University of Michigan graduate students, faculty, undergraduates, staff, alums, and community members are encouraged to share this letter and to sign their support.
Letter released for signing: May 1, 2020
Letter presented (signatures remain open): May 8, 2020
Signatories as of 12:00 PM, May 18th: 1,818
To the UM Board of Regents, President Schlissel, Provost Collins, and Deans:
In his April 20 message, President Schlissel established core principles that would guide the university’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, in order to “value, protect and support our people.” We, the undersigned, call upon the university to live up to these principles by supporting all University of Michigan community members, including its graduate students. University of Michigan unions are developing measures to protect patients, workers, students, and the broader community. We stand united with our labor colleagues and seek here to elaborate on the measures that are necessary for graduate students in particular. As scholars and teachers in training, graduate students perform work that is central to the university’s mission. For the University of Michigan to retain its standing and to fulfill its educational mission, it must provide graduate students the requisite resources to weather this crisis.
The ongoing impact of the pandemic on graduate students is multi-pronged. Some have fallen sick; others are caring for dependents; and still others are managing illness and/or death among family members. With reduced access to labs, libraries, and data collection, many graduate students have been forced to delay, modify, and/or fundamentally redesign their research projects. Those close to finishing their degrees are facing a decimated job market as universities across the country announce hiring freezes for the coming academic year and potentially beyond. The crisis poses an especially grave threat to students of color, working class students, students with disabilities, first-generation students, international students, and students with children, who are disproportionately vulnerable. The university must make good on its commitment to support all graduate students if it is to achieve the goals for diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) that are “inseparable” from the university’s “dedication to academic excellence for the public good.”
Finally, the effects of COVID-19 on graduate students has critically impacted the university’s undergraduate instruction. Graduate Student Instructors (GSIs) provide much of the small-classroom instruction, hands-on learning, and one-on-one contact that are central to the University of Michigan educational experience. Over the past two months, GSIs have contributed to the transition to online learning, largely without additional compensation. They have assisted faculty with setting up online environments and provided pedagogical expertise under difficult working conditions in order to ensure undergraduate students have structure, stability, and fulfilling learning experiences.
While we are relieved to know that the university has allowed assistant professors to apply for tenure clock extensions—recognizing the disruptions in teaching, research and writing these faculty face—we believe it has not provided similar, sufficient support to its graduate students. We call on the university’s administration to honor its commitment to its educational mission and support graduate researchers and teachers in the following ways:
Graduate students at institutions such as Harvard, Yale, Princeton, NYU, UConn, and University of Chicago are demanding similar resources in order to continue their work. Yale University has already agreed to provide one-year extensions to doctoral students. Furthermore, 28 academic associations have called for universities to pause “time-to-completion measures for graduate students… [and] extend graduate student funding.” Hundreds of academics have also signed a statement of academic solidarity calling for universities to expand the tenure extensions given to tenure-track faculty to all non-tenure track faculty and graduate students. While some departments within the University of Michigan have made efforts to provide relief to their graduate students, this piecemeal approach produces unacceptable inequities. University leadership must enact both universal and targeted solutions to address the situation.
A part of the University of Michigan’s mission is to develop “leaders and citizens who will challenge the present and enrich the future.” Today, we challenge you to fulfill your promises to value, protect, and support the UM community by taking the essential steps described within this letter. We eagerly await your response, which we request by May 15th.
Please share this letter and sign your support here: https://forms.gle/b1BuKfWqYHrWSVXD7
Signatories as of 12:00 PM, May 18th: 1,818
Graduate Employees’ Organization (GEO)
Rackham Student Government (RSG)
Lecturers' Employee Organization (LEO)
Graduate Rackham International (GRIN)
Queer Advocacy Coalition, School of Social Work
The Society for Music Research, Musicology
View the individual signatories, their testimonials, and department/unit tabulations here: