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MU graduate students demand changes from university administration

A large group of University of Missouri students are making demands after their health insurance was suddenly taken away last week.

Wednesday, the Forum on Graduate Rights, a group of about 1,200 MU graduate students, released a list of seven demands to the university administration.

If they do not get a response by Tuesday, they said graduate students along with some faculty members across campus will walk out of their classrooms, labs and offices next Wednesday. And they will meet by the columns in front of Jesse Hall from 12 p.m. to 1 p.m. in an act of solidarity.

The first demand is a fully-subsidized health care plan in place by the start of the spring semester. That is why this all started when MU gave domestic graduate students just 13 hours notice before their student health insurance expired, and 13 days after mandatory insurance coverage started and then cancelled for international grad students.

Some graduate students said the health insurance was one of the reasons they chose to come to Mizzou.

“Let’s face it, grad students do not make a lot,” MU graduate student Jacob Brown said. “So this subsidy was very vital for me to come here. It was one of the decisions that actually made me want to come to Mizzou cause I knew my health insurance would be covered while I was here.”

But the graduate students are asking for other things beyond health insurance, saying this brought several other issues to the forefront.

“So if you have one major financial burden and then add another one, such as losing your health insurance on top of it, it’s almost impossible to live on the stipend that we’re given here at the university,” MU graduate student Carrie Miranda said.

Other demands include: a guarantee no grad student is paid below the poverty line, a guarantee all graduate student employees get full tuition waivers, more and affordable university-sponsored grad student housing, to bring back affordable on-campus childcare facilities for grad students, an elimination of fees imposed by colleges and departments, and immediate action to ease the burden on international students who lost their health insurance subsidy.

“They consistently have demonstrated that they view us as mere sources of labor,” MU graduate student Alex Howe said. “And not as individuals to take into account for how we are affected by their budget balancing, because that’s their focus is balancing budgets.”

Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin apologized for the lack of communication and late notice Monday. Loftin also appointed a task force to come up with affordable health care options for graduate students. The deadline for the task force is October 31.

Abc 17 reached out to the university Wednesday for its response to these demands. It said the letter of demand is being reviewed.

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