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MIT graduate student organizes campaign against House tax bill

CAMBRIDGE, Mass.--Sam Liu, a PhD candidate in economics at MIT who helped coordinate a campus campaign against certain provisions in the House tax bill, will tell his story at a press conference in Washington on Wednesday, July 16. The conference, organized by US Rep. Joseph Kennedy, will take place in Room 340 of the US House of Representatives Cannon Office Building at 1pm.

Mr. Liu, 23, a Princeton graduate from Washington Crossing, Pa., learned about the proposal that would eliminate the tax-free status for tuition waivers to graduate student teaching and research assistants via e-mail from a graduate student at Yale. At first, he shrugged off the news. "I didn't think it affected me," said Mr. Liu, who describes himself as "mostly apolitical." His attitude changed dramatically after he calculated his own taxes. "They could go from $1,000 to $5,000," he said. "I figured I'd better do something." He directed a petition drive that collected more than 500 signatures on campus and organized telephone and letter-writing campaigns to key legislators. He also advised graduate students at other universities on how to mount similar efforts on their campuses.

"Graduate students usually don't vote," Mr. Liu said. "They don't care about political things. We don't usually take up issues." This was different. It was personal. The e-mail chain was swift and effective. Congress was flooded with calls and letters. "It's been very exciting, tiring and kind of crazy," said Mr. Liu. "It's also kind of cool to write one letter and know that thousands are reading it."

The MIT students' petition was forwarded to John C. Crowley, director of the MIT Washington office, which distributed them to the appropriate senators and members of the House, including all members and key staff of the Massachusetts delegation.

Now that his activist nature has been aroused, Mr. Liu plans to remain politically vigilant. Noting that his family hails from Taiwan and that many of his relatives still live there, he vows to monitor relations with China. He remembers the advice he received from an aide to Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass): "You can make a big difference."

If you would like to interview Mr. Liu or receive a transcript of his remarks, please contact the MIT News Office. Photographs are available upon request.

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