An Open Letter to the Chancellor: Support Student Workers’ Fight for a COLA

Dear Chancellor Khosla,

My name is Alex Aslam Ahmed (Revelle College ’11), and I am about to complete my PhD in Computer Science at Northeastern University in Boston. A decade ago, I was working towards my bachelor’s degree at UCSD, while writing for the Guardian and the Muir Quarterly. During that time, my graduate TAs were instrumental to my education. I write now in support of UCSD graduate workers’ demands for a cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) amounting to $1422 per month. I am also asking you to do all in your power to increase the availability of affordable graduate student housing. I can say with complete certainty that I will not be donating to UCSD until these demands are met, and I will be urging my fellow alumni to do the same.

My TA for Revelle’s intensive Humanities course series completely transformed my educational experience for the better. While my professor’s lectures were important, it was my TA’s thoughtful feedback on my essays, clarifying discussion sections, and one-on-one meetings during his office hours that made the course so impactful. I often say, completely seriously, that this TA taught me how to write, and those skills have had cascading positive effects on my work since then.

When I was an undergraduate, I did not fully understand the nature of graduate student labor. Now that I am a PhD student myself, I do. As a result, I am filled with appreciation for all of my former TAs at UCSD. My colleagues at Northeastern and I have been trying to improve our working conditions — the low pay, mistreatment from advisors, lack of affordable housing and comprehensive health care, especially for those with families or dependents, and a host of other issues — by forming a union, but my university’s administration refuses to fairly bargain with us. 

Please set a positive example for other institutions by engaging with your graduate students in good faith and giving them a COLA, thus addressing the very serious and worsening problems of housing and financial insecurity. Otherwise, the quality of education that UCSD undergrads receive will suffer.

Thank you for your attention to this matter.

Alex Ahmed (Pronouns: she/her/hers) is a UCSD Alum and current Doctoral Student in Personal Health Informatics at Northeastern University.

Art by Art Editor Anthony Tran of the UCSD Guardian Art Department

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