Protesting grad students say new bill will force them out of school


UK graduate students protested the proposed tax reform outside Whitehall on Wednesday, November 29, 2017 in Lexington, Kentucky. Photo by Megan Rohrbach

Rick Childress

Teacher assistants and researchers, undergraduates and grad students gathered to protest a provision in a yet-to-be-passed national tax bill that could possibly have a negative impact on graduate education.

The Wednesday afternoon protest, which met under the trees between Whitehall and the Engineering Annex, is part of a larger national Grad Student Walkout Protesting Tax Bill Reform.

According to the group’s Facebook page, the tax plan would include a sizable tax increase on graduate students, which would effectively make graduate school unaffordable for most students.

John Terbot, a graduate biology student who helped to organize the protest, delivered an impassioned speech that said the tax increase could force many graduate students out of their research and teaching assistant positions.

“The people actually doing the main bulk of the research are graduate students,” Terbot said. “So if we don’t have graduate students, the university is not going to be able to, as effectively, be generating research and the prestige from having academic output.”

Many students at the protest said that a tax increase would push them below the poverty line.

Kaylynne Glover, a doctoral candidate in the biology program and the Graduate School Congress president, said that when her family first arrived in Lexington, they had to live solely off of her income.

“We were on every type of assistance you could have with a 6-year-old,” Glover said.

“I remember the fear of that first year and supporting a family on a graduate student income,” Glover said. “That is not a fear that anyone would want.”

Jillian Winters, an English PhD candidate, said that the tax plan could change lives, and many graduate students would be forced to drop out of school.

“If this bill passes, I will drop out of school and go live in my parent’s basement,” Winters said. “I don’t want to speak for everybody, but we would have to give up on our academic and professional dreams.”