Updates on COVID-19 policies
Dear Students, Faculty and Staff,
As we enter our break I wanted to update you on the university policies that have been put in place in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and to answer some questions that have been raised over the last two weeks.
- Travel. With respect to travel, I am extending the suspension of all international travel and all non-essential domestic travel on Brandeis business or with Brandeis programs, for all faculty, students, postdocs and staff through May 31. This includes any travel associated with one’s scholarly activities as a Brandeis employee, even if this travel is funded by a government grant, foundation, NGO, or another university. Rare exceptions to this policy will be considered, but the request must be made in writing to the Provost. Personal international travel remains strongly discouraged, and I urge you to continue to use extreme caution for personal domestic travel.
- International Teaching Assistants and Resident Advisers. A question has been raised by both students and faculty with respect to international students who work as a teaching or research assistant now that this work is being conducted remotely. The US government has just provided clear guidance that international students may continue to engage in this type of on-campus employment remotely.
- Research Labs. I am grateful for the speed at which all on-site laboratory research at Brandeis ramped down last month. Given Governor Baker’s recently updated stay-at-home guidance, research labs that have not received a Provost waiver because they are doing COVID-19 work must remain closed until at least May 4.
- Summer Programs. I know that there is a great deal of concern about summer programming on campus. Next week, after I complete consultation with the President, the Deans, department and program heads, the Rabb School, Athletics, Center and Institute directors, and the Committee on Academic Standards and Policy, I will update the community on summer term plans and a proposal to extend the exam and grading period for Spring 2020.
- Grading. Finally, I know that there is an ongoing passionate and heated debate about the pros and cons of further changes to our Credit/Non-Credit and Pass/Fail options. While the Deans and I recognize the appeal of the Universal Pass (or pass/fail) system to some students at this time, we believe that the system we have adopted at Brandeis, after extensive discussion with faculty and students, is fairer and more flexible for Brandeis students. As a reminder, at the undergraduate level we have instituted a system whereby faculty (often in consultation with their students) can choose to convert their courses to credit/no credit which would then apply to every student in the course. Credit in these courses, for this term alone, would count toward majors, minors and all university requirements. Similarly, we have provided individual undergraduate students the opportunity to convert their letter grades to Pass/Fail after course grades have been posted, if they so desire. P grades will also be allowed to fulfill any major, minor, or university requirement. The graduate schools have also implemented new Credit/No Credit options for their graduate programs (see here for more details).
Many students have praised these new options, as they accommodate those who want to keep grades on their transcripts for employers or graduate school applications, while also empowering those who have experienced major disruptions to their academic studies that have taken a toll on their ability to learn and perform in their courses. More and more graduate schools, including almost 30 medical schools*, have issued statements indicating that they will accept CR or P grades that have been granted under policies such as ours at Brandeis for graduate admission requirements.
Without a doubt the past weeks have presented significant challenges to students, faculty and staff as we pivoted to emergency remote instruction, closed down on-campus research and creative work, and lost the day to day in-person interactions that are such a strong component of our Brandeis community. In the coming weeks as the devastating impact of COVID-19 is felt more locally I urge us all to check in with one another and focus on what unites us at this time of hardship and loss.
With gratitude and best wishes,
Lisa M. Lynch, Provost