Don’t Tax Students’ Thirst for Knowledge

Dear friends and colleagues,
Union Theological Seminary in the City of New York joins the many voices of higher education students and leaders across the nation who are vigorously protesting the proposed Senate tax bill.  If passed, its impact on higher education would be disastrous for generations of students to come and, as result, devastating for our institutions and our nation as a whole. Of primary concern is a proposed change to consider tuition waivers as taxable income, which would put significant financial strain on the thousands of students who depend on scholarships to fund their education. If passed, the bill would financially lock-out low-income students from graduate school in every field, exacerbating already present inequalities and functionally restrict Masters and Ph.D. programs to the wealthy.
As anyone in present-day graduate programs knows, the system already suffers from dramatic racial and economic disparities. Instead of addressing these issues, the present tax bill would worsen them. This should deeply concern any who care about the quality of academic work done in our institutions. Racial and economic inequality in academia is not a minor qualm; it is fundamentally unjust, and it destroys any pretense of academic excellence professed by higher education.
All scholarship is, to some degree, subjective. We enter into our work carrying our own biases, prejudices and blind spots. The history of every discipline reveals that when low-income voices and voices of color are excluded from the academic table, the quality of academic work suffers.  Bright and eager minds are silenced. Creative ideas

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