Universal One-Year: FAQs

GET-UP’s current campaign calls for a universal one-year funding extension for all PhD students at Penn.

What is Universal One-Year?

Universal one-year funding extensions for grad student workers, that would include:

  • Complete 12-month funding 
  • Full stipend, healthcare, and all other benefits
  • Administered at the university level to ensure equity
  • No application required
  • No teaching or research requirements
  • Available to all PhD students currently enrolled (hence “universal”)

Why do we need it?

Department-level and application-conditioned funding will be unequal and unfair. Universalizing the funding provides stability in a moment of deep precarity. We need 12 months because students do not stop existing at the end of the summer. We need a guarantee of healthcare during a pandemic. We need to use the extra time it provides not to teach but to work on our research, and we need this for all students whose work has been affected by the pandemic, regardless of year. 

As of right now, what has the University of Pennsylvania offered its students?

As of now there’s only a patchwork of insufficient measures varying by department:

  • Some departments are doing their own funding extensions, in SAS and other schools
  • TAing may be a requirement, which prevents the purpose of an extra year of funding (to make up for lost time in dissertation completion)
  • Applications have to be made at the department and school levels
  • Only available to students who are finishing their PhDs, unclear what will happen to early- or middle-year PhD students
  • No guarantee of summer funding

Have other schools extended PhD funding due to the pandemic?

Yes, some have in various ways.

  • Brown: Extended it for 3rd-, 4th-, and 5th-years, with an application and a TA/proctor/RAship
  • Duke: Extension for 2nd- to 5th-years, with departments deciding whether TA/RAing is required
  • Columbia: All 6th- and 7th-years “guaranteed a teaching appointment or other funded assignment”

But Penn can’t afford Universal One-Year, can it?

The University of Pennsylvania endowment grew substantially during the pandemic, to $14.9 billion. Amy Gutmann, our university president, refused to take a pay cut (instead taking a freeze) despite her $3.6 million annual salary. Finally, other similarly situated universities have implemented something like Universal One-Year; some have even been guaranteeing six years of funding since well before the pandemic. The money is there!

What have other schools’ graduate student unions accomplished?

Graduate student unions have made big strides in changing material conditions for students. Victories include:

  • American University – Wage increases, job security, health benefits, grievance processes with binding arbitration, ability to take outside employment (2018) 
  • Washington University in St. Louis – Guaranteed year-round funding, dental coverage, improved healthcare (2018)
  • Tufts University – 12% – 19% increase in minimum stipend, 12 weeks of paid parental leave, six years of health insurance (2018)
  • University of Pennsylvania – See next question!

What has GET-UP accomplished?

  • The early-2000s GET-UP campaign won a 43% stipend increase from $17k to $23k, and healthcare coverage.
  • GET-UP 2.0 (2014-2016) won gym memberships and dental coverage coupons.
  • GET-UP 3.0 (2018-present) won an end to delayed payment in SAS.

While these took collective organizing to win, they are the administration’s concessions and they are not protected without a union contract.


Last updated: November 22, 2020