20 hour per week limit on student employment
It is the University’s long-standing policy that full-time graduate students should prioritize academic progress and devote less than half of each week to non-academic work (i.e., no more than 20 hours). Graduate student members of our community are students first and foremost, and they are expected to focus their attention and efforts on academic work. However, with permission from their area dean of students, graduate students may be permitted to work more than 20 hours per week.
Our policy is similar to policies at many of UChicago’s peer institutions – including Cornell and Brown – where graduate student employment is limited to 20 hours per week. Additionally, as a reference point, under Federal Law, international students subject to F-1 or J-1 visa regulations are limited to 20 hours per week.
To be clear, the 20-hour limit is unrelated to health insurance benefits. A majority of doctoral students have their U-SHIP health insurance premium paid for by the University (through 7th year) as part of their funding. As of January 1, 2015, graduate students may become eligible to receive an offer of employee medical coverage pursuant to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) if the average number of hours worked on behalf of the University within the course of a year (or a shorter measurement period selected by the University in accordance with the ACA) is 30 or more per week or 130 or more per month.
Procedures for grievances
There are several resources currently available for students to manage grievances with faculty. Each academic division and school has written grievance procedures for academic matters. There are also policies and processes for complaints about specialized subjects such as unlawful discrimination and harassment and accessibility for individuals with disabilities. The Office of the Student Ombudsperson is a resource for a wide variety of issues. A student’s area dean of students is a good initial resource for grievance matters.
Opportunities for students, faculty, and administrators to work together
Many recent improvements to the graduate student experience have come as the result of dialogue among concerned students, faculty, and administrators. In conversation with the Student Parent Organization, for example, the University created and then expanded and renovated the Family Resource Center and began providing child care grants for eligible PhD students with children. Similarly, increases to teaching remuneration, a freeze of the Advanced Residence out-of-pocket tuition, and investment in an expanded Chicago Center for Teaching were direct outcomes of several faculty-student-administrator committees. And recent decisions to increase stipends and expand health insurance came after careful consideration of student and faculty advocacy. With dean’s councils at the divisional and school level and an active Graduate Council, there are a variety of ways for graduate students to advocate and effect positive change.
Child care grants
UChicago offers need-based, annual child care stipends in the amount of $2,000 for eligible PhD students with children up to age 12. This funding is intended to help alleviate some of the financial challenges student parents face while allowing them flexibility to tailor child care to their needs.
Avenues for student input on healthcare
Every spring, the Student Health Advisory Board (SHAB) solicits applications from graduate students to serve one-year renewable terms. SHAB members (who also include students from the College, administrators and Student Healthcare & Counseling Services (SHCS) senior leadership) work collaboratively on issues concerning university student health, counseling, wellness, and insurance. Every third year SHAB gives particular attention to reviewing the insurance plan options for the University Student Health Insurance Plan (U-SHIP). The board meets monthly during the academic year. Students on the board are expected to solicit and report student feedback on insurance and SHCS with the intent of informing the development of the SHCS Strategic Plan and wellness programming. SHAB students are also ambassadors to the student body, communicating information from the Board and soliciting feedback from their peers on issues related to student health and wellness and insurance coverage. The 2015-16 Board includes 11 graduate and professional students representing 7 divisions and schools.