My last word on funding.
For those of you that don’t want to try to navigate all the nested threads (which admittedly gave me a headache), here’s one last summary of my position for clarity’s sake.
The status quo is bad.
Collectivization of student funding cannot fix the system as it is.
This is because there is simply not enough money for all students to get the same funding and still have a living wage. Instead of the current system where some students get substantial funding, some partial funding, and some no funding, there would be a system in which no one gets enough funding.
Since the demand for access to graduate school is inelastic, the only way to increase funding is to cut down on students.
There are various arguments in favour of cutting down on the number of PhDs in circulation, and this is one way to do it. However it is still problematic: it restricts access to higher education according to funding rather than ability and desire, and essentially just means that the people who currently get partial funding or no funding would just not be allowed to get a degree at all. Drastic reductions also might have an effect on educational quality, since it would be difficult to fill classes and students have fewer colleagues (diverse or not).
It is not possible to earn a “living wage” through part-time contract work.
Whatever the hourly rate, regardless of how fair the working conditions, there is simply no way to earn a living wage purely through part-time student labour. A student with a standard TA contract would have to earn c. $100/hr to actually live on the income. Real funding requires stipends and grants, and it is just not helpful to equate everything a grad student does with labour, because it isn’t. That doesn’t mean we can’t fund them, only that looking at this as a wage/labour problem clouds the issue and in fact is unlikely to substantially ameliorate conditions.
It should not be anathema to insist we all think carefully about our participation in this system, including (and especially) those of us who are treated poorly by it.
We have to be able to tell our students and each other that sometimes the better choice really is to leave, or not to get started. This is not victim-blaming, and it shouldn’t be treated as such. Overhauling the entire system and forcing universities and academic departments to reduce their admissions is a huge undertaking, and not one likely to succeed any time soon. It will be easier, faster, and probably more effective to change norms among the next generation: if it looks like you’re getting a bad deal, that’s because you are, so maybe try and find a better one. And while I hope things improve, until they do, perhaps it’s best to be a little pragmatic.