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GSAS Launches Emergency Support Initiative to Help Students Affected by Coronavirus Pandemic

Lehman Hall is the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences' Student Center.
Lehman Hall is the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences' Student Center. By MyeongSeo Kim
By Callia A. Chuang, Crimson Staff Writer

Harvard’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences is launching an Emergency Support Initiative to provide funding opportunities and fellowship appointments for graduate students impacted by the novel coronavirus pandemic, GSAS Dean Emma Dench announced in an email to students Friday morning.

Under the Emergency Support Initiative, graduate students will be able to apply for lost-time funding, summer 2020 research awards, and visiting fellowships and postdoctoral writing fellowships.

The measures come after graduate students have repeatedly expressed concerns that the coronavirus crisis will negatively impact both their studies and their entry onto the job market. When the University switched to online learning, Harvard’s graduate student union and the GSAS Graduate Student Council advocated for a fully-funded “COVID-19 bridge year” to compensate students for disruptions to their research projects in light of the outbreak.

They also asked GSAS to provide accommodations for students currently on a dissertation completion fellowship, a guaranteed year of University funding to support Ph.D. students writing their dissertations.

The GSAS Emergency Support Initiative will allow graduate students to apply for a year of “lost-time funding,” prioritizing students whose completion of their dissertation completion fellowships has been delayed due to the pandemic.

GSAS first focused on addressing “personal safety” and “emergency needs” in light of the outbreak before developing the support program, according to Dench.

“Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, GSAS has heard directly from students and their advocates, including faculty and directors of graduate studies, about the many ways this public health emergency is affecting PhD students,” Dench wrote. “In the coming weeks, we will continue working with our University partners to augment and expand this program.”

The initiative also attempts to address graduate students’ concerns about the scarcity of job opportunities in academia amid the COVID-19 crisis. In light of the pandemic’s financial toll, many universities — including Harvard — have announced hiring freezes. Harvard also suspended some searches for its College Fellows program.

In response to those issues, GSAS will now allow students planning to graduate in May or November 2020 who do not have a job lined up to apply for a one-year visiting fellow appointment, granting them research opportunities, waived tuition, and University health insurance as they continue their job search. GSAS will also create ten one-year postdoctoral and writing fellowships over the next two years.

—Staff writer Callia A. Chuang can be reached at callia.chuang@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter at @calliaachuang.

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