Graduate students participated in a walk-out from class and work Wednesday afternoon to protest the proposed Republican tax bill. 

Approximately 150 students gathered on Abele Quad in front of the Allen Building before marching to the Bryan Center and back. Organized by the Duke Graduate Students Union group as part of a national effort, the students are concerned by provisions in the Republican tax bill pending in Congress that may result in large tax increases for them.

“For many of us, it puts us in an already very financially precarious situation,” said Laura Jaramillo, a Ph.D. student in the literature program. “This bill would result in a mass drop out of graduate students from a life that is already very difficult and entails a lot of sacrifices.”

Currently, Ph.D. students at universities across the United States are charged tuition by their institution. This fee is then immediately waived. In the House proposal, tuition waivers received by graduate students from their universities would be treated as taxable income. 

A CNN Money calculation for one University of California student found that the change would cause an additional $3,600 tax bill on money the student never receives. The proposal is not included in the Senate bill, which has not yet come up for a vote by that body but may soon.

If the two bills differ, a final solution may come through the reconciliation process. 

Students at the rally were concerned that such a hike in the cost of attending graduate school would cause some students to drop out and cause others not to attend at all. The students also called on Duke to continue lobbying against the bill and to abolish tuition for graduate students entirely. 

Earlier in November, President Vincent Price sent an email to the University outlining the administration’s opposition to the tax bill. 

“As Congress debates changes to the tax reform legislation, Duke will be working to protect our students, faculty, and staff, and the invaluable work that you do on our campus,” Price wrote.

Besides the graduate student tuition issue, the House bill would eliminate the student loan interest deduction, institute an excise tax on university endowments and eliminate a tax exemption for tuition assistance for employees and their dependents.

At the walk-out, a main focus of the speeches was making sure undergraduate students were aware of the bill’s potential effects on their graduate student peers. 

Sophomore Ema Klugman addressed the crowd before they marched, listing the roles graduate students play at the University.

“Graduate students are the teaching assistants in our lectures who explain problem sets we really have no idea how to do,” she told the crowd. “You are the writing tutors who improve our essays. You are the researchers who aid us in our lab work. You are mentors, you are teachers and you are inspirations”

Going forward, the students at the rally plan to continue their efforts to defeat the bill. DGSU is hosting an event Wednesday in the Bryan Center to help students contact their representatives in Congress about the issue.