May 23, 2019
Dear graduate students,
During the spring semester, many of you have provided input to the Graduate Education Task Force and raised concerns about numerous issues facing graduate students. For some inadequate funding is the most immediately pressing among them.
Other important issues have also surfaced. For example, several students have shared with me how the gap in summer health insurance creates additional burdens as they pursue their education. Another common theme I've heard, which needs to be addressed as part of the work of the task force, is the lack of clarity around the roles that graduate students are asked to perform as TAs and AIs. Some students have shared that their roles are sometimes ill-defined or do not directly contribute to the development of their skills as teachers and researchers. These are just a few of the issues we must address university-wide, as noted in the recent update from the Graduate Education Task Force.
I’m writing to let you know that I appreciate your participation in this process. I hear and share your concerns, and I want you to know that we’re doing something about them. Graduate students are integral to our mission as a great public research university. We also want to ensure that the work you perform plays a significant role in your professional and academic development, and that you have the resources you need to do so effectively.
The issues you have raised are not new. Some have been persistent concerns on this campus for some time, and simple solutions do not exist. The task force was created and charged with conducting a deep dive analysis. This process will improve our understanding of the wide variability of these issues across campus. Task force members are working diligently to understand the complexity of these challenges down to the individual student level, and I am strongly supportive of their preliminary recommendations.
In the short term, the $10 million I committed last year will be invested during the 2019-20 academic year in support of the preliminary recommendations of the task force, targeting the areas of highest need. I intend to work closely with the deans to ensure we do so quickly and effectively.
Addressing these challenges is one of my top priorities as provost, and I look forward to gaining better insight as the task force continues its work of gathering unit-level data. Members plan to present their final recommendations in December 2019. In the meantime, we are taking action with one-time funding and working closely with university leadership to improve support for students.
Thank you for everything you do for the university and for helping us better understand the issues facing graduate students.
Executive Vice President and Provost
The University of Texas at Austin