UCSB graduate students protest proposed tax changes

by Danny Meza, Diversity & Outreach Peer
Wednesday, November 29, 2017 1:06 PM

GSA President David Stamps rallies the crowd at Storke Tower

On November 29, 2017, graduate students, as well as undergraduates and faculty in solidarity, participated in the National Rally to Save Higher Ed walk-out to protest tax changes proposed by the U.S. House of Representatives.

The walk-out gathered at Storke Tower to listen to several speakers emphasize the importance of resisting these proposed tax changes as well as showing up in solidarity for other movements and groups such as Black Lives Matter, undocumented students, the LGBTQIA community, and other marginalized groups. The lineup of speakers included GSA President David Stamps, UCSB UAW 2865 representative Meg Unden, Professors Eileen Boris and Walid Afifi, and several others.

On November 2, the U.S. House of Representatives proposed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (H.R. 1), which has significant implications for the general population, and includes specific changes for graduate students. Under this proposed bill, graduate students would no longer be exempt from taxes when receiving university tuition remission and would also no longer be able to deduct interest paid on federal student loans.

GSA President and graduate student in Communications David Stamps spoke about his efforts to enhance agency and access for graduate students "even before this bill came along" and that "these conversations will continue whether or not this passes because things were not perfect before today came." Stamps also emphasized the need for those attending their first rally on November 29 to not make this their "last rally."

UCSB UAW 2865 representative and graduate student in Sociology Meg Unden shared her views that the proposed tax reform "dramatically harms graduate and public education, working families, Medicaid, and is a direct attack on graduate students as it treats our tuition remission as income."

Avi McClelland Cohen, also representing the UAW and a Communications graduate student explained "this plan will increase by 400% by taxing money we never even see" and is "part of a systematic attack on higher education."

Professor of Feminist Studies Eileen Boris, a former first-generation undergraduate and graduate student herself, ‚Äčexpressed that she "has a righteous anger" and questioned the ethics of "reverse-Robin Hood tax cuts" that would be detrimental for graduate education.

Mayela Morales, an undergrad double-major in Global Studies and Chicana/o Studies, decided to attend to show solidarity for graduate students and because her future as a graduate student will also likely be impacted. "I know a lot of students in the UC system and across the nation that will not be able to continue their education if this bill passes."

A graduate student at UC Berkeley created a calculator for students to see the exact impact on individual students' finances, which can be found here. UCSB Graduate Division and the UC system has provided several resources around the tax issue as well. You can access a FAQ here. UC has also launched ‚Äča UC Advocacy Network call-to-action campaign, and information can be found here. Chancellor Yang issued a statement, which can be read here. Also, UC President Janet Napolitano's statement about the proposed tax changes can be found here.

The Crowd at Storke Tower