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Music 6th Year Funding Letter
Dear President Schapiro,

In light of the University’s reduction of funding opportunities for advanced doctoral students, we graduate students in the Music Studies department emphatically request that the university restore these vital resources, and consider further options for sixth year funding.

According to Northwestern University’s most recent Financial Report, the endowment “continued to ascend to new heights in fiscal year 2018”, with a 20.9% growth on private investments, and total assets of $15.5 billion, leading our peer institutions. But our everyday experiences do not align with this; ours are of decreasing time and support as we face an increasingly challenging job market, which we are rushed into with what feels to be inadequate preparation.

According to the Graduate School’s available PhD program statistics, average time-to-degree in Music has always exceeded the five years that of guaranteed funding. Many of our colleagues have said they would have found finishing in that amount of time impossible. This is often because our research operates on an extended time scale beyond the academic calendar, be it scientific study, community engagement, fieldwork, or creative project development. Furthermore, not all students are given equal time due to program requirements--some students are required to take three years of coursework as opposed to two (typically due to the requirements of an MA), which compresses the funded dissertation time even further. In any case, these final years are the most pivotal for us, as we prepare to present the culminating results of our studies. Prematurely pushing students into the job market due to a lack of funding prevents them from making their work the best it can be, thus making the students appear less qualified for employment, thus affecting the university’s reputation for successful job placement and scholarly quality.

While the Financial Report emphasizes on projects developing the physical infrastructure of the university, if the university truly wishes to invest in its students, it must support the intellectual infrastructure. For students in Music Studies, this includes TAships and fellowships within the Bienen School of Music, interdisciplinary fellowships through organizations such as the Kaplan Humanities Center, and teaching opportunities in all academic quarters. By guaranteeing 6th year funding through these means and others, the university can continue to facilitate quality student achievement, which will in turn reflect well on the University’s reputation.

This is not a matter of allowing students to idle on their degrees--a guaranteed sixth year of funding is still well below the overall median time-to-degree in the humanities, but it approximates the time-to-degree amongst PhD students in all disciplines across the university. We see guaranteed sixth year funding as a compromise that not only incentivizes students to finish on time, but also affords them the ability to accomplish their studies and decorate their professional record to a higher quality, both of which are in the university’s interests.

Thus we, the Music Studies PhD students, call on Northwestern University’s administration to guarantee six full years of funding to all graduate student workers.
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