A Statement from Graduate Scientists to the Yale Administration

COVID-19 crisis has exacerbated existing problems within academia while also creating new struggles. We continue to push for the the overarching demands issued April 14th by Local 33: universal funding extensionscomprehensive access to healthcareYale paying a fair share to New Haven, reversal of hiring freezes, and ensuring access to housing for all graduate workers. We support calls from COGS and the GSA for a universal funding extension and the extension of healthcare to all Yale PhDs graduating this year.

Like all graduate student workers at Yale, we are facing difficulties in our personal and professional lives. But as scientists, we face specific difficulties. Many of us work in labs that are closed, and some will need months to prepare lost biological samples. Many of us perform seasonally-dependent field studies, creating a year of delays. Others rely on unstable grant funding and struggle to find advisors with sufficient budgets. If we had a recognized union like many other Yale employees in Locals 34 and 35 and graduate student workers at campuses across the country, we could have the protection of a contract and be bargaining toward solutions.

Today, we ask that Yale:

  1. Permanently extend a 6th year funding guarantee to all scientists. The university must commit to supporting with university fellowships any current or future scientist who is left without funding for any reason, including those whose grants lapse, for up to 6 years. Similar 6th year funding security already exists in the humanities and social sciences. Like these divisions, in almost all science departments there is a typical 6-year timeframe, as Dean Cooley recently acknowledged in an email to GSAS.
  2. Provide a universal one-year extension of funding  that is not dependent on teaching, especially since some kinds of scientific research require being away from New Haven for extended periods.
  3. Give graduate workers the option to extend all academic deadlines by a year. This must include scientists who have not yet been able to find an advisor, given the difficulty of doing rotations and exploring research projects during this time. The university should also delay the Fall dissertation submission deadline by one month, from October 15th to November 15th.
  4. Reverse the faculty hiring freezes in order to achieve its diversity goals. As we stated in 2018, gender and racial equity must be a priority in Yale’s investment in science. However, Yale’s hiring freezes make this impossible, because as the FAS Senate points out “… in times of fiscal austerity, it is often women, minorities, and those in less-well established groups (such as untenured scholars), who bear the brunt of slashed budgets.” The faculty must expand to diversify.
  5. Protect international graduate workers and their continuing work at the university. In the sciences, 38% of graduate workers are noncitizens. Recognizing the endangering federal executive orders, Yale should commit to funding international graduate workers regardless of their visa status, including bridge funding for those unable to enroll. Yale should also set up a special fund to help international graduate workers who may face particular financial difficulties (such as canceled flights, having to pay rent on two apartments, cancellation fees stemming from restricted entry into the US, etc.).
  6. Commit to not reducing the size of incoming PhD classes. Dean Cooley has already suggested that any extra funding for graduate workers will come at the cost of places for incoming graduate workers, and that the economic downturn will likely decrease the size of all graduate programs. But this would mean that some labs would not have enough researchers and many classes would not have enough TAs, which would hurt the educational and research mission of the university.