The Graduate Professional Student Assembly at Cornell University passed a resolution Monday calling upon the University to provide workers' compensation to graduate students who are injured while working on the campus. Since many grad students receive stipends for research or teaching, the students believe they should be considered employees, rather than students. One of the sponsors of the resolution, grad student Paul Berry, said “We've been trying to answer the pretty simple question of what happens when a graduate student gets injured on the job. We want to know what would happen to your stipend. Under what conditions would it be paid? Under what conditions would it not be paid?”

The University continues to view these grad students as merely that – students who are in the process of learning. Silly University.

My impression, from watching my wife's graduate experience, is that many of those grad students aren't just students. They are permanent residents. I mean, they never, ever leave. They don't graduate. They simply change disciplines and keep on “learning”. They might as well get workers' comp. We're going to need some way to take care of them when they are too old to “learn” anymore.

Frankly, I suspect they are motivated by a recent educational disaster in Iraq. In a tragically sad tale, a Suicide Bombing instructor killed himself and 21 of his students when the bomb laden belt he was handling exploded unexpectedly. Another 15 students were seriously injured. Silly instructor. That is going to make a sizable hole in this year's graduating class, and is certain to cast a pall over the homecoming parade. I had some professors who bombed out in their courses, but this is over the top. Of course, it is difficult to train on a topic where you can only demonstrate the procedure once.

Seriously, while the Cornell grad students are concerned with potential lab accidents and paper cuts, shouldn't students at Suicide U be equally entitled to compensation if accidentally killed by Professor Kaboom? It just seems to make sense. After all, their death means they will not be able to work, and their families will be left with no visible means of support. I know their religious beliefs provide some compensation in the afterlife, but let's face it; those 72 virgins will not be putting any food on the table for those left behind.

This is an explosive topic, and not all will agree. The students at Cornell and at Iraq's Kablooey U have more in common than they might think. Administrators will have to decide if they are students, or employees, and act accordingly. After all, higher education is big business, and they need to protect their interests. If they don't, the whole damn charade may blow up in their face…..

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