APA Grad Council: How to Support Grad Students During the Pandemic

The Graduate Student Council (GSC) of the American Philosophical Association (APA) has issued a set of recommendations for how departments of philosophy and universities can and should support graduate students during the COVID-19 pandemic.

[photo by Marie-Claude Paquette]

Authored by Emma McClure (Toronto), Heather Stewart (Western), and Arianna Falbo, on behalf of the GSC, the statement notes the ways in which university closures negatively affect the education and professional development of graduate students:

Shutting universities means more than having to move teaching obligations and grading to online platforms. It means the loss of important professionalization activities and opportunities that are essential to the success of graduate education. Social and intellectual interaction with colleagues, visiting professors, and students is an important part of the graduate student experience. Attending talks, workshops, works-in-progress sessions, informal coffee hours, and the like are part of what stimulates our intellectual work. Having all of that stop is a major loss. Furthermore, graduate students are, in many cases, suddenly less able (or outright unable) to interact with their supervisors and/or larger committees, which can slow (or halt) progression on the writing of seminar papers, comprehensive exams, prospecti, or dissertations. 

The GSC acknowledges “that departments are limited both in the financial means they have available to them and the power they have to put pressure on universities to allocate more funding and other forms of support to graduate students,” but hope that the suggestions they make are taken into consideration. These suggestions include:

  • Extending funding for current students
  • Reimbursing students for costs related to cancelled conferences
  • When hiring, encouraging applicants to explain how the pandemic affected their work/productivity
  • Extending deadlines for completing coursework and for various steps in progress toward the degree (e.g., comprehensive exams)
  • Removing residency requirements
  • Creating an online community to make up for lost formal and informal aspects of graduate education that contribute to graduate student education and professional development
  • Encouraging faculty to be proactive in maintaining contact with graduate students who may be worried about bothering faculty during this time
  • Providing financial support to replace lost teaching opportunities
  • Increasing teaching opportunities
  • Paying graduate students for the training/learning they need to undergo to become competent online teachers
  • Insulating graduate students from this term’s student evaluations of their teaching, which may penalize instructors—particularly less experienced ones—for circumstances beyond their control
  • Providing online resources for mental and physical well-being
  • Publicizing emergency loans and other funding available to graduate students
  • Refunding fees for services no longer available or used (such as parking fees, transportation fees, etc.)
  • Accomodating the special needs of international students
  • Maintaining the option of online participation once the crisis ends, in order to better accomodate some disabled students and others for whom commuting or in-person meetings might be especially challenging
  • Pushing for the importance of philosophy and in-person teaching of it so that the implementation of social distancing practices during the pandemic does not become a pretext for permanent negative changes.

You can read the full set of recommendations at the Blog of the APA.

Related: “What Is Your Department/University Doing For Its Graduate Students During The Pandemic?

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Jaime Chapa
Jaime Chapa
4 years ago

Im a philosophy graduate student at a terminal M.A. granting institution.

I want to know what is the best way to approach the faculty/department about support during this pandemic when none has been offered/suggested, but in a way that will not make the student look bad or whiny?

Reply to  Jaime Chapa
4 years ago

Dear Jaime,
I hope your professors will be supportive. This is a new situation for all of us and professors are just as clueless about how to best deal with this situation as everyone else. Probably, your professors with young children will be especially taxed right now, so if you have options for whom to approach, maybe try to pick someone who is not trying to work and provide childcare right now. If you have something quite specific you need to make it through this, just explain it and ask if you can get that help or those resources. Or if you just want to check in about your work, email about that. Professors are very grateful when students just tell them what would help them. Good luck!