Mass Communication and Media Arts experiences guilt, addresses low pay among grads

By Albert Richard Parsons

The college of mass communication and media arts has announced better pay for its graduate assistants after admitting widespread guilt regarding the poverty-level wages its graduate student workers receive.

Assistants in a doctoral program in MCMA on a 50 percent full-time equivalent appointment take home less than GAs in all other colleges and departments, according to the last Graduate Assistants United contract. As of July 2013, graduate assistants in a doctoral program in mass communication and media arts earned $1,498 per month.

Gary Kolb, who was dean of the college from 2008-2012, said the low wages translated into tough love. The inadequate incomes were teaching graduate assistants what it is going to be like working in the industry, he said.

“Look, you can’t expect to make much money as a media worker right now,” Kolb said, “especially not right away. It’s a dog-eat-dog world out there within the vertically and horizontally integrated, highly concentrated and super-conglomerated mass media complex. The old business model where large corporations, the media conglomerates, sell a product, audiences, to other extremely large corporations, advertisers, to generate revenue – that’s falling apart.  Declining revenue streams mean less pay for those in the culture industries living – like graduate assistants in my college have – poorly from pay check to pay check. We tried to emulate the emerging economic dynamic by keeping our graduate student workers hungry and humble in the past. No longer!”

A statement from the college apologized for previous stinginess and claimed graduate assistants can now expect to actually get paid enough to make ends meet.

After the decision was announced, jubilant graduate student employees in MCMA started immediately producing articles, news broadcasts and documentaries it that few will read, listen to or watch in full.

Doctoral students in the college with little-to-no production skills contributed by doing discourse analyses and textual deconstruction of their colleagues’ media productions. Many said they will submit their analytic work to academic journals that nobody outside their discipline cares about.


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