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Teaching assistants' tempers are rising over the University's announcement that their stipend level for next year will be less than the fellowship stipend level. Set late last month by School of Arts and Sciences Dean Hugo Sonnenschein, the stipend was increased by $330, making the new level $8,530. The stipend was increased by the same four-percent increment as the proposed University faculty and staff salary increase. The fellowship stipend, set in February by Sonnenschein at $8,600, is $70 more than the TA stipend. Graduate students said last night they were especially disturbed by the difference between the two stipends, which are $8200 for this year. In the past, fellowship stipend levels have been traditionally higher than those of teaching assistants. Yet the University has increased fellowship stipend levels by less than TA stipends in the past few years, making them equal. Gretchen Hackett, the Graduate Students Associations Council's vice-president for academic affairs, said last night the $70 difference seems symbolic of the University's priorities. "Even though they used the standard four percent increase, the $70 seems to point out they think there should be some kind of difference between TAs and fellows," Hackett said. GSAC Newsletter Editor Julie Pearce also said she was upset by the $70 difference between the fellowship and TA stipend levels. "$70 is not something I would complain about, but it's the principle of the difference," said Pearce. "Because we have to work for our money, we are worth less." Hackett was also quick to note the similarity in wages between the two groups is only on paper. She said the taxes TAs have to pay make their take-home pay significantly less. According to Hackett, TAs are required by Philadelphia to pay a five percent wage tax along with a state income tax, while fellows only pay federal income tax. Last year, Hackett said she paid $203 for the wage tax and $86 for the state tax, $289 more than fellows must pay. "Even though there are problems with the budget, I still think the University could find [the $70 difference] somewhere, in the interest of keeping tempers cool," said Hackett. Pearce also noted the effect the proposed health insurance premium for next year would have on graduate students. The new premium is $956, up from this year's $704. "I'm happy that they increased [the stipend level], but after taxes that increase will not even cover the proposed increase in health insurance," said Pearce.

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