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New information for graduate and professional school students

Categories: Academics, Campus, Finance, Help & support, Leadership communications, Provost

To: Faculty, Instructors, and Graduate Students
From: Persis

Thank you for your flexibility and understanding as Stanford has worked to respond to the growing spread of COVID-19. This has been a time of rapid change on many fronts, and it has produced understandable anxiety and uncertainty. Our community has had many questions about a range of issues, and we have been working to address them as quickly as possible.

Vice Provost Stacey Bent wrote on Sunday with answers to some of the questions we have heard from our graduate and professional school students. I would like to expand here with some additional information on decisions we have taken that affect these communities. In addition, we have just learned of new shelter-in-place protocols that several Bay Area counties are implementing tomorrow, including Santa Clara County, and we will be in touch with additional information about those issues later today.

  1. Online classes: Last week we announced that we will start spring quarter classes online until further notice. Since that announcement we have received many questions about whether we might make exceptions to allow small in-person graduate level courses to continue in person, since many graduate students are remaining on campus for spring quarter. We will not be making any exceptions to allow this; all research and expert advice points to aggressive social distancing as the most important way to slow the spread of COVID-19. We feel strongly that any attempt to conduct in-person classes would introduce risks that cannot be mitigated by the added value of the in-person interactions.
  2. Continuing financial support: Many of our graduate students at Stanford are supported by research assistantships, fellowships and teaching assistantships. With the move to online coursework for spring, the potential cancelling of some classes that were planned for spring, and the moving of much of the work of the research enterprise out of the lab to remote work, there have been many questions about whether TA, RA and CA commitments for spring would be honored. I want to reassure all students that if they were offered support for spring quarter, that support will be forthcoming. What students need to expect, however, is that they may be assigned to teach courses that are different from their original assignment. Your schools will be communicating with you directly on this. I also want to assure all recipients of graduate fellowships and financial aid in all schools that your fellowships and financial aid for spring quarter will be provided as promised if you are registered as a student.
  3. Tuition: In answer to another question we have received from some students, there will not be tuition discounts for spring quarter. We realize that for many students, there is disappointment that the experience of online instruction will not be the same as the Stanford experience they have come to expect. If a student feels that a spring quarter with online instruction will not meet their expectations, they have the option to take a leave of absence for spring quarter and re-enroll at a later date. We know that this is not the preferred option for anyone, but it is a function of the extraordinary global health situation in which we find ourselves. We hope and intend to return to in-person instruction at the earliest feasible opportunity.

    The GSB will be sending an updated leave of absence policy to GSB students. For the rest of the graduate population, our leave of absence policy for graduate students is given here. Students should consult with their department or program to understand the details of a leave of absence for their degree program.
  4. Housing contracts: Some graduate students have asked if they can be released from their housing contracts so that they can do their online work remotely in an area where they have family or where the cost of living is less. The rental contracts allow for an early release (see page 20 and 21 of the linked document). Please contact Jessica Engleson (, 650-725-2810) if you wish to pursue this option.

    We will be accepting all applications to be released from the housing contracts starting immediately. For students who apply to be released from their lease by March 24, fees will be waived. After March 24, there will be a $450 charge as specified in our policy document.

    For graduate students who continue to live on campus, we will continue heightened cleaning services and limit access to communal spaces in the graduate living quarters. We will also allow students who take a leave of absence for spring quarter to continue to live in the graduate residences through the duration of their contract if they wish to. (This is a one-time exception in these extraordinary circumstances.)

These are challenging times for our community, our nation, and the world. I hope that you will take care of yourselves and your families. Your health and safety are incredibly important to the university – and are at the heart of many of the decisions we have been making.

We will get through this, and we will aim to return to “normal” conditions as soon as possible. Our graduate community is at the heart of Stanford’s academic mission, and your academic success us is deeply important to us. We are continually thinking of the concerns and challenges facing you, and we will continue to be in touch as we are able to share new information.