The University Graduate School has announced a number of policy changes regarding graduate-level academic work amid the COVID-19 pandemic, including allowing academic departments to adjust grading options and degree requirements and permitting for remote or delayed examinations.
In a message sent to the graduate student body on March 17, Deputy Dean of the Graduate School Cole M. Crittenden GS ’05 encouraged departments to be flexible with their coursework and program requirements.
“We strongly encourage departments and programs to offer flexibility and appropriate adjustments to students who may be affected by illness, caregiving, unexpected child care obligations, relocation, or other stressors in this current environment,” Crittenden wrote.
Instead of enacting a graduate school-wide policy similar to the one enacted by the Dean of the College Jill S. Dolan, which established a P/D/F option for all undergraduate courses, the Graduate School will “defer to the faculty in departments and programs on whether and how best to adjust the timelines for their own requirements.”
In a follow-up communication to Directors of Graduate Studies and Graduate Administrators on March 20, Crittenden instructed faculty that “if a graduate program normally requires that a course be taken for a grade, you can as faculty decide for yourselves whether to allow a PDF grade to be sufficient this semester, given the current circumstances.”
The original guidance also announced that the Graduate School will now accept remotely administered general exams and Ph.D. Public Oral Exams “with whatever adjustments to format faculty deem appropriate based on mode of delivery.”
Any exams completed in June or July will be recorded for 2019–20 academic year degree progress, while exams administered in August will be considered completed in the 2020 fall term. The Graduate School will also accept the deferral of general exams to fall of this year, at which time they “hope that normal, in-person general exams will be possible.”
The Graduate School formerly maintained that they “are not at this time able to extend enrollment beyond a degree program’s regular program length” and will not delay coursework for more than one semester, but caveated that “any student who falls ill or who must perform caregiving or unexpected childcare responsibilities as a result of COVID-19 during this semester may make slower than normal progress.”
However, in a April 14 memo, Dean of the Graduate School Sarah-Jane Leslie announced enhanced flexibility for funding and enrollment.
“We are working closely with departments to find ways to extend funding for post-generals students who have experienced delays and therefore need additional time with support to complete their dissertation work,” she wrote.
All graduate students, may have the opportunity to take one additional semester to complete their coursework.
“Given the impossibility of research to continue this semester for some Ph.D. students, Ph.D. students in the final semester of [Dissertation Completion Enrollment] DCE status may request, with the support of their adviser(s), to extend their DCE eligibility by a semester, and in exceptional cases up to two semesters, depending on the type of research they conduct,” Leslie wrote.
English graduate student Andrew Finn, who serves as Academic Affairs Chair of the Graduate Student Government, conveyed “some of the major concerns” of graduate students.
According to Finn, students across disciplines are “casting their gazes towards years down the line in their programs,” asking how the COVID-19 distance learning will impact future job prospects.