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News, University News

Graduate Student Council petitions for extra year of funding for master’s, PhD students

Petition asks Brown to support graduate students as the COVID-19 crisis disrupts their programs

By
Senior Staff Writer
Thursday, April 16, 2020

The Graduate Student Council has petitioned for an extra year of funding to extend graduate programs, citing instability caused by the current COVID-19 pandemic. GSC sent the petition to Provost Richard Locke P’18 and Dean of the Graduate School Andrew Campbell on April 1. University-provided funding allows graduate students to partake in research and lab work, among other things.

The GSC is requesting extended funding “equal to the baseline funding that all PhD and funded master’s students received already” to go toward expenses such as “tuition and fees, health insurance and (stipends),” according to the petition. This funding would “give graduate students the time and the resources needed to do the important research and work they came to Brown to do.”

The COVID-19 crisis has had significant impacts on graduate student programs across the board. “We cannot access our labs, have been forced to halt all fieldwork, cannot access secure data and cannot access archives and important texts,” the petition read. “Faculty, many of whom are currently struggling in similar circumstances, are less able to offer us meaningful advising and guidance during this time.”

The petition emphasizes the importance of additional funding for students approaching the final years of their programs. “It’s affecting all of the graduate student community,” said Malcolm Thompson PhD’25, GSC vice president of advocacy, “but I think especially PhD students in their fourth or fifth year and master’s students in their final year are really having the completion of their programs affected.”

Moreover, “given the yearly hiring cycles in academia,” the timeline for graduate programs has been disrupted, making additional funding and support all the more important, according to the petition. Many universities, including Brown, have implemented hiring freezes for the coming year, further hampering graduate students’ ability to find jobs in academia for the coming year, The Herald previously reported.

Many graduate students have dependents or children, increasing their need for financial support from the University. One way the graduate school has addressed this is through a COVID-19 E-Gap Fund for immediate assistance, Thompson said.

“Some students are being directly impacted by the pandemic, … making it a difficult environment for productivity, and the idea that you can just continue business as usual through virtual interactions isn’t one that’s fair or true,” Thompson said.

Thompson emphasized the importance of voicing the needs of the graduate student community at large. “Just hearing and sensing a lot of the concerns of graduate students, this is a time of deep uncertainty,” Thompson said. “There were some things it was important to voice that graduate students could really benefit from.”

The GSC received a response from the Graduate School and is currently awaiting further updates.

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