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Spring quarter plans, updates for graduate and professional students

graphic of the VPGE Shield
Feb 25 2021
COVID-19, Stanford, Students, VPGE

Dear graduate and professional students,

We hope that winter quarter is going well for you. To those of you living on or coming to campus this quarter, we want to thank you for continuing to follow public health and testing guidelines to keep yourself and our community as safe and healthy as possible. We recognize that this has not been easy, but your commitment to reduce community spread makes a significant difference as we collectively begin to gain control over this pandemic.

We expect that you saw today’s message confirming the university’s plan to invite juniors and seniors to live on campus for spring quarter. This is welcomed news to our undergraduates who are eager for the opportunity to continue their studies and research on campus as well as reaffirm relationships with faculty and peers. For many of those returning, this will be their final quarter as a Stanford student after having to leave campus with little warning and spending the last year away from what was their home. 

We understand that you may have concerns about higher numbers of undergraduates living on campus in spring. We hope to answer some of your questions and reassure you that campus resources and support for graduate students will continue.

Spring Quarter Plans

Course Instruction

Course instruction will continue to be virtual during spring quarter, with limited exceptions for lab and studio classes and small seminars within some programs that can be held safely outdoors. Faculty and teaching assistants (many of you) have already done extensive planning for their courses, and we now have a year of experience with remote instruction.

Safety Measures

The majority of graduate students and undergraduates currently on campus are following public health guidelines and testing requirements. Students’ pro-social, safe behavior is, in large part, responsible for the remarkably low rate of community transmission we have seen on campus since the start of the pandemic. Your concern and care for each other has been a powerful influence in addressing the unsafe behaviors of a small minority of students. We are grateful for your commitment to this collective effort toward keeping the campus safe and healthy even as we recognize the burden it has placed on all of us. 

We want to reassure you that our strong safety measures and rapid response to concerns will continue throughout spring quarter. You can find quick links to current campus policies on Stanford Today and more student-focused details on Grad Updates. This public health & safety video from today’s announcement also explains the safety measures in place for the arrival of undergraduates. Our goal with these measures remains the safety and well-being of the community. To this end, we will be working to ensure that academic spaces and resources remain open and available to graduate students. In the coming weeks, we will share more detailed information about how campus life will look in spring quarter.

Essential Visitors, Households, and Gatherings 

At the start of spring quarter, we expect that graduate students who remain on campus over spring break will be allowed to have essential visitors, form households, and have gatherings of up to three households (the Santa Clara County 10-day quarantine policy is still in place at the time of this writing). This plan differs from the restrictions at the start of winter quarter when many more graduate students had traveled over break or were newly arriving to campus and infection rates remained high in many places. Undergraduates this spring will be required to adhere to restrictions similar to those in place at the start of winter quarter. 

We are pleased to be able to relax restrictions on graduate students this quarter as we know how hard this has been on your mental health. We feel confident that the continued testing and rapid response to infections will continue to minimize community spread. However, should infection rates increase and county guidelines become more restrictive, we would need to revisit our household and gathering policies. If information changes, we will update the essential visitorshouseholds, and gatherings webpages and inform students directly as soon as possible.  

Testing Requirement

While we are not yet able to communicate details, we are pleased to share that spring quarter graduate student COVID-19 testing will be conducted at separate sites from undergraduate testing. Testing will continue to be a twice weekly requirement. Details will be sent to you via email in the coming weeks. 

Enrollment Opens March 7

As noted in the university communication, spring quarter enrollment will open on Sunday, March 7 to allow students to make an informed decision about their plans. Please consult with your program’s faculty or staff if you have any questions related to your spring quarter enrollment, research, or teaching plans.

Other Questions

Our initial conversations with graduate student leaders in the Graduate Student Council (GSC) and the COVID-19 Graduate Student Advisory Council (GSAC) about this decision have helped us better understand the additional concerns that we need to address in the coming weeks. For example, we know many of you have questions about your eligibility for the vaccines (see current vaccination information). We welcome any questions, concerns, and ideas you may have, so please share them with the GSAC and GSC leaders or directly with us

Ongoing Support

The COVID-19 pandemic has now been with us for an entire year, and its impacts continue to be felt by each of us. We are proud of the strength and resilience you have shown over the last year, and how well you have adapted to the disruption of your lives and graduate studies. We know many in our community are struggling with resilience fatigue and we want to be clear that it is okay to not be okay, and that if you are not okay, help is available.

Our dedicated staff and faculty are here to support and guide you throughout your time at Stanford. The Graduate Life Office Deans and GLO’s Community Associates in graduate residences can help with many issues and connect you with other resources. Please reach out to them at any time. You can text the GLO pager at (include your name and reason for paging in the message) or call the GLO pager at 650-723-7288 (when you reach a Stanford operator, provide the pager ID #25085 and indicate that you need to reach the graduate dean-on-call). Our mental health professionals at Counseling & Psychological Services (CAPS) are also available 24/7 at 650-723-3785 or via the Vaden Student Portal accessible via the CAPS website.

The Financial Aid Office administers several Stanford Support Programs to help you with unexpected expenses, including expenses related to COVID-19, as well as the Family Grant of up to $15K annually for students with dependent children and a Graduate Housing Loan to help cover expenses for students moving off-campus. These resources are available to all graduate and professional students.

Thank you again for your commitment to the Stanford community. Please feel free to share your questions, comments, or suggestions. We will do our best to respond to you directly if you include your contact information. 

Best wishes,
Susie and Stacey

Susie Brubaker-Cole
Vice Provost for Student Affairs

Stacey F. Bent
Vice Provost for Graduate Education and Postdoctoral Affairs
Jagdeep and Roshni Singh Professor in the School of Engineering