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**Unresolved Payment Problems for University Graduates**

Over a year after initially expressing their concerns to the University’s administration, graduate student workers are still facing delays in receiving their payments. The University chapter of the United Campus Workers of Virginia, a union that represents employees at various universities in the state, highlighted on social media that payments for multiple graduate student workers, expected in mid-December, were delayed.

The University informed participants in the fellowship program, designed to equip scholars for long-term career success, that their spring stipends would commence disbursement on December 15. However, when students received their stipends, the amounts were significantly lower than agreed upon, a discrepancy that was not rectified until December 22. It was later clarified that stipends intended to be disbursed as lump sums were mistakenly sent out as smaller monthly payments. Despite a swift resolution to the issue, graduate students remain apprehensive about the frequency and consistency of such errors.

This recurring problem has been a longstanding issue raised by UCW-VA U.Va. for over a year, with more than 60 graduate students experiencing delayed payments in December 2022. The union sought immediate responses from the University, noting that Student Financial Services had been unresponsive to emails from concerned workers who had to adjust their budgets to meet rent obligations.

The majority of reported cases of delayed, incomplete, or irregular payments among graduate students pertain to stipends, which are crucial for covering living expenses. While the University ensures timely payment to all research and teaching assistants, union representatives point out that wages are typically disbursed punctually as they fall under payroll and are governed by stricter labor regulations. The University acknowledged that around 180 stipend payments scheduled for December 2022 were delayed, with some arriving after January 1, 2023.

Since November, UCW-VA U.Va. has been amplifying the voices of affected students through their platform. One such account shared by graduate Arts & Sciences student Jacqui Sahagian shed light on the longstanding nature of these payment issues.

Sahagian expressed, “I’ve experienced late payments countless times in the past five years. The amount of time I’ve spent contacting admin about my pay truly baffles me.”

Laura Ornée, the chair of UCW-VA U.Va. chapter and a graduate Arts & Sciences student, emphasized that the wage and stipend system reflects a broader issue in how the University perceives graduate students.

Ornée remarked, “Graduate students are consistently viewed solely as students. If our pay were processed through regular payroll, this issue would be less prevalent.”

In response to the ongoing challenges, Executive Vice President and Provost Ian Baucom established a task force in January 2023 to investigate the matter. The task force issued its final report in May, offering immediate, short-term, medium-term, and long-term recommendations to address the problems with payment inconsistencies. While the immediate and short-term recommendations have been implemented, work on the medium and long-term recommendations, including adjusting stipend payment dates and establishing a centralized system for graduate financial aid, is underway.

Despite attributing the late payments to miscommunications of deadlines and bureaucratic delays rather than staffing levels at SFS, the task force acknowledged that temporary vacancies in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences had exacerbated the situation. Ornée expressed skepticism towards the task force’s findings, indicating that if the issue were merely a communication or efficiency issue, it should have been resolved by now.

Ornée remarked, “The fact that payment issues persist indicates that there are underlying issues that the proposed solutions have not addressed.”

Even with the implementation of recommendations, the union reported ongoing payment issues into the fall semester, prompting a meeting on December 6 to address the concerns. They questioned the University’s prioritization of resources for new initiatives over support for graduate students.

The turnover in department financial staff due to low salaries for certain administrative positions has resulted in a few individuals managing disbursements for a large graduate community. Following the payment problems in December, the sole SFS employee responsible for overseeing graduate disbursements had to cut short their holiday to resolve the issues.

University spokesperson Bethanie Glover stated that the University is not aware of any systemic issues causing delays in students receiving their 2024 Spring funding. She advised students facing payment issues to contact administrators for assistance.

Glover mentioned, “Students encountering payment discrepancies are urged to reach out to their Director of Graduate Studies and departmental administrators. They can also provide detailed information through this [link], monitored by fiscal staff in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.”

Ornée mentioned that the union is actively formulating a response to the issue and encouraged students with grievances to reach out to them via social media to gauge the extent of the problem.