On July 7, 2020, GSAS held a continuing student town hall, which provided context for the FAS’s fall planning decisions and updates specific to each student population. Below are answers to many of the questions raised by students in advance of and during the event.

ACADEMICS

When will the course catalog be released?

The most updated information about courses offered by the Faculty of Arts and Sciences is available through the my.harvard course search. If you do not have access to my.harvard, you may view the AY 2020-2021 FAS Course Offerings in PDF format (this document may not include the most current information in my.harvard).

How will the class shopping period be conducted?

For courses offered by the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, shopping and registration will take place early in the term and online. Please find more information from the FAS Registrar’s Office.

Can GSAS extend the fall deadline so that students can finalize their dissertations once the libraries reopen?

The deadline for dissertation submission for November degrees has been extended. Students who submit their electronic dissertation to ProQuest ETD on or before September 8 will have all tuition and fees removed from their account. Students who wish to retain health coverage for the fall 2020 term (through January 31, 2021) should submit their dissertation between September 9, 2020 and October 9, 2020, and register accordingly.

Will thesis defenses be carried out remotely?

Yes, dissertation defenses should continue to be conducted remotely in the fall.

Will departments hold in-person events that might justify remaining in the Cambridge/Boston area, even if our research does not require it?

You should connect with your graduate program to discuss what is best for your program and your circumstances.

Can GSAS mandate departments/programs issue clear plans to graduate students ASAP?

GSAS is working with graduate programs to ensure that they are promptly communicating fall plans to students. We expect plans to be in place and communicated to students during July.

Does the FAS decision to conduct graduate courses remotely apply to graduate programs on the medical campus?

As graduate programs in the Division of Medical Sciences (DMS) are based at Harvard Medical School, you will hear directly from HMS as plans for the spring evolve. Students in graduate programs based at other Harvard Schools will hear directly from their School or graduate program.

Can you explain the decision to return to regular grading? 

The emergency grading policy decision for spring 2020 was made in view of an astonishingly disruptive and very unpredictable situation that generated multiple requests from faculty and students. Afterward, GSAS had a long and thoughtful discussion of grading policy with the Graduate Policy Committee, a faculty group which oversees GSAS policies, which resulted in a consensus to return to letter grading for fall 2020. Everyone at the University is keenly aware that we are not returning to business as normal, however, we are hopeful that the sudden disruptions occurring in the spring will not happen this fall.

Faculty are being intentional about curriculum, grading, and advising. GSAS will ask programs to be transparent with students about fall course expectations and encourage them to provide a written rubric for grades that explains how to achieve grading standards.

What is the plan for the IACS Data Science program?

Please contact the Data Science program directly.

Will the Computational Science and Engineering master’s program have in-person or remote classes?

Please reach out to the Computational Science and Engineering program directly for information.

ADMISSIONS AND ORIENTATION

Will GSAS accept doctoral applications for academic year 2021-2022?

Admissions guidance for the 2021-2022 academic year will be available in late summer.

Has there been a decision as to whether the GRE will be required for fall 2020 applicants to GSAS programs starting in fall 2021?

Decisions concerning GRE testing requirements are made by each academic program. An at-home version of the GRE is currently offered in most nations in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Will incoming graduate students be allowed to defer their admission?

Please contact your program directly, as all deferral decisions are made at the departmental level.

Will orientation and courses start earlier than expected? Will we be able to get a full timeline of dates and deadlines in the fall?

Orientation will be on August 28, 2020. The academic calendar, with all relevant dates, is now available.

ADVISING

Can we expect professors in the fall (and spring) terms to be available for in-person office hour appointments?

The decision to meet in-person should be made between you and your advisor, informed by University guidelines. While GSAS has recommended that some activities (such as classes for early-year students) be conducted remotely, we are not making a recommendation on in-person meetings.

When will GSAS recognize that many of us can no longer carry out the dissertation research we had planned to conduct?

It is very clear that the COVID-19 pandemic has slowed or stalled many students’ research. To address this, it is crucial that students and their advisors have a conversation about what these impediments mean for research as currently envisioned.

Does GSAS have plans to conduct a follow-up survey to evaluate student experiences with faculty mentoring?

In the fall, GSAS launched The Advising Project, which focuses on the advising and mentoring relationship between faculty and students and looks at ways to improve that relationship, which is more important now than ever. In the student survey undertaken in June, we received enormously helpful data regarding advising relationships. We are currently evaluating that data so that we can continue to address and improve advising. In the coming months, GSAS will conduct additional surveys of student and of faculty about their advising experiences.

COVID-19 TESTING AND CONTACT TRACING

Will students be tested regularly for COVID-19 if we don’t live on campus or in Harvard University Housing?

To protect the health and safety of the Harvard community, Harvard University Health Services will conduct viral testing for those who spend more than four hours a day on campus and meet certain other requirements.

If Harvard College can test those living on campus every three days, how often can graduate students get tested?

For those living in the GSAS residence halls, students will be tested immediately upon return to campus and then weekly. If you are on the Harvard campus for more than four hours a day, you will also be tested weekly. Testing frequency may change depending on guidance from HUHS. These guidelines have been developed based on current public health recommendations and may be altered if public health recommendations change.

Will contact tracing and caseload statistics (like those outlined for the undergraduate residential population) also be collected and monitored for graduate students and the broader community?

All contact tracing will be conducted by Harvard University Health Services and the local Department of Public Health.

FINANCIAL SUPPORT, TUITION, AND WORK STUDY

Will we still receive our PhD stipend if we live abroad?

Harvard has developed a mechanism for disbursing stipends to students expecting financial support who reside outside of the US and do not have access to a US bank account. If this describes your situation, you will be sent a link by Western Union after the 1st of the month of when your stipend will be commencing. At that time, you can enter your international banking details and Western Union will initiate a wire payment. This does not apply to students living in countries subject to sanctions.

I am a resident of a country that is subject to sanctions. Will I receive a stipend if I study remotely?

Entities operating in the US have no mechanism for sending funds to nations subject to US OFAC economic sanctions. If students in those nations have access to a bank account in another country, we can direct funds there. Stipends that cannot be disbursed to will be held in reserve and disbursed once the student has access to an eligible bank account.

It seems a lot of financial support during this time has been aimed at PhD students. What, if anything, will be done to help our master’s students?

The GSAS Emergency Support Initiative is focused on students with existing financial support packages who anticipate that their time to degree will be delayed due to the pandemic. Students, including master’s students, who are experiencing financial hardship are encouraged to consult with their financial aid officer.

Are fellowship grants added to PhD students’ monthly stipend?

Please review the External Award policy and contact your financial aid officer to discuss your personal situation.

Why is GSAS offering Zoom tutorials and dance classes instead of additional funding?

GSAS has approached graduate student need in a variety of ways. Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, GSAS has focused on the personal safety, the emergency needs, and the development and expansion of the Emergency Support Initiative for GSAS students, which is ongoing. With that said, we also recognize that our students are facing other challenges, including social isolation, and that the graduate student experience is more than classes, research, and teaching. The GSAS Student Center has done a terrific job of developing virtual programming to help students maintain connections with Harvard and with one another while Lehman Hall is temporarily closed.

What types of emergency funding are in the works for PhD students affected by the pandemic in a more long-term fashion?

We hope to expand the Emergency Support Initiative in the future and will send details once information is available. For emergency expenses not related to delayed academic progress, the Student Emergency Fund continues to be available via the GSAS Financial Aid Office. Contact your financial aid officer for more information.

I received a research fellowship for academic year 2019-2020, but my research was interrupted this spring. Will there be an opportunity to apply for funding to resume my research next year?

We hope to expand the Emergency Support Initiative in the future and will send details once information is available.

Why has Harvard and GSAS chosen such a narrow band of students for financial relief, and why does GSAS continue to refuse calls for a full year of bridge funding considering its inability to provide the resources necessary for a full year of work and development?

GSAS is actively seeking additional sources of funding to support students negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. We hope to expand the Emergency Support Initiative in the future and will send details once information is available.

Are there plans for waiving health fees and facilities fees for the spring given that COVID-19 continues to significantly impact grad student life, access to resources, and ability to research?

Plans for the spring term have yet to be finalized. We continue to work with our University partners to identify resources that will enable us to expand the Emergency Support Initiative. We will announce new initiatives as more information becomes available.

Why are some Dudley House fellow positions paid and others unpaid? How is compensation for these positions determined?

The GSAS Student Center Fellows program, formerly known as the Dudley House Fellows program, compensates all fellow positions. Most positions are paid the same rate.

How will work study function for students who cannot move back to the Cambridge area?

Students on work study will be able to work remotely and get paid.

Will graduate students facing financial hardship due to COVID-19 be allowed to work part-time remotely?

GSAS students who are enrolled full-time may not undertake any position of employment outside their graduate studies that obligates them to more than 20 hours of work per week. Please contact your financial aid officer to discuss your options.

Will international students receiving stipends in their home countries need to pay US tax or domestic tax on this stipend?

Student stipends must either be deposited into a US bank account or sent via Western Union wire transfer. US federal taxes will be withheld according to the particulars of each country’s tax treaty. Stipends are considered taxable income by the US federal government.

Will master’s students be given a reduction in tuition? If not, could students defer?

Tuition is set by Harvard’s senior governing board and will not be adjusted this year. Harvard is committed to providing a rigorous, high-quality educational experience during the 2020–2021 academic year, and faculty and staff are developing ways to enhance student engagement and networking beyond the classroom. Deferral policies vary by academic program; please consult with your program for further assistance.

HARVARD-RELATED TRAVEL

When will international Harvard-related travel resume? Will it be possible to travel as a traveling/visiting scholar to the UK this fall, funded by a Harvard traveling grant?

The current travel policy is based on health concerns for the Harvard community and to ensure that Harvard is part of a solution to keep the pandemic under control around the world. For that reason, we comply with the CDC and State Department guidance preventing or prohibiting international travel. This policy applies to faculty, staff, and students, and it is in place through the end of the summer at a minimum.

A University-wide committee is considering when international travel could be allowed, with guidance on fall travel policy available by the end of July at the earliest.

HEALTH INSURANCE

What is the logic behind making it more difficult to waive the student health fee for the fall semester? 

Policies surrounding the Student Health Insurance Plan and the Student Health Fee are made by Harvard University Health Services, not GSAS. Please contact HUHS member services with questions.

How will pay and health insurance work for out-of-state domestic and international students?

Harvard’s Student Health Insurance Plan is a preferred provider organization (PPO) plan, which allows members access to in-network providers throughout the US. You can search for in-network medical providers online or by calling BlueCross BlueShield. If you live in another country, you may call BCBS Global Core for help with locating providers in your area; you will likely be required to pay out-of-pocket for services and file for reimbursement.

HOUSING AND REMAINING/RETURNING TO THE AREA

When/how will graduate students be able to retrieve belongings that they were unable to retrieve in early March?

If you left the GSAS residence halls in March and stored items with us, please contact the Office of Residential Life about retrieving your stored items.

Many students left apartments in March and cannot return soon. Harvard Housing policies are strict and require us to remotely organize a move and to find, also remotely, a place to store the furniture/belongings we left behind. Can GSAS advocate with Harvard Housing to relax these rules?

Harvard University Housing is aware of the struggles some students are facing regarding clearing out their apartments. Please contact Susan Brogan, director of housing and leasing services, to discuss your situation.

Will Harvard University Housing provide relief funds now that FAS will be conducting remote teaching/learning in the fall?

Please contact Harvard University Housing with questions regarding their policies.

Should I stay in the Cambridge/Boston area or should I move somewhere else?

Remaining in or leaving the area is an individual decision and one that you need to make in consultation with your graduate program. If you are unsure about whether you need to remain local, please reach out to your program to discuss your situation.

Will students who do not feel comfortable returning to campus or who cannot physically return to campus be able to complete their academic work remotely?

We encourage you to speak with your advisor, your director of graduate studies, your department administrator, or your graduate program coordinator to discuss how you can continue to make progress remotely. You can also contact Danielle Farrell, director of student services at GSAS, who will be happy to work with you in navigating your specific situation.

LEAVES OF ABSENCE

Can I request a leave of absence if I don’t want to learn, teach, or study exclusively remotely this fall? How would this transition impact my funding package?

Yes, you may take a leave of absence for the fall. Please consult with your financial aid officer about implications for any funding that you are receiving.

I would prefer to prepare for my exams through in-person classes. Should I take a leave of absence?

Students are eligible to take a leave of absence after completing one term in residence. You should connect with your graduate program to discuss this option.

LIBRARY, RESOURCE, AND SPACE ACCESS

Will students be able to retrieve physical materials from the library before the end of the summer? If learning is remote, is there a plan for students to attain library resources if they won’t be in the Harvard area?

Scan and Deliver services resumed June 29. Access to physical collections has resumed, and Harvard Library has a plan for a phased reopening.

Are materials from the Harvard museums available?

The Harvard University Herbarium and the Museum of Comparative Zoology have reopened their labs alongside the lab reopening plan. Most museum staff are currently working remotely and are focused on digital resources, such as the collections, building databases, and working with faculty and others on developing more resources to support remote teaching, such as 3D scanning of objects digitization of archival materials. All museum staff are happy to collaborate with course instructors to provide that content and discuss how we can support teaching. They have put together a Harvard Museum resource guide for virtual engagement that also includes information from the Harvard Art Museums, which are planning to make study rooms available over the fall.

If students do not have access to libraries and other resources this fall, will the deadline to apply for a dissertation completion fellowship be extended?

While the dissertation completion fellowship deadline will need to remain the same for administrative purposes, GSAS will work flexibly with students whose individual situations require accommodation if they apply late. We also continue to encourage students to work with their advisors to make modifications to dissertation plans in light of impediments caused by the pandemic to maintain progress to the degree.

Can those with a dedicated space in their department schedule a time to work at the office, even for as little as a few hours each week?

GSAS understands that on-campus office space is crucial for personal research and study. We are working with partners across the University to determine what spaces are available to students and are advocating for student needs. We hope to have news to share soon.

Do we know yet if any physical spaces on campus will be open to GSAS students?

On-campus residents will have limited access to FAS buildings, and most buildings, including libraries and gyms, will have restricted access. Harvard University Health Services is providing limited in-person services, and clinicians will determine the need for onsite care and continue to maximize the use of telemedicine. If you do not have a scheduled appointment, you should call ahead before presenting to HUHS in person.

Will graduate students in computer science be able to return to Maxwell Dworkin in the fall, perhaps in a limited or staggered capacity?

Students should consult with their faculty advisor to inquire about the operations of their lab and research group. No courses will be taught in Maxwell Dworkin.

Could you provide an update about phase 3 of Harvard’s lab reopening plan?

If you are based in a lab, your principal investigator will be in touch with information about the next phase of lab reopening.

TEACHING AND TAKING CLASSES

What provisions are in place to support teaching fellows who do not have the technology necessary to teach?

A working group that includes representatives from GSAS, the FAS, HUIT, the Office of Undergraduate Education, and the FAS Science Division is currently addressing this issue. Information will be shared with teaching fellows as soon as a policy and equipment procurement are finalized.

Will training and support be provided to teaching fellows, including for Zoom and Canvas and for how to address student concerns about accessibility and inequality related to a student’s at-home learning environment?

The Bok Center’s fall teaching conference will focus on the skills and tools essential to remote teaching, including Zoom, Canvas, and equitable and inclusive teaching.

How will time zone differences be managed?

The Faculty of Arts and Sciences’s Registrar’s Office will provide instructors with the locations of their students, so they will be able to determine course times that work for all students. They will also know before classes start if they need to be running sections in different time zones and they can accommodate both graduate student TFs and the students who are in the course in a more meaningful way. Course heads have been asked to schedule courses so that students can participate in a course between 7:30 a.m. and 10:15 p.m. in the students’ local time. Please note that courses conducted at other Harvard Schools may have different policies; contact the appropriate registrar’s office for details.

Has that been much thought into using MS teams for classes? Functionality there is much more extensive than on Canvas.

Many faculty and instructional support staff have found additional technologies helpful, which can be used if Harvard holds a license and if training is not required. If you do not have the functionality you need in a supported platform or want to use a different platform, check in with the Academic Technology Group (ATG), who can help you think about functionalities you may not be aware of in the currently supported platforms, as well as related security considerations.

How will you ensure graduate students get teaching experience and are paid?

GSAS has been working with the Office of Undergraduate Education to support students with teaching guarantees and those in outer years who are in programs where students typically teach within the FAS. Graduate students who meet this criteria are guaranteed a teaching appointment; if the number of TFs exceeds available sections, departments will work with the Office of Undergraduate Education and GSAS to identify additional instructional support work.

I am an international student, currently in my home country, how can I obtain an SSN? Will I be paid as teaching fellows without one?

To support teaching fellows working for the University from locations outside of the US, hiring departments will work with Harvard’s global support staff on a mechanism to provide compensation. Students working within the US will need to provide a social security number as part of the I-9 employment eligibility process.

What initiatives has GSAS taken to provide training/information/resources on trauma-informed teaching strategies, especially for faculty?

GSAS is very concerned about the impact of both pandemics on not only scholarship but also the mental health and well-being of our students. We are thinking about issues of anti-Blackness and anti-racism, looking at our own practices at GSAS and working with graduate programs. This work is at the early stages: we will have more to report at a later date. The Derek Bok Center for Teaching and Learning will address anti-Blackness and anti-racism during their fall teaching conference.

How will accommodations be made for teaching fellows with families dealing with uncertainties about school and childcare for the fall? Are measures in place to make sure that hiring is equitable given that many students will have limited flexibility in terms of hours?

The University’s practices with respect to the employment of student workers, including teaching fellows, will be governed by the terms of the agreement with the HGSU-UAW. Please refer to the bargaining agreement for more information.

Can we expect the spring semester to be remote since the undergraduate classes will be online?

All course instruction, undergraduate and graduate, for the 2020–2021 academic year will be delivered online. Students will learn remotely whether they live on campus or not. Policies concerning future access to campus facilities will be determined in response to public health conditions. Please check with your individual program for specific guidance. Policies for programs based in other Harvard Schools will be governed by those individual schools.

For PhD students still completing coursework, is the recommendation to return/remain on or near campus?

Decisions on whether to remain or return to campus should be made in consultation with your graduate program.

Can you explain how guaranteed teaching for the fall will work?

The Office of Undergraduate Education (OUE) has made teaching available to GSAS students in programs where students typically teach within the FAS. How much teaching you will receive will be determined based on the standard allotment established by your program. OUE works with departments to figure out allocations of support, which is roughly how many sections or labs, or additional resources are needed for a course. Departments typically make appointments, however, recognizing both the pedagogical needs of teaching remotely and GSAS’s need to support students, adjustments have been made to expand the pool of available teaching.

First and foremost, faculty and departments have been asked to rethink their plans using a target section size of 12 students for courses with sections, which will increase the number of sections. In addition, several expanded opportunities for teaching and teaching-related work are available. The pedagogy fellows and the writing fellow programs have both been expanded. The Bok Center has also created the media and design fellows.

Most importantly, the remote support TF role has been created. This role is going to help deliver a stronger educational experience. This is not the instructional person running the section in the class. This is the person doing additional work or an additional person involved in tech support, but also working with museum collections, working on the creation of music and film clips in a very high-tech environment, overseeing virtual labs, etc.

VISAS AND TRAVEL TO THE US

As an international student, will I be required to quarantine upon entry to the US?

Students arriving from outside of Massachusetts are required to comply with Massachusetts guidelines concerning self-quarantine upon arrival. Our expectation is that students who need to quarantine will arrange to do so in the housing that they have secured.

Will Harvard assist us with obtaining and maintaining status for our visas?

Students with questions about visa procurement should consult with the staff in the Harvard International Office.