Coronavirus Updates for PhD students

May 11, 2020

Dear PhD Students in the Arts and Sciences,

These are times of real sacrifice and suffering. Many among us—in our own families, our community, our city—have lost jobs and livelihoods, have become sick, have died. There is no way to make up for this unimaginable personal and communal loss. And the global economic recession ensured by COVID-19 will continue to affect all we know and do. 

Columbia, too, will weather significant logistical and economic challenges in the coming months. Hiring and salary freezes now affect several thousand members of Columbia's faculty and staff; the vulnerable among us wonder, when the city and campus open up, whether they will be able to rejoin the community safely.

GSAS, the departments, and the University have been working tirelessly to find ways to support students with immediate financial need. We now take up the task of identifying sources for funds for the medium term, to ensure that students whose research was interrupted can retake the thread of their work. That effort is in progress; the scale of the need requires creative thinking from all parts of Arts and Sciences—including departments, GSAS, and the EVP’s office—and conversations with the central university about how we might manage the challenges entailed. As you can imagine, coordinating meaningful and far-reaching initiatives such as these takes time and careful planning.

We are happy to list here the results of our most recent efforts and collaborations:

1. Reaffirmed Commitment to Stipend Increase: Even as salaries are frozen for all faculty and staff, PhD students will receive the 3% increase to their 2020-21 stipend that was announced in January. 

2. Over 200 Columbia Summer Session Employment Opportunities: In addition to the summer classes normally taught by graduate students, GSAS has collaborated with the School of Professional Studies and Arts and Sciences faculty to increase the number of TA opportunities in faculty-taught courses. We are grateful to SPS that through these initiatives they have added nearly 100 new tutoring positions for our doctoral students. The total number of opportunities will now exceed 200, with stipends ranging from $3000 (to be a TA or tutor) to $6000-$8000 (to be an instructor of record). 

Job descriptions and applications can be found through the links below:

Summer Teaching Assistants 
Summer Tutors 

3. Enhanced Departmental Summer Research Employment: Through a joint effort by individual faculty and departments, a range of new research assistantships will be made available to allow graduate students to earn meaningful levels of additional income this summer while also providing substantive opportunities for professional development.

4. No Rent Increase in Columbia Residential Housing: Rent for graduate students continuing in Columbia Housing will remain at current levels for the next academic year.

5. Housing Extensions for Graduating Students and Rising 8th-Year PhD Students: As of May 5, Columbia Residential is now permitting graduating students and rising 8th-year PhD students to extend their Columbia Residential leases until August 15, 2020.

6. Ongoing GSAS/ASGC Community COVID-19 Emergency Fund: A group effort among student leadership, alumni, academic departments, and GSAS that has raised over $100,000 so far to support students with urgent and time-sensitive COVID-19-related financial emergencies that cannot be addressed by any other source. The application for round 2 of the Emergency Fund is now live. Deadline: May 11, 2020. 

7. Enhanced Summer Funding for PhD Students on 9-month appointments: The $3000 grant augments the $3884 stipends of those in years 1-5, and gives stipends to those in years 6 and 7 who normally do not receive additional summer funding. The first $1500 will be disbursed by June 1 (via direct deposit); the next $1500 will be disbursed by the end of July to those who have not secured campus employment that exceeds $1500 for the summer. Students who defend before May 31 (the official end of the spring semester) will be eligible for the first disbursement of $1500. Only continuing students will be eligible for the second disbursement.

8. Early Disbursement of Summer Stipends: GSAS issued all summer stipends a month earlier than usual.

We continue to look for options to provide support to doctoral students who saw their research interrupted or derailed. We ask for your patience, and will communicate with you about any developments along those lines.

Be well; stay well.

Carlos J. Alonso, Dean
Graduate School of Arts and Sciences