Lack of University Support Results in Months of Lost Progress

Lack of University Support Results in Months of Lost Progress

According to surveys by the student government of graduate students at Rutgers New Brunswick and Newark, where the overwhelming majority of doctoral students study, two-thirds of PhD students at Rutgers report research delays that will necessitate their taking at least one more year to complete their dissertations and produce innovative work.

Even the lucky few who have work that can be performed remotely are no longer able to access vital campus resources. And the majority of research cannot be done from home. As things are now, researchers are unable to continue their work and have no clear sense of when we will be able to resume.

In addition, Ian Schlegel in the Department of Biochemistry and Microbiology at Rutgers states, “Without new research, we cannot seek the sources of funding that enable our work, including competitive outside grants from major funders, such as NASA or the NSF. It is a common practice for such agencies to fully fund a project only after researchers complete a high-risk, high-reward initial effort to demonstrate proof of concept. As we cannot generate new data, we are unable to accomplish the early-stage research we need to get funding. Such resources are key not only to our research projects’ completion but also to our ability to progress in our fields and make Rutgers a center of innovation.”

Lengthy Delays

Any long-term projects planned for this semester or over the summer cannot move forward, resulting in month-to-year-long delays in the beginning of new work or completing existing projects.

Thankfully, on all three campuses (Rutgers–Camden, Rutgers–Newark, and Rutgers–New Brunswick), deans have already loosened timeline limits for PhD students. But simply allowing students to spend more time at Rutgers to complete their projects isn’t enough. Without financial support, more time is essentially meaningless. It is imperative that the university, with the aid of the state, extend graduate student funding across the board for at least one year. 

If we do not support our graduate students now, then we will all but ensure that an entire generation—and months of research progress—will be left behind.