Tufts University Resident Assistants Strike, Demand Pay

Tufts University resident assistants began striking during the move-in period for on-campus students.
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Matthew Arrojas is a news reporter at BestColleges covering higher education issues and policy. He previously worked as the hospitality and tourism news reporter at the South Florida Business Journal. He also covered higher education policy issues as...
Published on September 1, 2023
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  • Resident assistants at Tufts University approved a strike by an 89% margin.
  • The union of undergraduate workers is campaigning to receive stipends for their services.
  • Currently, RAs at the institution receive free housing but no other forms of pay.

Resident assistants (RAs) at Tufts University hosted a strike on Tuesday while first-year students and other on-campus residents moved into their dormitories.

RAs at the Pennsylvania institution approved the strike by an 89% margin, signaling strong opposition to the Tufts University administration’s latest contract offer. The United Labor of Tufts Resident Assistants (ULTRA) union has been negotiating a contract with the university since February.

ULTRA, which represents over 100 undergraduate RAs, is campaigning for a stipend for RA work.

Tufts University RAs currently do not receive any pay for their work. The university covers the cost of RAs’ housing but nothing more. While it’s not uncommon for institutions to not provide a stipend to RAs, more colleges and universities have begun to offer wages in recent years.

Tufts Daily, the student-run newspaper at Tufts University, reported that RAs felt administrators have thus far not been willing to negotiate on wages. ULTRA announced on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter, that administrators refused to respond to any compensation demands during an Aug. 25 bargaining session due to a minor technicality.

Kalimah Redd Knight, deputy director of media relations at Tufts University, said the university planned to meet with the union again on Sept. 1. University negotiators then learned about the strike through social media.

The university has been actively engaged in negotiating its first contract with the union and responding directly to specific workplace concerns, the Tufts University statement read. However, first-time contracts often take up to a year to negotiate. The university has made a number of proposals and offered dates to continue to bargain.

The statement reiterated the university’s commitment to providing room and board to RAs, but not a stipend.

As we have gone through the bargaining process, we have benchmarked what our peer institutions offer RAs, the university stated. We believe that a room and board plan both aligns with our values as an institution and is in line with best practices and industry standards across higher education.