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Stanford update for Thursday evening, March 19: New information on spring quarter

Categories: Academics, Leadership communications, Provost

To our university community,

As Stanford’s winter quarter comes to a close – amid unprecedented circumstances and, in turn, entirely new ways of teaching, learning, working and living – I want to share some high-level updates about the way in which the university will approach spring quarter.

President Tessier-Lavigne announced on March 10 that spring quarter would begin with virtual instruction, in lieu of in-person classes. Given the increasing uncertainty surrounding the COVID-19 outbreak and the potential for shelter-in-place guidelines to be extended, along with our desire to limit the amount of disruption that any mid- or late-quarter course adjustments would invariably introduce, we have now determined that spring quarter courses will be taught online for the entire duration of the quarter.

We recognize the challenges this decision introduces for our community. We are making the decision in recognition of the seriousness of the global public health challenge in front of us, and we are making it now in order to assist your planning to the greatest extent possible. Stanford will continue to provide resources and support to ensure that students meet their academic goals and can engage with their instructors and their coursework in deep and robust ways. The university also remains committed to providing faculty with necessary support to transition successfully to an online teaching environment, and the teachanywhere site has a number of resources to assist with this.

To assist with this transition, we will delay the start of spring quarter by one week, until Monday, April 6, in all schools except the Graduate School of Business, School of Law and School of Medicine. These three professional schools will follow their already planned spring schedules. This delay will allow instructors time to develop course offerings that are consistent with Stanford’s expectations of a high-quality learning experience. The delay also will offer students and instructors who are still finishing winter quarter exams a chance to rest and recuperate after a particularly challenging quarter.

Spring quarter will still end on time, on June 10. The decision to not extend spring quarter recognizes the need to not disrupt summer internship plans and/or post-graduation employment for our students. However, we are making an additional change to ensure that instructors can complete their classes: There will be no traditional final exam period for timed exams. Rather, instructors will continue teaching to the quarter’s end on June 10, using in-class quizzes and out-of-class assignments throughout the quarter to assess student performance. This decision recognizes the difficulties with administering timed high-stakes exams to students in a wide range of time zones, and whose access to quiet exam-taking space varies widely. It also allows instructors to include all of their previously planned course content despite the delayed start of the quarter.

We know that these decisions about the spring quarter may affect housing considerations. For undergraduates who already have left campus, we will be in further touch with you soon about plans for getting the belongings in your residences back in your possession. For graduate students who have on-campus housing, we also want to provide flexibility to you given these changes for the spring quarter. We are extending from March 24 to Monday, March 30, the deadline to file a termination of occupancy notice with no fee.

Finally, I’m very sorry to convey that because of this continuing situation, and the strong likelihood that prohibitions on large gatherings will remain in place by later this spring, we do not expect to be able to hold this year’s Commencement in its traditional form. I share your disappointment at having to arrive at this place, which again is the product of the extraordinary circumstances around us. We absolutely recognize the importance of this treasured milestone for our students, and we are working on a number of options that will allow us to honor our Stanford graduates appropriately and celebrate together. We will be coming back to you soon with thoughts on how we can best do that.

More information about these spring quarter changes is addressed on the teachanywhere site. I know that you will have questions, too. Please use the email address and we will work to get you answers as expeditiously as possible.

As we navigate this challenging period, I continue to be grateful for the collective patience and resilience of our university community during a time of great ambiguity and disruption. I am heartened by how our Stanford community has so quickly come together in support of one another – even while dispersed locally and across numerous states, nations and time zones. Please continue to reach out as needed for support, resources and guidance. We will continue to work to support your academic goals and our collective academic mission.


Persis Drell

Correction: This post has been updated to clarify that the spring quarter concludes on June 10.