PhD Students Launch #BeBetterBU Campaign
By Grace Ferguson
PhD students at Boston University launched a social media campaign on Wednesday called #BeBetterBU to protest the university’s policies for faculty and teaching fellows.
Other tags associated with the campaign, which is mostly on Twitter, include #AshamedToBU and #StillAPandemic.
As part of BU’s Learn from Anywhere hybrid teaching model, instructors are expected to teach in-person this fall. Instructors can request to teach remotely, but only if they or someone they live with falls into a COVID-19 high risk category.
PhD students who don’t fall into a risk category and don’t return to campus could lose their stipends. The university expects continuing PhD students to take a leave of absence if they don’t return to campus, which means losing their stipend and health insurance.
Another option for PhD students is to take online classes, which lets them keep their health insurance, but not their stipend. Some students could get stipends if they can do their research remotely, but that does not include international students. BU says it cannot pay international students for tax reasons.
The #BeBetterBU campaign demands that BU let instructors decide where they teach. Other posts say BU should guarantee stipends and health insurance for all PhD students. Most posters under the hashtag are BU faculty or PhD students.
The two organizations behind the #BeBetterBU campaign are the BU Graduate Workers’ Union and the BU PhD Student Coalition. They have distributed several images with large text outlining their demands and ideals. One image reads: “Don’t make us choose between our lives and our livelihoods.”
The campaign organizers also posted some art meant to be used as profile pictures. The icons show men and women in front of a virus motif wearing masks with a BU logo.
Many of the posters under the hashtag have used the profile pictures, and most of the posts include one of the text images.
“BU is using policy to coerce PhD students into returning to campus in the midst of a pandemic instead of supporting their teaching and research wherever they are,” one BU professor tweeted.
In a statement, the BU Graduate Workers’ Union said the campaign is “all in the name of raising awareness to the BU administration (and Boston more broadly) that their plan for student workers to return to campus and put themselves at risk is unacceptable.”