Dear GSAS Students,

Earlier today, the Faculty of Arts and Sciences announced decisions about the fall, which provide a roadmap for teaching, learning, and undergraduate residential life for the fall. The work undertaken by the FAS Fall 2020 Planning working groups also focused on restarting scholarship, which is of paramount importance to GSAS students.

I know that many of you have questions about how this announcement pertains to your academic studies and your personal circumstances. GSAS will hold a student town hall tomorrow, July 7, 2020, at 9:00 a.m. EDT (you will find a list of participants below). This event will give you the opportunity to hear about planning from University leadership and get answers to questions that you may have. You may submit questions in advance, and we will take questions during the event, as time allows. If you are unable to join us, GSAS will make a recording of the event available online. 

Within the FAS and at GSAS’s University partner Schools, graduate students are facing unique challenges due to disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. While we don’t yet have all the answers, I want to summarize what we do know as of today.

One of the biggest areas of concern has related to access to the spaces and resources necessary for research. In recent weeks, graduate students began returning to their lab-based research activities, and this successful pilot will soon expand to enable students to pursue more deeply their research projects. To improve access to libraries and archives, the Harvard Library has released its plan and announced plans for a phased reopening of physical libraries for research. Digital resources are also available on Harvard’s museum websites

Several weeks ago, FAS Dean Claudine Gay announced that undergraduate instruction would take place remotely in the fall. To provide support to graduate student teaching fellows, the Derek Bok Center for Teaching and Learning has designed their fall teaching conference to help TFs prepare for their remote teaching responsibilities. GSAS and the Office of Undergraduate Education also partnered to support students with teaching guarantees and those in the outer years who would typically have taught in the FAS this fall by providing additional teaching support through the appointment of GSAS students as teaching fellows and research assistants

Restrictions on Harvard travel have meant that some graduate students have seen their research stalled, including those benefiting from traveling fellowships for spring and fall 2020. This advisory is currently being reviewed at the University level, and GSAS will communicate with students as and when updated guidance is available.

In addition to global travel restrictions, consulate closures have meant that many international students may not be able to return to the Cambridge/Boston area. To ensure that all students can participate in their education equally, GSAS recommended that all teaching and learning be conducted remotely, thinking primarily of activities, such as classes and cohort-building activities, for students in the early years. GSAS is working with graduate programs to ensure that they are developing an academic plan focused on curriculum, cohort-building, and advising.

While GSAS staff and students may not currently be on campus, we are all available to support you remotely. Financial aid officers and staff from the Office of Student Services and the Office of Student Affairs are meeting regularly with students. The Fellowships Office and the Center for Writing and Communicating Ideas are offering individual meetings and remote events. The Office of Diversity and Minority Affairs is working closely with affinity groups on activities and advocacy. Recognizing that the graduate student experience is more than classes, research, and teaching, the GSAS Student Center has developed virtual programming to help students maintain connections with Harvard and with one another while Lehman Hall is temporarily closed.

I hope this overview provides some clarity on how GSAS and the University are working to reopen scholarship for graduate students. I encourage you to attend the town hall tomorrow to learn more.


With all best wishes,

Emma Dench

Dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

McLean Professor of Ancient and Modern History and of the Classics

GSAS Continuing Student Town Hall Participants

  • Emma Dench, Dean of GSAS, providing information specific to GSAS
  • Mark C. Elliott, Vice Provost for International Affairs, providing updates on Harvard’s travel policy 
  • Jane Pickering, Director of Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, providing an update on the availability of museum resources
  • Pamela Pollock, Derek Bok Center for Teaching and Learning, detailing remote teaching training plans for TFs, and Lisa Laskin, Office of Undergraduate Education, discussing remote teaching and TF roles
  • Christopher Stubbs, Dean of Science in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, providing updates on expansion of lab access
  • Martha Whitehead, Vice President for the Harvard Library and University Librarian, providing an update on the availability of library resources
  • Darryl Zeigler, Harvard International Office, sharing information specific to international students

FAS Announces Fall 2020 Plans