxes, so why not you?
        If you win the lottery, you have to pay income taxes on that money.
        If you win in Vegas, you have to or “should” pay income taxes.
        So if you receive free tuition, you should have to pay income taxes on that benefit.
        Why not petition the university to consider the free tuition to be based on a merit scholarship?
        Why not petition the university to pay you more for your “post-grad” status as a researcher.
        If you are not doing research for the university but for your doctorate, then you should foot the cost of your education. Why should I as an alumni, or even another student? Someone has to pay for the cost of your education. Be an adult and be responsible for your own actions. Life is a bitch. So stop bitching about the ramifications of your decisions. That’s called life. We all make mistakes, but it’s how you handle the challenges that makes you grow up and become a contributor to society and not a self-professed, better than thou leach.

        The US will continue to support advanced degree programs because eventually the university system will have to reduce the cost of tuition if the tax incentives go away for the attendees, and if the government stops subsidizing the tuition. You might agree with me that the cost of attending university these days is so out of control that it precludes a lot of folks from being able to attend university. When I attended USC (1980-1982) the cost per credit was ~$85/unit, and by the time I graduated it was $125/unit. My first job paid $17k per year and I still managed to pay off my college debt within 10 years….. If you want to attend USC for your doctorate, you’ll find a way to pay the income tax. You are a resourceful person, aren’t you?

        Fight On.
        Beat the Farm.

        • satriale_1
          satriale_1 says:

          Decisions to go to grad school were made under different circumstances so that is a failed argument you’re trying to make. You are also comparing your 40 year old degree to one in 2017 – where real wages have dropped absurdly over that time period. Do the wealthy need a tax cut? Do they not already have enough that was earned through the value created from the poor and middle classes? Should we really be making it more difficult for grad students to finish or even begin a degree? You are certainly misinformed and less enlightened that you think.

          • Thekatman
            Thekatman says:

            If I agreed with you we’d both be wrong. Your opponent opinion is heard but you fail to understand Th fat it is not up to me or anyone to find your education.

            If you want to use the reduction in the value of the dollar to find your education you can blame the federal sanctioned program of the government that reduces the purchasing power of the flat. You and you shine are responsible for the cost of your education not the taxpayers nor the government.

          • satriale_1
            satriale_1 says:

            So according to you, subsidizing education is bad but subsidizing a second yacht for millionaires is good. Everyone understands the simple logic behind GOP tax cuts, but history has shown that tax cuts for the wealthy doesn’t create more jobs. What’s easy to understand is that increasing access to education increases the wealth and prosperity of a country. Thousands of Phd students in engineering and science will never graduate and never create life-changing discoveries in an era where we need them the most. This is a moral failure for America and will lead to future economic disaster.

        • Thekatman
          Thekatman says:

          No one just prohibiting you from going after your educational goals. Just do it on your own. Grants, loans snd schollies will help. blaming the wealthy for their hard work and earned goodies is misguided. Everybody should pay taxes and those who do should get tax breaks. Those who don’t pay taxes don’t get tax breaks.

Comments are closed.