University of Missouri graduate students, including hunger strike protester Jonathan Butler, have been protesting on campus in part because of cuts to the students’ health-care coverage as a result of Obama administration’s Affordable Care Act.
The Wall Street Journal reports that the cutbacks were explained in detail on an August posting on the school’s website, which said Obamacare’s regulations banned employers, like universities, from paying for their grad students’ health insurance.
Graduate students would have to buy insurance in individual markets as a result of not being eligible for the insurance plan offered to MU staff and faculty.
The St. Louis Post Dispatch reported that the Internal Revenue Service posted a bulletin offering guidance on this issue and threatened “severe” penalties for noncompliance.
“In a nutshell, the IRS notice says you can’t do that,” Steven Bloom, director of federal relations for American Council on Education told The Dispatch.
In a letter announcing his hunger strike, Butler described incidents that, he said, “dynamically disrupted the learning experience for marginalized/ underrepresented students.”
Butler wrote, “In the past 90 days alone we have seen the MSA (Missouri Students Association) President Payton Head being called the n-word on campus, graduate students being robbed of their health insurance, Planned Parenthood services being stripped from campus, #ConcernedStudent1950 peaceful demonstrators being threatened with pepper spray, and a matter of days ago a vile and disgusting act of hatred where a MU student drew a swastika in the Gateway residential hall with their own feces.”
Mizzou also canceled 10 contracts with Planned Parenthood three months ago. The contracts had allowed MU’s nursing and medical students to get experience at Planned Parenthood facilities in five cities in four states, the Associated Press reported.
The cancellations were prompted when a state legislative committee was formed to investigate the organization, when undercover sting videos were released by the Center for Medical Progress.
The canceled contracts angered both student body and faculty alike, and two months later, by October, MU allowed its nursing and medical students to work at Planned Parenthood clinics. The new agreement, however, banned the students from participating in abortion services — a measure that was allowed under the previous agreements.
Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri president and CEO Laura McQuade was pleased the agreements were renewed but told the AP that “more must be done.” She said the university had surrendered to “political bullying.”