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Fighting Lost Time

May 29, 2020

Fighting Lost Time

May 29, 2020

Nathan Grau, a third-year graduate student in the History Department, was about to set out on his research year before the pandemic ended most international travel. He studies decolonization in the former French Empire and had secured a Fulbright Scholarship to conduct nine months of research abroad in France, Algeria, Madagascar, and Vietnam. His days would have been spent digging through archives, drawing analytic connections, and conducting interviews.

His scholarship is delayed at least until the start of 2021. Even if he can travel in January, he may have to substantially alter his research plans in the face of the pandemic. His more elderly interlocutors will be more reticent, and with the French archives closed, Grau cannot request document declassifications in advance — his first few months in France could be spent waiting for approval.

And even if research goes smoothly, Grau will at a minimum have to use one of his finite semesters of his “guaranteed teaching” — a system by which GSAS provides a teaching position and supplements, or “tops up,” teaching fellows’ salaries for up to four semesters — in the fall.

“I will be burning through an extra semester of Harvard’s sort of support for us while we’re on campus,” he says. This means in the future he will struggle to generate income or, even if he manages to teach, will have to take on extra sections to make up for not having a salary “top up” (nearly $800 per month during the four semesters of guaranteed teaching) — eating into his time to write and research a dissertation that will shape his academic career.

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