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MSU grad students march for better pay, benefits

Ashlie Forchione

Michigan State University graduate students marched on campus to protest a contract they say does not provide an adequate lifestyle for vital university staff.

About 250 students participated in the march, sponsored by the Graduate Employees Union. They are demanding a set of accommodations in their next contract that includes tuition waivers, affordable health care, an inclusive work environment, and a living salary.

Union President Sylvia Marques says MSU's pay for graduate students is on the low end for Big Ten universities, and that combined with high health care premiums, it is difficult for the students to make ends meet. 

The University's proposed health plan also would not cover children, Marques says.

The union has been in negotiations with the university since January, and represents about 1200 teaching assistants, but the benefits it negotiates will affect all graduate employees.

They would also like to include the University's harassment policy in its contract language. "We think that spelling it out in our contract will empower students who feel like they are being harassed or discriminated against to come forward in a way that will help MSU be a stronger more inclusive diverse community," says Marques.