“Appreciation” seems an inadequate word for thanking Grad Student Labor

We are still in the thick of the COVID-19 crisis, and my university has declared this week to be Graduate Student Appreciation Week. I think this is a wonderful move, both for graduate students and faculty, because it helps anchor us to each other and reminds us of how much we really, crucially depend on each other, especially in a R-1 setting. I think this is a wonderful move, not just because it foregrounds the social connections that remain crucial despite the physical distancing measures presently in place, but also because it emphasizes that this dependence is not just the resource-based variety (as in, “I need you to collect data for me,” or “I need you to write a letter of recommendation for me”) but involves emotional investment and labor from all parties — perhaps too much of it, at times. At the same time, this recognition invites further introspection about the lived experiences and conditions of our graduate students, challenging faculty to think beyond the staid (and quite possibly rose-tinted) nostalgia of “in the days when I was a grad student…” to listen to and act in response to their concerns. Whether this is about grad student stipends, housing, diversity and inclusion within the department, bureaucratic red rape, bullying, … the list goes on (sadly).

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