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Extend Princeton Fellowship Funding & Time-to-Degree by One Year  

April 5, 2020

To the Board of Trustees, President Eisgruber, and Provost Prentice:

This pandemic presents a choice: care or catastrophe. Princeton students and employees are depending on the University to set standards of fairness and dignity in a time when such leadership is urgently needed. In light of Covid-19’s ongoing disruption of academic life, we call on the university to extend all graduate student fellowships, benefits, time-to-degree deadlines, DCE & ET/DCC enrollment statuses, and related international student support (I-20s and DS2019s) by one full year. Not all graduate students receive the same funding from the same sources. Therefore, it must be the University—not individual departments or external funding sources—that takes decisive action to support its graduate student population by committing to an additional year of financial support in amounts equal to or greater than that of 2019-2020. (Graduate students should still be free to opt out of the automatic and universal extension for which we are calling.)

Princeton has already fallen behind its peers in caring for its scholarly community. Harvard, Yale, and Stanford are among over two hundred universities to have initiated “stop-the-clock” provisions in recent weeks, adding one compensatory year to the  timeline of junior faculty’s professional evaluation. Harvard has allowed all graduate students to reset their standing by one year. Princeton must join its peer institutions and lead them by humane example. We are not alone in recognizing this common-sense need: the Modern Language Association, along with thirteen other prominent professional organizations, recently called on universities to “pause the tenure clocks of junior faculty members and time-to-completion measures for graduate students” and “extend graduate student funding.”

It is not only illness and caretaking that interrupt work. The closure of laboratories, libraries, archives, and campus facilities has also stymied research and frustrated teaching. The development and dissemination of scholarship has been halted by the cancellation of conferences, the postponement of publications, and the emergence of new obstacles to collaborative and advisory relationships. Many graduate students have already lost research funding and will be unable to conduct necessary work abroad for the duration of the crisis. As academic hiring screeches to a halt, graduate students close to completing their programs face near-certain unemployment in a failing economy and the loss of health insurance during a public health crisis. Extending fellowships, time-to-completion, DCE & ET/DCC enrollment statuses, I-20s and DS2019s is the most meaningful measure Princeton can take to secure the professional futures and physical well-being of its graduate students. If enrollment, financial support, DCE & ET/DCC enrollment statuses, I-20s, and DS2019s are not extended, this will mean the loss of years of work done in archives, labs, libraries, and classrooms—a drastic diminution of career and life chances.

As graduate students, we have already devoted ourselves to remaking the Princeton community remotely. We are adapting our teaching and research. We are ceaselessly working to maintain the integrity and continuity of the undergraduate experience. We are committed to preserving intellectual life at Princeton through this crisis. We ask that Princeton commit to us in turn.

Princeton Graduate Students United (PGSU)

(All are welcome to sign this letter at this time. You do not need to be a Princeton graduate student or affiliate to sign).  


[signed by 786 signatories as of 8:23 pm Thursday April 23]

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Name, Cohort/Year of Graduation, Department/Affiliation (example: John Smith, G4, Chemistry; Thomas Gomez, 2021, Anthropology at UMass-Amherst; Mary Anderson, concerned community member) *
email (non-Princeton preferred) *
Questions or comments about the open letter? Please write them here:
If you are a Princeton graduate student and would like to offer a testimonial about why extending student fellowships, benefits, time-to-degree deadlines, I-20s, and DS-2019s by one full year is necessary for you, you are welcome to do so here. PGSU is collecting as much information as possible about what people are going through and these testimonials will be used to inform us going forward, and may be presented in a separate document.
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