Grad students protest GOP tax bill tuition waiver clause, incite change

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With all the desperation of a student pulling a last-minute-all-nighter, the Republican party unveiled its “long time coming” tax bill after two months. Indeed the official name for the bill, An Act to Provide for Reconciliation Pursuant to Titles II and V of the Concurrent Resolution on the Budget for Fiscal Year 2018, takes up more time to say than the amount of time republicans spent unfurling it in Congress.

From there, Republicans in the House and Senate passed the plan, despite the fact that it conflicted with their previous deficit ideology while simultaneously ignoring public opinion.

A partisan victory for Republicans but a loss to the American people and the fundamentals of democracy, the tax bill’s consequences were overshadowed by the looming threat of World War Three with North Korea fabricated for us through Trump’s tweets. President Donald Trump’s opposable thumbs and unfettered access to wifi was once again distracting the American people from seeing what was at stake with the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.

In its earliest stages, the bill passed through the Senate with a tax on tuitions at the most prestigious and expensive private universities. The bill passed the House of Representatives with a provision that would make higher education for lower-to-middle-class students unattainable.

Currently, a number of graduate students obtain tuition-waivers by working or researching on campus. The bill proposed that these tuition waivers be taxed, thereby taxing them as though it were income, even though students wouldn’t see that money to begin with.

Though most of the country was preoccupied in relearning duck and cover protocol, grad students faced imminent nuclear threat by taking to the streets. Protests erupted across the country; students and teachers alike lobbied against the provision that would undermine many an education effort. At more than 40 graduate schools, students left classrooms and research labs to join in protests against the bill. They wrote letters to their representatives and called for them to argue against the provision’s placement. In a nationwide campaign spread through messages on Facebook and other social media networks, students assembled the Grad Tax Walkout to unite and hold protests on the same day.

Less than a month later, in the joint conference committee between the Senate and the House, Republicans decided that they would lose the battle to win the war. They took out the taxation on tuition waivers and focused instead on helping rich people fight oppressive government regulation. For now, grad students must settle with their win and the knowledge that their voice does indeed hold power. Should they use the momentum and unity they’ve established through their movement, students could tackle other issues pertinent to their lives.

The right to protest is a fundamental constitutional right that must be exercised in order to establish a voice in this democratic republic; public opinion is a powerful tool.

Grad students don’t always protest, but when they do, they affect change. Maybe next time they’ll direct their efforts toward ridding themselves of student loan debt.