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May 10, 2019

Admin to Audit “Irregular, Uncertain, or Delayed” Grad Student Compensation

Levi Hall

Levi Hall

Courtesy of University of Chicago

Responding to the ongoing issue of irregularities in graduate compensation, Provost Daniel Diermeier announced a complete internal audit of graduate student payments this summer in an e-mail sent to graduate students on Tuesday. 

The Report by the Committee on Graduate Education, released in early April, formally acknowledged the existence of “irregularities” in graduate student compensation, including “late or incorrect payments.” Provost Diermeier wrote that these irregularities stemmed from “the complexity of our current system.”

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Diermeier's email to graduate students

Maroon Staff / The Chicago Maroon

“Students receive payments from different sources of funds, distributed through different systems, and governed by different processes,” he said. Diermeier stated that much of this work is “conducted manually and [is] subject to error.”

Graduate Students United (GSU) published a series of anecdotes on their official Twitter Wednesday afternoon about the adverse effects of these irregularities. In Twitter posts, GSU noted multiple cases where graduate students were told they would be paid in a set number of installments over the course of a quarter. On payday, however, those graduate students realized that the number of installments had risen without notice—and the amount paid per paycheck had decreased proportionately. 

In another case, a graduate student reported receiving an incorrect sum in their first paycheck of the quarter. Despite writing to the administration to alert them of the mistake, the second paycheck of the quarter reflected the same error.

When asked to clarify the nature and goals of the upcoming audit, University spokesman Jeremy Manier told The Maroon that “the goal of the audit is to identify both additional short-term solutions and general improvements.” In the same message, Manier wrote that the audit “will be a detailed assessment conducted in close collaboration with the University’s academic and administrative units.”

Members of GSU took a less optimistic view of Provost Diermeier’s audit plans. In a written statement to The Maroon, GSU objected to the phrasing of the Provost’s Tuesday e-mail, accusing him of understating the severity of ongoing graduate student pay issues. 

“We’re concerned that in the same message where he acknowledges the issue, the Provost pretends that it is largely solved, writing that in the ‘few’ remaining cases, the administration is taking ‘proactive’ steps,” GSU representatives wrote. The GSU also noted that it had been reporting ongoing issues with incorrect or delayed graduate student compensation long before the Committee on Graduate Education’s report.

GSU representatives wrote that contrary to the administration’s plans to address payment irregularities with an audit and its resulting policy, it is graduate students themselves that currently “are doing the proactive (and often prolonged) work of identifying and trying to correct pay errors.” GSU continued, stating that “we believe that recognition of our union and a contract that guarantees us the same pay protections as other workers is a better solution than hollow assurances or a report from a committee of auditors.”

Provost Diermeier noted that any graduate students facing payment irregularities should “continue to reach out to gradhelp@uchicago.edu

Correction on May 10, 2019, 5:01 p.m. CDT:

The article has been updated to reflect that GSU said that graduate students are currently doing the proactive work of identifying pay errors, not that they are the most equipped to.

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