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Generosity for Graduate Students

By Steve S. Li
By The Crimson Editorial Board
This staff editorial solely represents the majority view of The Crimson Editorial Board.

The COVID-19 pandemic has left members of the Harvard community in need of institutional support. Recently, Harvard and the graduate student union reached a tentative agreement limiting graduate students to 20 hours of average weekly work. But so many graduate students need so much more. Indeed, there are outstanding calls from graduate students for student loan relief and a fully-funded “bridge year” for Ph.D. students.

Generosity starts at the top. When the University takes care of its graduate students — going above and beyond with emergency funding opportunities and timeline deferrals — graduate students will not only be able to better take care of themselves and their communities, but will also be able to dedicate themselves to their work, as students and as employees, from a distance.

It seems unfair to expect graduate students to commit themselves to teaching undergraduate courses when they are scrambling to figure out how to manage their Ph.D. projects or put meals on the table for their children. With funding guaranteed for a bridge year, graduate students would be able to make up for the lost time, worry less about lost funding, and ultimately complete the vital research to which they’ve devoted themselves.

Likewise, a universal temporary stay on student loan repayments would provide some relief for students in the midst of the financial and public health crisis in which we all find ourselves. The Harvard University Employee Credit Union is a private lender with the power to meet the standard of flexibility set by the federal government, which suspended federal student loan payments, interest-free, until October, and we encourage them to do so for all of its student loans.

Other institutions have led the way with generosity towards graduate students. The University of Michigan, for example, has pushed forward many of its winter deadlines for Ph.D. and Master’s programs. Many private lenders in New York, after reaching an agreement with the New York State Department of Financial Services, are providing universal student loan relief similar to that provided at the federal level.

University President Lawrence S. Bacow has been engaged in “recession planning” for our University for quite some time. The global coronavirus pandemic was surely not what he or anyone else had in mind, but nevertheless, now is the opportunity to demonstrate that the University is well-prepared to protect both itself and its workers during a time of financial crisis.

There is no doubt that the COVID-19 outbreak will have damaging financial effects on the University, but Harvard’s financial losses will likely be recouped in the long term. Short-term financial difficulty, however, ought to not supersede the well-being of the people who bring the Harvard community to life.

So, as one small group of undergraduates, we call on the administration to go the extra mile for our graduate peers and mentors.

This staff editorial solely represents the majority view of The Crimson Editorial Board. It is the product of discussions at regular Editorial Board meetings. In order to ensure the impartiality of our journalism, Crimson editors who choose to opine and vote at these meetings are not involved in the reporting of articles on similar topics.

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