From the community: Let RA graduate students buy graduate student meal plans

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After struggling to find enough resident assistants to staff the undergraduate dorms, Stanford opened the position to co-terminal students this year. We are just some of the many Coterm RAs who are the beneficiaries of this policy change and we are delighted to be able to create the welcoming communities that we once enjoyed. At the start of the quarter, we are energized by our daily interactions with residents. Their drive and optimism is a vivid reminder of why we loved our undergraduate years: in-depth conversations with people from different backgrounds, late-night adventures in new parts of campus, and the feeling that Stanford is supporting you no matter what. what’s going on outside the bubble.

Unfortunately, he doesn’t feel that way anymore. Thanks to a hurtful but fixable policy, Stanford puts the coterms in a financial crisis: R&ED forces us to buy an undergraduate meal plan when the cost of a comparable meal plan for graduates is about $ 1,200 less Dear.

Traditionally, meal plans are determined by residence. All students living in undergraduate dorms enroll in the undergraduate meal plan; all graduate dorm students can purchase a graduate meal plan or opt out altogether. We don’t understand why undergraduates have to pay an extra $ 1,200 for an almost identical meal plan, but we do understand that in practice this policy hasn’t hurt most students. Since undergraduates are eligible for financial aid, those who cannot afford the full cost of the meal plan of $ 6,693 may receive funds to cover it. Graduate students, on the other hand, are not eligible for financial aid, but they can save money through the cheaper meal plan, or retire and cook themselves in apartments with kitchens.

Still, the logic of the housing-based meal plan breaks down in the case of the graduate student living in undergraduate housing. In effect, this places an excessive financial burden on the coterm RAs that staff undergraduate dormitories. We are treated like graduate students when it comes to tuition fees, but we have to pay the full undergraduate accommodation and food costs – and we are no longer eligible for financial aid. To make up for the extra $ 1,200 we pay, many of us juggle multiple part-time jobs. RA Coterms get the small end of the stick: no financial aid, higher meal plan fees.

We spoke to a Stanford Dining manager who said this policy was adopted for consistency and also to ensure RAs eat with their residents. We sympathize with these motives. As leaders of our dormitory communities, we understand the importance of treating all residents consistently. We understand that it is painful to change a policy, especially when that policy affects a minority of the population. And we consider eating with our residents a crucial part of our job.

Yet the impact of the meal plan policy is quite damaging, and the “consistency” argument crumbles on examination. Buying a graduate meal plan doesn’t stop us from eating with our residents. In fact, it would give us more time to do it by freeing up time for other tasks. As we learned in RA training, it is always important to distinguish the “intention” from the “impact” of the situation, especially when power dynamics are involved. The intention of the meal policy may be sound, but the impact is straining our already meager budgets.

The $ 1,200 difference in meal plans might be less noticeable if Stanford hadn’t also reduced RA’s salary and increased the cost of housing this year. For the 2021-2022 academic year, Stanford reduced the RA salary by $ 925, while increasing the cost of housing by $ 591. Our room and board cost $ 7,133 more than our allowance as an RA. As a result, we basically pay to work. A collective of students is currently on strike to fight for a common sense salary increase. In the meantime, we are offering a simple solution that would not require a budget overhaul:

Allow RA coterms to purchase a graduate meal plan.

We were offered loans to cover the cost of meals. We think it’s unreasonable to go into debt when the solution is as simple as an OK from a Stanford administrator. More than 160 students and alumni support this policy change.

We believe that our unique situation warrants re-evaluating the meal plan policy so that coterms living in undergraduate dormitories are not forced into unnecessary financial hardship. Consistency is convenient for the bureaucracy, but it causes real suffering for graduate students.

As Coterm RAs, we bring to our role our unique perspectives informed by four years of navigating the quirks, joys and challenges of Stanford. We believe our knowledge and experiences make us invaluable resources for our residents as they begin their journey to Stanford in person. And yet, because our current salary doesn’t cover the cost of the undergraduate meal plan, many of us have to choose between spending time with residents and working hours with one of our other part-time jobs.

Stanford, please let your RA coterms opt for the graduate meal plan.

Sign,

Shiriel King Abramson BA ’20 MA ’22

Will Gutzman BA ’20 MA ’22

Hannah Howell BA ’20 MA ’22

Eunice Jung BA ’21 MS ’22

Erica Olsen BS ’21 MS ’22

Thea Rosenberg BS ’21 MS ’22

Georgia Gabriela Sampaio BS ’20 MS ’22



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