Guidance for graduate students and postdocs

March 15, 2020

To:          Vice Deans of Education & Post-Doctoral Affairs

BCC:       Additional Academic Programs Continuity Workgroup

Thanks to all of you who have reached out to your graduate students and postdoctoral trainees and provided them with support and information during these challenging times.  We wanted to provide guidance and a summary of issues that are relevant to your trainees:

  • All academic activities for graduate and professional students and postdoctoral trainees should transition to remote modality by tomorrow (March 16), including coursework and oral examinations/seminars that are required by the program. Clinical-based programs and practicums will continue with modifications made on a case-by-case basis by the program director.
  • We encourage departments and laboratories to continue with community activities in a remote modality, including departmental seminars, lab meetings, journal clubs, and other community-building events.
  • Consistent with the March 14 email from Provost Kumar and Vice Provost Wirtz, we are ramping down all on-campus research activities, including laboratory and certain human subjects research, with the exception of research related to COVID-19. Unless your work has been designated by your division as being essential, all on-site research must begin the process to ramp down immediately for minimal activity before March 18.  Trainees should work with their faculty mentor(s) on ways in which they can continue to contribute to research off-site.
  • The salary or stipend support and benefits that are currently offered to PhD students and postdoctoral fellows will not be interrupted as they work remotely.  Trainees who are currently receiving support from research grants will continue to receive this support.
  • Trainees who are teaching assistants and course instructors are considered essential employees and we expect them to continue with their assigned teaching responsibilities. All support that trainees receive for these activities will continue under existing mechanisms.  Like with faculty instructors, we expect most instructional work by trainees will be conducted while off-campus.  However, we recognize that some activities may require them to be on-campus.  For example, some trainees may not have sufficient internet capacity to work effectively from home or may need access to the campus to conduct courses or demonstrations with specialized equipment.  Access to campus facilities for instructional purposes is considered essential: The university will maintain trainee access to offices, classrooms, laboratories, and design studios if necessary for instructional purposes. If on-campus, we expect trainees to take the same precautions as employees to reduce the spread of infection including:
    • Implement physical distancing practices meant to reduce close contact in the workplace (e.g., maintain a distance of 6 feet from others).
    • Transitioning all meetings to phone or virtual formats.
  • Non-essential university international travel remains prohibited for graduate students and postdoctoral trainees and all non-essential university domestic travel is strongly discouraged.
  • The Office of International Services has confirmed that the visa status of graduate students and postdoctoral fellows will not be adversely affected by performing their position functions remotely during this period of physical distancing.  More information can be found at the OIS Immigration-Related FAQ site.

We greatly appreciate the challenges that your trainees are facing in this unprecedented public health situation and encourage you to promote resources to your trainees such as

While maintaining the essential elements noted above, please tailor this message as you see fit for your institution and circulate to your PhD students and research postdoctoral trainees.  Please continue to forward questions and concerns to us.


Stephen Gange, Executive Vice Provost and Professor

Nancy Kass, Vice Provost for Graduate and Professional Education and Professor

Valeria Culotta, Associate Vice Provost for Postdoctoral Affairs and Professor