Mailbox Surpises! (ghosts of grad school)

Dear UChicago Bursar Office,

It being that time of year when early frosts force the grad students into their annual hibernation in their department lounges/home/the numerous cafes scattered across campus, I understand that you may have overlooked my absence. And I understand that the hundred-meter walk to the dean’s office (from which you should have been informed of such absence) can seem daunting. And I understand that, in the daily deluge of spam and student complaints, you may have missed my previous two e-mails asking why I was charged for student activity fees when not on campus Spring quarter. Such things can happen. People get busy. Coffee breaks happen.
But did not *one* person in your office think it amiss that they were sending a bill for student service fees (for things like library use and the fitness center) to an address in Kyrgyzstan, where one could hardly make use of the billed services? Is this not an institution of inquiry, research and learning?
But, as a former-fellow-Reedie-turned-UChicago PhD student noted, “it’s amazing how an institution that produces so many (basically insert the name of any academic prize) winners has yet to set up direct deposit”.
So, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised…

Best Regards,

– Me

p.s. If the school is willing to still send me my stipend (despite my no longer being enrolled), I will happily take my stipend and spend 6% of it on Student Life Fees! Just let me know 😉

And other notes and explanations: when you’re a PhD student with a full fellowship, you will probably still get bills like this – I guess the university likes to remind us how much they’re gifting us?
But there’s another way to think about it. A lot of PhD students I knew in the US were content to work for very little pay – our department head once told me that $15 an hour was considered good (choke choke). If you calculate out your “PhD” salary using only the stipend you get – 15,000-25,000 a year, depending on the school – with about 2000 hours a year, it looks like your ‘working worth’ is about $7.5-12.5. But if you consider your stipend *plus* fellowship, then your real economic compensation for your ‘work’ as a PhD student is actually valued at $45,000-77,000 per annum, or $22.5-38.5 per hour. It’s like you’re earning (on average) $60,000 a year, but just required to spend 2/3 of that on your own education and random university facilities. So when working, even on the side, try to negotiate for real, respectable wage that reflects your actual work worth.

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