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GSAS to Compensate Graduate Student Employees for Spring 2020, With Lingering Summer Funding Question

By Ryan N. Gajarawala
By Ethan Lee, Crimson Staff Writer

Harvard’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences announced last week that graduate student employees will receive compensation for the spring 2020 semester even if the University’s new policies to combat the spread of COVID-19 leave them unable to continue their normal work.

Dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences Emma Dench wrote in an announcement posted to the GSAS website that the University plans on compensating graduate student employees regardless of their ability to complete necessary tasks remotely.

“Graduate student workers who are unable to work due to the pandemic will still be compensated to the end of work expectation within the spring 2020 semester,” Dench wrote.

Dench wrote that graduate students should still try their best to continue their original work for the remainder of the spring semester.

“Where possible, the University expectation is that the work that graduate students are compensated for should continue,” Dench wrote. “If work assignments are not possible to complete using online or distance learning technologies, supervisors are encouraged to find other opportunities for graduate student workers to complete their work commitments.”

Harvard’s graduate student union wrote in a tweet that it supports the new measures.

“Our union has been pushing for these protections, and we are relieved they are finally being implemented,” Harvard Graduate Students Union-United Automobile Workers wrote. “We look forward to a forthcoming announcement for undergraduate student workers as well!”

University spokesperson Jason A. Newton wrote in an emailed statement that Harvard is still working to determine what effect the COVID-19 pandemic will have on its compensation for graduate student employees for summer work.

“For summer programs, the University will continue to review and assess its policies, including those related to compensation, as this public health crisis and its economic impact continues to evolve,” Newton wrote.

Francesca Bellei, a Ph.D. candidate in Comparative Literature, said Harvard’s ultimate decision about compensation for summer employment will be very important for graduate student workers like herself.

Bellei, who teaches for Harvard Summer School’s recently cancelled Milan and Siena 2020 Study Abroad Program, said she had been “counting on the summer appointment” to cover her living expenses during a research fellowship abroad.

Bellei said she hopes the University quickly resolves the current uncertainty surrounding cancelled summer positions for graduate students, especially those nearing graduation who rely on such funding.

“I think that the highest priority should be addressing the situation for G5 students – so, for those people for whom that was going to be their main source of income for the summer,” Bellei said. “So that would be what I think would be important, but to also acknowledge, to open a dialogue with us about how this has impacted us and our ability to continue our work.”

—Staff writer Ethan Lee can be reached at

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