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Grad students protest denial of sixth-year funding

Transparency of funding process criticized by picketers gathered outside Paxson’s house

About 80 graduate students picketed in front of President Christina Paxson’s house Wednesday evening to protest the denial of funding to some grad students seeking to complete a sixth year at the University.

The roughly 80 students who submitted Dissertation Completion Proposals for sixth-year funding were initially informed Friday by the Graduate School that there was funding for only about 40 of them, said Sara Matthiesen GS, who participated in the protest.

The announcement left academic departments scrambling to allocate funds to students whose applications had been rejected, Matthiesen added. As of Wednesday, 69 students will receive sixth-year funding, according to an email sent to the Grad School community Wednesday by Peter Weber, dean of the Graduate School.

Over 100 students attended a meeting called by the Graduate Student Council Tuesday night to discuss students’ concerns about sixth-year funding and formulate a plan of action, Matthiesen said.

About halfway through the protest, Paxson emerged from her home to address the protesters. She said she plans to hold a forum, likely on Tuesday, for grad students and academic deans to discuss the dispute.

When John Mulligan GS asked Paxson if there will be a review of the Dissertation Completion Proposal process, she said this idea would be discussed.

Many grad students are concerned about the “opaqueness” of the Dissertation Completion Proposal process, said Dan Ruppel GS, who participated in the protest.

“We don’t know who is reading the applications,” Matthiesen said. “There is a lack of transparency.”

Protesters also expressed concern about how candidates for sixth-year funding are evaluated in comparison with their peers.

The time gap between the application deadline and notification date is problematic because it leaves students little time to secure other funding for work or research, according to an interim statement distributed by the protesters.

Many students need more time to write a thesis, especially if their discipline requires fieldwork, academic travel and multiple language study, Mulligan said.

Students ended the protest with a chant of “hey hey, ho ho, the five-year box has got to go,” referring to the fact that the University only guarantees full funding for five years of graduate education.

Matthiesen invited students to gather after the meeting to organize follow-up actions.

“While this protest is focused on sixth-year funding, we will continue to protest for graduate students’ rights across the board,” Matthiesen said.

A previous version of this article misstated that 41 students who submitted Dissertation Completion Proposals for sixth-year funding were denied. Rather, the roughly 80 applicants were informed that there was funding for only about 40 of them.



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