During my time in graduate school I have noticed that many foreign graduate students basically view graduate school as a way to get into the US that wouldn't normally exist. This creates some fundamental problems that professors take advantage of which, in my opinion, means the entire system needs an overhaul.

  1. These students are often desperate and basically would do anything the professor put in front of them, they are deeply afraid of getting kicked out and sent back regardless of professor demands.

  2. Their wage is still higher here than in their home country.

These two issues combine together to create a very exploitative environment that hurts the entire graduate education system, since

  1. It starts to bias graduate schools to prefer foreign students as a source of cheap labor, since only DoD/classified work is restricted to US students.

  2. It reduces the quality of life for graduate students by allowing professors to demand unreasonable things and lets the schools get away with terrible wages.

How can students effectively lobby for changes in this system - like wage increases - when you are viewed as easily replaceable?

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    This is basically jus a rant. – Buffy Feb 19 at 19:00
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    To find a solution to a problem you need to first understand the basis of it. In general I also notice professors treat US students somewhat better, particularly if they are working on a project that only can use natives but the above problem still exists – FourierFlux Feb 19 at 19:17
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    That said, I'm not sure what the relevance of DOD work is (only relevant for a small number of grad students), and a lot of fed money can only be spent on US citizens/PRs. You mention a wage increase at the (now) end, but I'm not sure how that commensurate with the rest of the problems, how would raising wages fix those problems? They seem orthogonal and I think the question would be better if it focused on those problems unique to intl students. – Azor Ahai -him- Feb 19 at 20:14
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    I'm a US citizen working in a DoD project I definitely have less demands put on me because of it, but plentiful access to high skilled low-wage labor is a problem for US graduate students, particularly native ones. Basically the entire setup has created pressure to select against citizens and exploit foreign students. Foreign students often don't complain because they still feel it's better than where they came from but that doesn't mean really mean anything. – FourierFlux Feb 19 at 20:33
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    This is not specific to academia. Why do big companies such as Nike or Apple manufacture their products in developing countries? In many countries, companies exploit interns. Some professors even treat their PhD students similar to a personal assistant. Why do businesses pay below minimum wage? The list goes on and on. Welcome to the real world! – Prof. Santa Claus Feb 19 at 20:43

Well, in the Academia world you can still find some decent people:

"Stop exploitation of foreign postdocs in the United States" (from Nature, the mighty, revered and belated publisher )

Although the downvote and the comments you will receive to your question will be rather low quality: you are questioning the patina of excellence that a lot of successful people in academia put on themselves to justify the obvious exploitation they take part, first by suffering it and then by continuing it.

I agree that the solution lies outside the box.

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    Thanks, I agree. The worst part of this discussion is certain people like to pretend they are the "good guys" for advocating unlimited access to exploitable labor. It's very twisted. – FourierFlux Feb 19 at 21:00
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    I agree 100%. You don't need to pay attention to your enemies. It's your friends that stab you! – EarlGrey Feb 19 at 21:02

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