Guidance from the Graduate School during the COVID -19 pandemic (1)

Dear Graduate Program Directors, Chairs, and Deans,
Please distribute to appropriate people

Graduate students are currently experiencing a high degree of stress from the uncertainty of funding, changes in instruction, academic progress, fulfilling their research and teaching duties, and the safety of their family and friends across the world. We are charged with providing them the best educational experience that we can, and part of our responsibility this semester is to include ways to mitigate the stress and anxiety they are facing.  

While graduate programs should continue to maintain academic standards, please make allowances for the extraordinarily stressful times our graduate students are facing. Some items you might consider:

  • BC/C grades: The Graduate School allows up to six credits of BC/C grades to be used toward completion of a graduate degree. If your graduate program does not allow some BC/C grades to be used, you might consider whether that requirement can be relaxed for spring and summer 2020.
  • Deadlines for completion of exams: Your graduate program may have deadlines in place for completion of qualifying exams and research proposal examinations. Relaxing these deadlines and postponing exams until students can adequately prepare for them and perform well might be something you could consider.
  • Number of attempts for completion of exams: For students who took a qualifying exam this semester, you might consider an additional attempt if the student did not successfully pass the exam.  
  • Q grades: Research is graded as progress (P) or no progress (Q). For research grades, please consider whether your students have made adequate progress, based on the circumstances in your research group this semester. As we are all well aware, this is  not a “normal” semester with an uninterrupted schedule. Therefore, although we encourage “Q” grades when no progress has been made, please account for the difficult circumstances that we are all working under when considering student progress this semester.
  • Research progress: Student progress on research is likely to be impacted due to the disruptions on campus. We would encourage faculty to consider whether changes to the research project can be made to allow students to complete their degree in a timely manner.  
  • Delay in graduation for research-based MS degrees: Master’s students whose graduation is delayed because of research progress this semester may want to consider the coursework option. The Graduate School can allow research credits to be considered toward a coursework option. In order to do so, the department would provide the Graduate School with a statement of learning outcomes achieved, work accomplished, evaluation process, letter grade, the number of research credits completed, and the number of equivalent coursework credits requested. Please reach out to us for additional details.

The Graduate School will make the following adjustments to policies to support student success and lessen their anxiety:

  • Probation and suspension: The process to place students on probation or suspension will be placed on hold for spring 2020. Students will maintain their current academic standing after semester grades are posted and no student will be suspended. Students currently on probation may return to good standing if their academic performance has improved in spring 2020. Dismissals (if any) will be handled on a case-by-case basis after consulting with the graduate program.
  • Extensions given: The Graduate School normally places registration holds if students fail to complete the following in a timely manner: select an advisor, complete basic RCR training, and provide original proof of degree(s). For this semester, all the holds on registration will be released. This will give students additional time to complete these requirements and allow them to register for future semesters.

FYI: The following policy changes have been previously announced and are already in place:

  • International students: May be registered for fewer than nine credits this semester without approval from International Programs & Services (IPS) and without impacting their student status.
  • Supported students may be registered with fewer than nine credits without losing their support. 
  • Drop deadline extended: The deadline to withdraw from classes with a “W” grade has been extended to 5 p.m. on April 24. W grades do not impact cumulative GPA calculation, and any graduate student with a CD, D, or F in a class should strongly consider dropping classes to help maintain good standing.
  • Deadlines for completing a dissertation, thesis, or report have been extended by the Graduate School.

We hope you are taking the time to take care of yourself and your family. We wish you the very best as we navigate through these extraordinary times. Please reach out to us with any questions or suggestions you may have. 


Pushpa Murthy