Princeton graduate students could see their tax bills skyrocket to $11,000 or more if the Republican tax bill currently under consideration in the House of Representatives becomes law.
The GOP bill eliminates §117(d) in the U.S. tax code, a provision which exempts “qualified tuition support” for research and teaching assistants from being counted towards gross income.
This means that a student whose funding comes in full or part from a teaching or research assistantship at Princeton will be paying tax not just on their stipend and any additional teaching/research income, but also on the roughly $49,000 Princeton tuition as “non-cash income.”
Fortunately, students who are on fellowships would not see their tuition support counted towards taxable income. §117(a), which exempts “qualified scholarships” from taxation would remain on the books. But most Princeton students receive at least part of their funding from assistantships during their the course of their PhD program and would therefore be affected by the tax bill.
What does this mean in practice?
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Dear Vice President Calhoun, Dean Crittenden, and Dean Dolan,
On Wednesday, September 20, the Princeton University community received an email that contained the following troubling lines:
“Regardless of where you stand on issues such as climate change, white nationalism, the rights of transgendered [sic] people and immigrants, and many more, we encourage you to learn from the divergent perspectives of others, including our many faculty whose expertise provides nuanced and varied analyses of just these topics.”
We are concerned with the language of this email and urge the university to consider the implications of what they have sent to our students, faculty, and staff.
Institutions of higher learning should be places where the rights of all students are upheld without question, and where any ideology that threatens their security is courageously confronted. We wish that this had been the spirit of your opening email to our campus this fall. Instead, your message claimed that many positions on white nationalism, the rights of trans people and immigrants, and the scientific fact of climate change deserve equal treatment. We reject this idea.
To insist on neutrality in the face of hatred implies an equivalence between those who fight to affirm the rights, safety, and humanity of all, and those who seek to dehumanize, disenfranchise, and incite violence against certain groups based on their skin-color, religion, gender, or sexuality.
There is no room in civil, democratic society for these two positions to “debate” on an even playing field. Allowing or encouraging such “debate” does not affirm “free speech” but instead threatens many people whose safety and personhood has long been devalued. To suggest otherwise directly contradicts your email’s commendable desire to affirm the full dignity and humanity of all persons. In the current political climate—marked by reinvigorated and highly visible racist organizing, increased state scrutiny and detention of immigrants, and the rollback of legal protections for queer and trans people—we feel that Princeton should emphatically uphold the rights of its students rather than encourage them to consider attacks on their rights and personhood as valid and worthy of consideration.
Princeton has a responsibility to the immigrants, trans people, and people of color in its student, faculty, and staff community to condemn any and all assaults on their rights and safety. As a research institution our intellectual and material resources at the University’s disposal are urgently needed to address the present dangers of climate change, whose harms disproportionately affect communities of color, not to debate its reality. We affirm that these issues are worthy of critical engagement–but that engagement must be critical. To imply that there is any legitimacy behind views of white nationalism or the current political assault on trans and immigrant rights is morally bankrupt and illustrates a failure in the very values that Princeton purports to espouse. Students of color, trans students, and immigrant students make an enormous contribution to life at Princeton and are part of the fabric of this diverse and beautiful university. To tolerate those who would do them harm is an affront to this community and a betrayal of our collective values.
We call upon the university to unequivocally condemn climate change denialism, white nationalism, gendered violence, and anti-immigrant hatred. We urge our university to commit in concrete and tangible ways to upholding the professed values of our intellectual community and ensuring the safety of its members. As you wrote in your email: “Optimism and hope without concrete action…is insufficient”.
Organizing Committee of PGSU
Black Student Caucus
Intersecting Queer Identities
Latino Graduate Student Association
Queer Graduate Caucus
Princeton University Young Democratic Socialists of America
Princeton Graduate Students United (PGSU) stands in solidarity with Professor Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor of the Department of African American Studies at Princeton. Shortly after her courageous speech at the Hampshire College commencement, she received racist, sexist, and homophobic e-mails, as well as serious threats to her life and safety. PGSU abhors and condemns these attempts to intimidate and silence a member of our academic and professional community, and we support Professor Taylor’s scholarship and commitment to social justice. In a political climate in which these threats and others like them are increasingly common and often condoned by those in the highest offices of government, PGSU chooses to speak out against such bigotry and hate. In so doing, we uphold the core values of our university: “Princeton in the nation’s service, and the service of humanity.” We urge the Princeton University administration to join the professors of the Department of African-American Studies and PGSU in voicing its support for Professor Taylor.
The mission statement of PGSU affirms our commitment to standing with any member of the Princeton community whose right to free expression is threatened: “it is increasingly urgent that we have a collective voice and stand in solidarity with fellow workers, students, and community members at Princeton.” The threats made to Professor Taylor demonstrate the need for graduate students to continue to participate in ongoing fights against discrimination on Princeton Campus and beyond.
The threats to Professor Taylor do not operate in isolation but are part of a visibly rightward shift in U.S. politics. Since the November 2016 elections, fascist and reactionary forces have mobilized on university campuses and advocated for violent right-wing insurgency. By empowering student workers to advocate for ourselves and our community, PGSU stands against racism, sexism, and homophobia, and is proud to declare, in the tradition of union workers, that an injury to one is an injury to all.