UB to pause recruitment for funded Ph.D. students in 23 College of Arts and Science departments next academic year

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Twenty-three departments in the College of Arts and Sciences won’t be recruiting funded Ph.D. students in the 2020-21 academic year, UB announced Thursday.

The College of Arts and Sciences has 29 departments, meaning roughly 80% of CAS departments will not be recruiting funded Ph.D. students next fall. The biology, communicative disorders and sciences, communication, chemistry, geology and psychology departments will still recruit funded Ph.D. students, according to an email from David Johnson, the associate dean of graduate education. The College of Arts and Sciences formed a nine-member committee to determine how CAS will “recruit and distribute teaching assistant resources in the future,” according to CAS Dean Robin Schulze. 

According to UB, Johnson’s email didn’t include the length of the pause.

“What the memo from the College of Arts and Sciences failed to mention is that this is a one-year pause in recruitment of Ph.D. students within some programs in the college,” UB spokesperson John DellaContrada wrote in an email. “This measure is being taken in order to raise stipends awarded to current Ph.D. students to $20,000 for the 10-month academic year. The programs are not shutting down and the college is not recruiting unfunded Ph.D. students into their programs.”

"Since the previous wage floor was $10,000 for a full-time student, we're very heartened by the raise," Macy McDonald, an English Ph.D. student, said in a statement from the Living Stipend Movement. 

"But for the administration to first provide basic material dignity to graduate employees, and then turn around and effectively penalize departments, destroy the future of some of our departments, is incredibly cynical and shortsighted."

The 23 paused programs can still recruit self-funded students, Arthur A. Schomburg fellowships and presidential scholarships. The total Ph.D. enrollment is 2,347, according to DellaContrada. Of these students, DellaContrada said roughly 1,400 Ph.D. students receive stipends and 1,016 will see their stipends increase to $20,000 this fall.

“We recognize that this will be disappointing to nearly everyone, but the reduction of the size of our funded student cohort is the only way to realize the benefits of the Ph.D. Excellence Initiative,” Johnson wrote. “No currently funded student will lose his or her TA position and we are working to clarify how currently enrolled students will access the benefits of the new initiative beyond the stipend increase, which should become effective some time in October.”

This is a developing story.

Brittany Gorny is the senior news editor and can be reached at brittany.gorny@ubspectrum.com and on Twitter @BrittanyGorny.