Demands for Immediate Relief for Graduate Workers at Brown

Graduate student workers demand greater protections amidst the fast-changing and dramatic impacts of the COVID-19 crisis. The closure of labs, interruption of fieldwork, and shuttering of libraries has impeded our academic progress. The cancellation of conferences and symposia has paused professionalization. Many of us have had to leave the country or take care of dependents, and some of us will become ill ourselves. The global recession will affect all graduate students approaching the job market. Brown has a responsibility to act quickly to minimize economic insecurity, provide better healthcare, and protect graduate students and other vulnerable university employees.

In order to protect graduate workers and our broader community, Brown must:

  1. Settle a fair contract,
  2. Provide a year-long extension of funding and increase summer funding,
  3. Ensure equity by protecting international grads’ visas and positions & providing one-time financial assistance to grad parents,
  4. Cover all costs of coronavirus testing and treatment & guarantee paid sick leave, and;
  5. Commit to a termination freeze for all university employees.

Click here, or scroll below, to read the detailed explanation of our Demands for Immediate Relief for Graduate WorkersIn the face of a global public health emergency, these demands represent the absolute minimum protections. We ask that the University immediately implement these provisions to protect public health and the well-being of the Brown graduate student community. RSVP to join us at the General Membership Meeting call next Weds. at 6 to start taking action to make this a reality!

We know that the changes we propose will require revising budgets, but our livelihoods are at stake. The dramatic impacts of COVID-19 aren’t an abstract threat; they are happening to us and our families, now. Brown can uphold its commitment to its graduate workers, and to the whole University community, by guaranteeing stability in this time of intense disruption.

Over the next few weeks we will be reaching out to grad workers individually to hear and share their stories. To any grad worker: SUGSE is here for you. To all workers on campus: we are in this together, and SUGSE stands in solidarity with you. To anyone who wants help organizing their coworkers: email and let’s make a plan.


Demands for Immediate Relief for Graduate Workers


  • 1. Contract now



Commit to quickly finishing a contract with SUGSE that would guarantee stable funding and support. The COVID-19 crisis accentuates the need for a recognized, independent union and a fixed-term contract for graduate student workers. With a settled contract, graduate workers can teach and complete research no matter what economic disruptions this crisis brings, and be confident in the university’s commitment to fair pay and benefits.



  • 2. Stop the clock and extend our funding 



Extend our employment, our positions in academic programs, and our visas by one full calendar year. Graduate students’ work and study have been radically disrupted. We are attempting to mitigate the strains of online-only teaching, cancelled fieldwork and research trips, delayed and collapsed experiments, and a frozen academic job market. Tuition-paying graduate students have invested thousands of dollars in their education and will miss out on crucial aspects of their training as well as face a severely constrained job market.  Many of us are now parenting full-time or caring for family members who are sick. We fear becoming sick ourselves. Normal progress toward degrees is impossible for most of us to sustain. 


Guaranteed full summer pay for graduate workers. Graduate students will still need to seek supplemental income over the summer, though opportunities for grants, fellowships, and other remunerated work will be reduced. Graduate students require full summer stipends comparable to their AY monthly stipends.



  • 3. Ensure equity



Protect international grads’ visa status while working and learning conditions change. Maintain stipend pay and insurance coverage for any graduate students  unable to return to the United States after returning home or traveling abroad for research. 


One-time special financial assistance for all graduate parents. Graduate student parents are facing some of the greatest interruptions in their ability to complete scholarly work and teach during the crisis. The university should double their child care subsidy through the next calendar year.

Guarantee that relief policies will be nondiscriminatory. Commit to protecting the interests and resources of underrepresented and minority graduate student workers.



  • 4. Protect our health



Fully cover the costs of COVID-19 testing, treatment, and eventual vaccination for grad workers and their dependents.  Extend healthcare and institutional affiliation by six months for graduating students. 


Keep the campus healthy and prevent the new infections by offering unlimited paid sick leave and paid family care leave for every Brown employee through the duration of the pandemic. 



  • 5. Commit to community


Don’t fire if you won’t hire. Commit to a termination and layoff freeze for all university employees to last at least as long as the university hiring freeze, and renew all current contracts, including those about to expire, for at least the length of the hiring freeze.


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