COVID-19 Graduate Student Funding Extensions
Dear President Capilouto,
As the University of Kentucky joins over 230 other universities across the nation in considering a one-year extension to the tenure clock for tenure-earning faculty, we, the undersigned, believe a similar policy offering one year of extended funding and support should be created for all current graduate students.
In the past few months, UK’s funded graduate students have been facing many of the same challenges as tenure-earning faculty members - including the inability to conduct research in and out of labs, complete fieldwork, access archives, access secure data on university systems, and present research in conferences and colloquia. Many of us also have new or amplified responsibilities as a result of this crisis: we find ourselves homeschooling children, caring for vulnerable family members, and living away from Lexington, some of us across time zones and in other countries. What’s more, many of us face these challenges while continuing to teach classes that have migrated online. Like our faculty, we are dedicated to the welfare of our students, which means more time planning lessons and communicating with students via email.
Therefore, we are writing to you today to ask for your help in addressing the needs of a large and important group of Wildcat family members.
With the approval and support from the Graduate School, the Graduate Student Congress (GSC) recently conducted a short survey to better understand the needs and concerns of all graduate students amid the COVID-19 crisis. Based on the responses we received to this survey, we found the following to be the most pressing concerns. We ask your support of the following requests:
- A one-year funding and healthcare extension for currently funded graduate students. Considering the inabilities to conduct research activities and the increased demands on time, another year of secure funding will give a third of UK’s student population the time and the resources they need to complete the research they came to do at the University of Kentucky. For finishing students, in particular, an extension will also help bridge the gap until hiring resumes.
- A one-year extension of non-resident supplemental tuition funding or other policies for international students. Many international students have encountered challenges in renewing or extending visas, residency permits, and finding legal support for immigration services and work access issues as their right to stay in the U.S has been put in jeopardy.
- Guaranteed summer funding. Many graduate students rely on on-campus fellowships, teaching, and research positions during the summer. The suspension or reduction of campus activities leaves these students without summer income. Moreover, funded international graduate students are legally prohibited from off-campus work or work outside of their field of study, meaning they have very few other options.
- Modification of milestone deadlines for all graduate students. Given the disruption to university activities, many graduate students cannot meet current degree milestones, such as qualifying or preliminary exams, chapter defenses, etc.. In addition to offering remote alternatives, UK should modify official milestone deadlines so that those of us who cannot make our initial deadlines remain in good academic standing.
- A clear, standardized work policy for all graduate student workers. No UK worker should be required to work on campus, except in rare cases, as it puts co-workers and the entire UK community in danger. Individual advisors, PIs, and other supervisors should not have the discretion to compel in-person work.
We are proud to be part of the Wildcat family and we are asking for your help to ensure that UK’s coronavirus response efforts take seriously the needs and concerns of graduate students.
Thank you for your time and we look forward to meeting with you to discuss this matter further.