Dear IPGRH Community,

We write to you to acknowledge the mixture of emotions – hurt, anger, and anxiety, for example – that many of you may be feeling after the conclusion of the GEO strike, which ended under the threat of legal action instead of the amicable resolution of demands. All student workers on the University of Michigan campus have the right to collective action, and GEO has been essential in securing student workers the guarantee of salary, benefits, and safe working conditions. Furthermore, GEO’s vision, captured by the strike’s “Demands for A Safe and Just Pandemic Response for All," aligns with the humanistic values of IPGRH: to provide an inclusive and equitable environment in which students from a range of backgrounds and with their own unique sets of abilities can pursue their educational goals.

This letter affirms IPGRH’s commitment to supporting all of our students – whether they went on strike or not – without retaliation. IPGRH also encourages all of its faculty, core and affiliate, to work to accommodate students whose progress has been disrupted by the strike and COVID-19 pandemic. Flexibility is especially important at this moment in time, so, at the level of individual faculty members, our suggestions for accommodations include adjusting syllabi as well as modifying exam schedules, formats, and even content.

At the urging of the Rackham Graduate School, the IPGRH Executive Committee has been in discussion about what accommodations can be made to facilitate both students’ advancement to candidacy and the completion of their degrees. Concerning qualifying exams for pre-modern languages, we will continue the policy, established by the previous director Celia Schultz, to test students only on the portion of their reading lists that they have covered by the two-week interval prior to the actual sitting of the exam. Another recommendation that we intend to maintain during the duration of the pandemic, if it is amenable to the student, is that all preliminary exams be held as oral exams, in recognition of the fact that writing research papers is especially challenging given the limited access to library resources. Furthermore, the program asks faculty to consider setting the final preliminary exam meetings and the exam itself over the summer, if the student is finding it difficult to complete the relevant work during term time.

The IPGRH Executive Committee is also reflecting on measures that the program can take to provide additional financial support to students in the final stages of their degree. Rackham has made it clear to all graduate degree programs that, in the absence of supplementary funds from the graduate school and College of LSA, the onus is on individual programs to make the appropriate financial provisions for extensions of time to degree. As a smaller degree-granting program, we are formulating a diverse approach to this funding issue that involves re-evaluating our admissions targets and financial outlays, as well as finding ways to make available and possibly increase GSI positions.

This demanding moment requires an open dialogue between all members of our community. We offer this letter as a formal gesture of our resolution to foster honest communication that will enable us all to meet the challenges ahead of us.


The IPGRH Executive Committee