• Doug Most

    Assistant VP, Executive Editor, Editorial Department Twitter Profile

    Doug Most is a lifelong journalist and author whose career has spanned newspapers and magazines up and down the East Coast, with stops in Washington, D.C., South Carolina, New Jersey, and Boston. He was named Journalist of the Year while at The Record in Bergen County, N.J., for his coverage of a tragic story about two teens charged with killing their newborn. After a stint at Boston Magazine, he worked for more than a decade at the Boston Globe in various roles, including magazine editor and deputy managing editor/special projects. His 2014 nonfiction book, The Race Underground, tells the story of the birth of subways in America and was made into a PBS/American Experience documentary. He has a BA in political communication from George Washington University. Profile

Comments & Discussion

Boston University moderates comments to facilitate an informed, substantive, civil conversation. Abusive, profane, self-promotional, misleading, incoherent or off-topic comments will be rejected. Moderators are staffed during regular business hours (EST) and can only accept comments written in English.

There are 6 comments on Big Changes, Including Vacation Policy, Coming for University PhD Students

  1. Such a wonderful policy to institute! It will go a long way towards protecting our graduate students. Proud that BU is taking this concrete step.

  2. The “Deep Discount” for dental is a complete joke. 10% off of very expensive procedures is essentially nothing for a poor graduate student. If the Board of directors really cared about something other than their bottom line then they would offer REAL dental insurance to their graduate workers. We are here for ~5 years; we can’t just put our teeth on hold for our stay here. This is why graduate workers are unionizing!

  3. I appreciate this post as this does absolutely highlight some of the excellent, innovative changes that BU makes for it’s graduate students. I also want to emphasize that it is caring, devoted deans and provosts that make graduate students feel as if they have a voice here in the university. HOWEVER, I am very disappointed in some skewing of facts here in this article. Please give hardworking graduate students their due. The GPLC (the Graduate and Professional Leadership Council) and GWISE (Graduate Women in Science and Engineering), two student led groups, were the ones to push improved dental care and childcare support for the entire graduate student body. Please use BU Today as a way to encourage our graduate community to stay involved and take part in these groups and mention their behind-the-scenes work that is often unappreciated. It is so crucial that should we as graduate students want change, that we step up and take initiatives to work within these strong organizations on campus. A simple sentence of acknowledgement and links to GWISE or the GPLC would suffice I’m sure.

    In addition, I am very disappointed with the way in which funding is framed in this article. The BU 12-month stipend is approximately $35,000; however, a large majority of the PhD students do not receive this stipend. Including most humanities graduate students, Chemistry, Biology, Computer Science and Mathematics PhD students all have an approximately $22,000 stipend from September to the first week of May. I believe a vacation policy treats students like humans and the future employees they will become (bravo!), but it is insincere to even imply we are benefitting and getting paid vacation when most of us will not benefit fully from this policy as most of us do not run on this 12 month stipend cycle. Most of all, please be much more specific about stipends. They DO differ, and it has caused much strife, stress, and worry amongst all PhD students across the nation. I believe as a graduate student, all of us chose to enter graduate school, love our research and our work. We love doing it not just during the academic year, but year round. We are preparing ourselves to commit to a future doing these careers for 12 months of the year, not just an academic year. Yes, vacation is something we will expect as employees in the future, and excellent BU provosts and deans clearly want to respect us as workers, students and employees of this university. But when will all graduate students who ALL actually enjoy their work and choose to go to graduate school full time actually be paid 12 months of the year to work the twelve months they always do? I doubt there is a single graduate student who stops their work when they are not paid. Please be more sensitive and clear about these issues. Honesty, transparency, and even the slightest nod to the hard work of graduate students is always always appreciated.

  4. Agreed, not all students actually make that much, (I am in my third year and make slightly less) and guaranteed funding for all five years to my knowledge is not the case across all colleges and divisions. (eg- CAS has that but ENG does not).

    Also “two weeks time off in addition to school vacations”- this is confusing as obviously no one is going to not work for all of summer vacation or all of the nearly month-long january break. Two weeks of flexible vacation time in addition to federal holidays, spring break, etc. is indeed a great step towards treating us better, and just knowing we have it will indeed encourage students to actually use it, but it should be clarified which holidays BU already “gives us” so as not to actually shorten the net time off students might usually take or make students worry that by asking their advisor for more time off their pay will now get docked. (whereas currently we are more or less salaried and can negotiate vacation-time individually with our adivsors without worrying about pay effects- though I’m sure some advisors are going to be more leniant that others)

  5. I’m glad to hear that others are having the same reaction to this article. As a current PhD candidate, I cannot emphasize enough how misleading this article is. The author talks about this change for the entire population of 2,000 PhD student workers at BU, but mentions a stipend system which applies to a minority of student workers. I think all of us appreciate the fortunate opportunity to conduct research under the 2013 stipend system especially with the benefit of healthcare, but the majority of us do not have 12 month stipends. We are paid for 8 months and formally restricted from earning basically any supplemental income to support our children and families during those months. And large academic conferences already provide free child care for attendees – a benefit that is perhaps too little, too late.
    We enjoy our research. We work through spring break. We work through the summer. We of course will benefit from a focus on the benefits of vacation on student workers, but I still call for this article to be revised. 1st) Give credit to the student groups who worked tirelessly to advocate for these benefits and 2nd) Do not imply that 2,000 students receive 12 month funding for 5 years when that is patently false for the most of them. Explicate this because it does not reflect well on the institution

  6. I have been talking to other PhD students at BU about this article and we are generally disappointed, for the following reasons:
    1) PhD students in the humanities and social sciences, which comprise a significant number of the total population of PhD students at BU, do not receive 12-month funding, but instead 8-month funding. It is interesting that the article states that 12-month funding is about $35k, whereas nowhere is it mentioned that us 8-monthers have about $23 of guaranteed funding. This leaves us to scramble to find internal and external funding and many of us are not sure how we will pay our rent and bills and *eat* over the four months we are not paid, between mid-May and mid-September. Many of my colleagues cannot find summer funding and have to drive for Uber or work in food service over the summer to pay their bills, when they could be working on their dissertations and graduating faster instead. If the pay difference means that STEM is more important to BU, fine, accept less humanities and social sciences students and fund them for 12 months. Additionally, there is a pay gap at the beginning of summer for STEM students depending on whether they are teaching or doing research, which is very difficult for them as well.
    2) The dental discount is a joke. I have significant dental work I need done and am sometimes in pain because I cannot currently afford the $500+ that it will cost since that’s more than I even have in my savings (it is not basic care so would AETNA even cover it?). So I get to wait until I get my tax return or until my summer funding starts to finally pay for it.
    3) If you are serious about supporting grad students with children, you will provide free or heavily discounted child care, and not with a long waiting list.
    4) If a grad student is working in a lab 12 hours a day for a month (as stated in the article), the obvious solution is not (just) a vacation, but an *enforceable* workplace protection that prevents them from working that 12 hours a day (which would be compensated with overtime in many other workplaces…).
    5) How is this vacation policy enforceable? Who is keeping PIs or advisors from violating it?
    6) Many of us can’t afford to go anywhere on a vacation so giving us a “guaranteed” one is frankly insulting.

Post a comment.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *