To: Faculty members who advise graduate students and post-doctoral researchers
Subject: Graduate students, post-doctoral researchers, and research continuity
Date: March 13, 2020
Dear Graduate and Post-Doctoral Advisors,
As you are all well aware, we are facing extraordinary times. Earlier this week, a message from the Dean of the College and the Vice President for Campus Life went out to all of our undergraduate students, asking them, with few exceptions, to return home at this time and complete their spring academic work remotely. Graduate students and post-docs are not being asked to leave campus, not least because, for many of them, this is their primary residence. However, those who have a residence elsewhere, and who can make reasonable academic progress remotely, are encouraged to consider leaving in order to reduce the number of students and other personnel on campus. This helps mitigate the transmission of the virus and improves our ability to care for those who may become sick and isolate those who have been exposed.
While graduate students and post-docs are expected to continue to make reasonable academic progress, we ask you to be as flexible and accommodating as you can be in this rapidly evolving situation. We are facing an unprecedented challenge; COVID-19 has disrupted our campus operations in ways that would have been inconceivable just a short time ago. We therefore ask that you make every reasonable effort to allow your graduate students and post-docs to work remotely whenever possible. This will allow some graduate students and post-docs to leave campus and will enable others to work from their residences, thereby mitigating the spread of the virus.
In the case of laboratory sciences, we understand that working remotely is not in general an option. We ask you to please identify the critical operations of your lab that require in-person engagement and focus on planning how those operations can be conducted in ways that minimize risk and involve as few people as possible being present in the lab at any given time. Social distancing, as described on the University homepage, is a practice that mitigates transmission. Care should therefore be taken to ensure that, if multiple people must be present in a laboratory, they are able to maintain at least six feet of separation.
More generally, we ask you to be sensitive to the individual circumstances that your graduate students and post-docs may be facing. Some of them may, for example, have medical conditions that increase their susceptibility to the virus. If your graduate student needs to work remotely but there is no way for them to make reasonable academic progress under those circumstances, please be in touch with Dean Christine Murphy (Natural Sciences and Engineering) or Dean Geoffrey Hill (Humanities and Social Sciences). The Graduate School staff will work with you and your student to find a way forward.
Under no circumstances should a graduate student or post-doc who is experiencing symptoms come to a lab or any other common area.
These are difficult and distressing times for us all. A kind and supportive message from an advisor may be very welcome and meaningful under these circumstances. We encourage you all to check in with your students and postdocs and confirm your support of them throughout these trying times.
Our offices are doing everything possible to ensure continuity of research while supporting our community of learners, researchers and teachers.
Please check the University’s COVID-19 page for information including regular updates on the evolving situation, public health guidance, travel announcements, and FAQs.
Sarah-Jane Leslie, Dean of the Graduate School
Pablo Debenedetti, Dean for Research
Sanjeev Kulkarni, Dean of the Faculty