• Rich Barlow

    Senior Writer

    Photo: Headshot of Rich Barlow, an older white man with dark grey hair and wearing a grey shirt and grey-blue blazer, smiles and poses in front of a dark grey backdrop.

    Rich Barlow is a senior writer at BU Today and Bostonia magazine. Perhaps the only native of Trenton, N.J., who will volunteer his birthplace without police interrogation, he graduated from Dartmouth College, spent 20 years as a small-town newspaper reporter, and is a former Boston Globe religion columnist, book reviewer, and occasional op-ed contributor. Profile

Comments & Discussion

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There are 9 comments on BU Graduate Students Vote to Unionize in Lopsided Approval

    1. As the story says clearly, “As the union talks gained momentum, University leaders had argued that graduate students are different from traditional employees and would not be best served by forming or joining a union. They also pointed to recent 4 percent increases in stipends, as well as improved benefits in recent years, including policies on vacation and sick leave.”

  1. Why does this article preface indisputable facts with “the union says…”? The vote was counted by the NLRB so technically the NLRB says the vote count was 1,414 to 28. Similarly, the Boston City Council’s unanimous endorsement for the union is public record (and BU News Services reported on it), as is Ayanna Pressley’s support (via Twitter and her giving a speech at one of the union’s events).

  2. I feel like when we win our contract BU Today’s coverage of it will be just as dull. It’ll read like “BUGWU bargained for a minimum stipend of $47,000, which is some increase from the previous minimum.”

  3. This is not the first time the “11% discount” to the dental school has been mentioned. First this is by no means equivalent to having access to quality dental insurance through an employer (which would likely cover the cost of preventative care completely but would certainly do better than our discount). Second, as an anecdote, I have tried to contact the dental school through their online form to get a cleaning scheduled twice and never received any response. It’s just one story, but I’d like to hear from people who have actually been able to use this discount.

    1. I haven’t any trouble after calling the dental school. They quickly matched me with a dental student. The discount was also applied without any issues. And I believe their first cleaning is free. They were having issues when they reopened after the pandemic due to the amount of requests but as far I know that has been long resolved.

  4. “BU pays doctoral students stipends to be PhD students, with teaching and research a part of their educational experience.” This line makes me laugh, as I have had to do multiple research projects outside of my field because that’s where the funding was, and have had to teach more than most other grad students in my department for similar reasons. Only one summer have I actually been paid to do my own research.

    BU pays doctoral students stipends because those doctoral students are doing jobs that the University needs done. That’s fine, but the narrative that everything we are paid to do is to further our education is just wrong. Especially when the workloads become so heavy that our own research is stalled.

  5. It would be nice if more context were given around the 4% stipend increase. If I’m remembering correctly students were originally pushing to have the university increase T pass subsidies. BU’s response was to bump a 2.5% raise (which was already planned) to 4%, arguing that this helps more graduate students since not everyone takes the T to campus.

    As someone who has to drive in and pay for a parking permit on campus, I appreciated this because they were right that that extra increase would help me whereas the T pass would not. Having said that, the increase is still laughable. Parking permits for Spring 2023 increased in price that took away about half of that extra 1.5%.

    Most importantly, with inflation still around 8%, any raise less than that is effectively a pay cut.

    I had never been particularly excited to unionize but I’m looking forward to seeing what comes of it.

  6. I find it interesting that they mention that there is a minimum salary, but they chose not to disclose it or that the minimums also mean that a lot of PhD students are only funded for 8 months and have to find summer employment or research funding to work through the summer (when the program requirements to complete the timeline require full yearlong work). The minimums are in the $22k range, which is FAR below a living wage. Also, for many PhD students, accepting these stipends in this realm means that we are not allowed employment outside of BU and/or caps outside work at 5 hours per week.

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