The School of Journalism and Graphic Communication may have to continue the remainder of the semester without many of its graduate assistants.
Students employed through the graduate assistant program have threatened to quit their jobs as a result of the current payroll issues. But the problem extends beyond the journalism school. As reported in the Friday issue of The Famuan, many adjunct professors, teaching assistants and OPS employees have not received a single paycheck this semester.
“We have no contracts, so technically we have no job,” said Ghislaine Lewis, a graduate journalism student from Kingston, Jamaica.
According to Lewis, three of the five graduate assistants are planning to leave their positions after they complete their tasks with the upcoming HBCU National Newspaper Conference that the journalism school will host Feb. 14-16.
“I’m obligated to do the conference, but when that’s done we’re done working,” Lewis said.
Many of the graduate assistants said they enjoy their jobs but are finding it difficult to concentrate on their work when they have to deal with the financial issues they have faced as a result of not being paid by the University.
“I do like what I do at the University,” said Tameka Johnson, a graduate broadcast journalism student from Jacksonville. “But when you’re not getting paid its hard. I don’t have anyone to go to.”
Some of the graduate students said they have been forced to turn to their parents for money. Some of their colleagues have no way to pay their bills and are facing eviction.
“That is so wrong,” Lewis said. “I have a mortgage, a house and no student loans and turning to your parents for money when you’re grown isn’t cool.”
Although the lack of compensation seems to be the major problem for the graduate assistants, some are more upset about the lack of communication between the administration, faculty and graduate assistants.
“Nobody is giving us any answers, and that’s the biggest problem for me,” Johnson said. “I think everyone in the J-school has done all they could. It’s the school’s administration that’s the problem.”
Michael Abrams, journalism professor and graduate adviser for the school of journalism, said the problem began when the main person in charge of graduate contracts in the University’s administration office was dismissed.
“There is a problem somewhere in the budget office,” Abrams said. “There are not enough people working.”
Abrams said he believes the graduate assistants are a vital part of the program and the administration should make more of an effort to ensure they are compensated for their services.
“We’re all very disappointed with this situation,” he said.
“University auditors need to take a look at the process the University uses to pay its graduate students, adjuncts and others. Maybe there is a model out there that they can follow or adopt.”
Abrams said Dean James Hawkins and other faculty members have met to address the situation. Although faculty members were told by administrators that the students would be paid Feb. 16, faculty members and graduate assistants said they are still confused and skeptical about the entire situation.
“We’re so numb,” Lewis said. “At this point it doesn’t matter, nothing matters.”
Students said they were told that things are in motion to ensure that they would be compensated as soon as possible, but they still have not been told anything about their contracts with the University.
“I remember sitting in (Abrams’) office while he typed up the contracts,” Johnson said.
“I know they were put in back in December, but they have not come back for us to sign. As far as I know we were supposed to sign a contract for the semester, and we still haven’t signed them.”
The graduate assistants said they are confident that their professors and faculty members are doing all that is possible, but the situation is beyond their power.
“The professors keep us informed about what’s going on,” Johnson said, “but our side only knows what they’ve been told by administration.”