Dear Rackham Students,
The last six months have been extremely challenging for the Rackham community and for you as graduate students especially. I deeply appreciate the thoughts and insight I have heard from many of you about the stress and uncertainty of the pandemic, the disparate burden of anti-Black violence and racial injustice, and the effect of federal policy on international and undocumented students. I recognize that frustration is high across multiple domains; the GEO labor action brings that frustration into immediate focus.
I want to reiterate that I respect the vigorous advocacy of Rackham students, as well as your agency to make a personal decision as to how to pursue activism. I value the multiple and vital roles you play at the university as students, researchers, instructors, and scholars. As dean of the graduate school, I also want you to know that I am focused in this moment on continuing to advance Rackham’s mission to support graduate education at the university and the success of Rackham students.
Over the last six months, my Rackham colleagues and I have listened carefully to your input and worked in partnership with organizations across campus to pursue new initiatives and policies, and to address your concerns. This work has taken many forms, including an adjusted grading policy for winter 2020; extended deadlines for candidacy, dissertation, and graduation requirements; supplemental summer block grants to provide summer employment opportunities; and expanded criteria for the Graduate Student Emergency Fund. Similar policies are in place for the 2020–21 academic year, and you can find them on our continually updated COVID-19 resource page.
At Monday’s State of the Graduate School Zoom webinar, I will highlight further plans and initiatives for the year ahead to address the interconnected challenges we collectively face. These efforts address the following topics, among others:
- Graduate Student Mental Health
- Anti-Racism Goals and Initiatives
- Plans for Extended Time to Degree
A panel discussion will follow. For those who are unable to attend, the video will be posted and shared, and links to detailed information on all topics covered will be added to the COVID-19 resource page.
There will be some time for Q&A, but I acknowledge that the scope of the event will limit the time for discussion. I would, however, like to reaffirm the importance of communication and dialogue in the year ahead. Outside of this regular column in the student newsletter to address questions and concerns, Rackham Student Government hosts “Lunch with the Deans” events, which have been scheduled in a virtual format for this fall. These events are a continuation of an extensive set of town halls and listening sessions that Rackham staff and deans have held since the pandemic began. We will have more of these as needed, and in formats that foster dialogue, collaboration, and intellectual exchange.
The disruption of the past six months has strained our community at a time when I believe that a sense of partnership is more important than ever. As we work through our differences, I keep in mind that we do indeed have shared goals. I remain committed to pursuing the many ways by which we can achieve them.