The Covid-19 crisis is affecting all of us in different ways. By working together as a union, we remind ourselves that we’re not alone, and of the importance of collective action in addressing common and particular issues across the University.

I am a first year PhD student who is trying to figure out her research interests and articulate her research ideas through courses as well as extra-curricular activities and engagements.

In the beginning of this crisis, I had to move out of my apartment, leave my housemate, and settle into a studio apartment by myself because she was immunocompromised. I also have felt financial anxieties about COVID-19 because I am a student of a university which has one of the best hospitals in the world, but I still have to pay a co-pay if I ever get COVID-19 since neither in the US nor at Hopkins is health care considered a human right. Further, as an international student, I have been going through this away from home while being constantly worried about my loved ones. All of these events and possibilities caused a great deal of mental distress which made focusing on my courses extremely difficult. Plus, having classes over Zoom decreased my productivity. I was planning to attend two conferences during the Spring semester which were cancelled. My RA work got disrupted. I had planned to read for my research project and travel to possible research sites for preliminary investigations during this summer, but now I can’t travel and I don’t have access to books.

All graduate students’ work have been disrupted in different ways and to different degrees! It is a shame that we have to reveal our personal stories to be heard by our senior colleagues—as if they already don’t know how academia and graduate school operates. We, graduate workers, need a universal funding extension and we know that Hopkins can afford it!

Ronay, 1st-year graduate worker

This is the end of my third year, and I was supposed to do a preliminary research trip this summer, in order to prepare for my year-long archival trip starting in the fall. The summer trip is obviously canceled, and it remains unclear whether the archives and libraries I need to visit will be accessible in the Fall, or even next Spring. How I address this problem depends entirely on whether I can reasonably expect to have funding beyond my 5th year. I do not want to abandon the project I have spent the last two years developing, but if I cannot get a funding extension I may have no other choice. Because of several chronic health problems, I cannot afford to go without health insurance. Given the bleak state of the coming job market, I similarly cannot afford to spend a significant amount of time without any income.

Vague statements about “support” do not help me. Until I have a firm promise of my future funding, my project will remain in limbo, and I may have to abandon it altogether. Hopkins prides itself on being an elite research institution. Now is the time to draw on its $6 billion endowment so that our research does not suffer do to the uncertainty caused by Covid.

Greg, 3rd-year graduate worker

I’ll restrict myself purely to research as I assume my reader is aware of the physical and mental toll this takes on everyone as we try to deal with this in the best possible way.

I study language acquisition processes. I was in the middle of running participants on the final experiment for my dissertation when we received the notice to stop all research involving human subjects. This was the correct, necessary choice for the school. However, I am not independently wealthy and simply must finish this before my funding ends in August or I will not finish. If I am to finish my research and my dissertation before August, I do not have time to stop (or even pause) running this experiment. Even though I moved as quickly as possible to adapt my tasks to something that can be run virtually, I lost a month of running subjects – almost to the day: I ran my last in-person subject on March 12. I ran my first virtual subject on April 14. I am incredibly fortunate that the ‘virtual study’ seems to be working, but obviously this is not what it was designed for and I will have to justify many changes. Furthermore, the retention rate of participants in the lab was about 2/3. Virtually it is 3/7. The only difference is the fact that we aren’t in person: it matters. This means even though I am able to run participants, it will take longer to reach the number I need and furthermore this will necessarily affect the data. To summarize: (1)  my research had to take a serious pause (2) I had to spend a month devoting my energy to redesigning the study rather than working on other aspects of my dissertation (3) the data I am now collecting comes in more slowly and is definitely affected by the medium.  My dissertation, if submitted before my funding ends in August will scarcely resemble that which I proposed last year.

5th-year graduate worker in Cognitive Science

So how is the situation affecting you and your work? Share your story through our contact form, or by emailing – if you’d like to remain anonymous, you’re welcome to do so.