The GSO began in the Fall of 1997 as a group of graduate students interested in eliminating a teaching fellow pay disparity. That year, the administration instituted a policy of paying new students who were TF’s in the Sciences $11,500/year while all other science TF’s were paid $10,500/year. In the Humanities, new TF’s made $10,500/year while veteran student TF’s made $9,500/year. The administration’s goal behind such a policy was to attract more new students to the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (GRS) at Boston University by offering a higher teaching fellow stipend. Unfortunately, they only increased the wages for new students, ignoring those who had anywhere from one to several years of experience in the classroom.
Departments were made aware of the up-and-coming policy as early as the Spring preceding Fall 1997. In response, the English Department went so far as to refuse the increase in funding unless they could evenly distribute it to all their TF’s. The administration refused and as a result the English Department received no new funds at all. Also during the time preceding the implementation of the policy, many graduate students learned of it, and, finding it insulting and unfair, began to organize towards its elimination.
Several individuals and representatives of departments sent letters to Dean Berkey, Associate Dean Whittaker and the student newspaper (The Daily Free Press) decrying the policy and asking for all TF’s to receive the higher wages. In addition, some petitions began to circulate campus-wide and within departments. The story was picked up by The Daily Free Press and an editorial was written in support of the TF’s.
The first major event was an open meeting of graduate students that occurred on October 24th, 1997, specifically called to challenge the pay disparity and to begin forming an organization which would address the concerns of graduate students. Individuals and representatives from various departments across GRS attended and much of the success of the meeting can be credited to the organizers. Graduate students reported on the prevailing sentiment in their departments and a strong consensus was reached in favor of forcing the administration to abandon their policy. Various courses of action were discussed including a letter-writing campaign, petitions and a rally. Future meetings were scheduled to decide on which course of action would be followed.
As signatures began to be collected in support of a rally, and letters and petitions were being sent to the Dean’s office, the administration abandoned their policy and agreed to increase the wages for all TF’s at the start of the Spring semester. The memo announcing the change was distributed only two weeks after that first real meeting! Several students and faculty felt that it was the threat of public exposure, the overflow of letters inundating the deans and the organizing abilities taking place among the graduate students which led to the overturn of the pay disparity.
After this initial victory, graduate students voiced concern over such incidents happening again and felt that it was paramount to form an organization to advocate on issues and concerns of the graduate student community. This led to the creation of the Graduate Student Organization (GSO).