COVID-19 Update and Resources for Graduate Students

Sarah-Jane Leslie, Dean
Class of 1943 Professor of Philosophy

April 3, 2020

Dear Graduate Students,

I hope this note finds you and yours safe and well. This continues to be an extraordinary time of change for us all. Yet, amid so much uncertainty, I am inspired by the ways our graduate community has come together to care for and support one another. Please know that the staff at the Graduate School and all across campus continue to take action to support your safety and well-being. Below are a few updates and helpful information as we continue to navigate the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic together.

Compliance with “Stay at Home”

New Jersey Governor Murphy’s state-wide “stay at home” order to slow the spread of COVID-19 remains in effect. The University is committed to ensuring compliance with these policies. We ask that you continue to strictly adhere to the following restrictions:

Academic and Research Operations

  • Graduate students may not be in academic buildings or labs unless they have received prior approval through the continuity of research plans as essential personnel or unless your teaching crucially relies on equipment that you cannot access or replicate from home. In those rare instances where you must access equipment on campus, you are only permitted in the building to teach your class and then you must immediately return home.
  • For guidance about essential research operations, including lab research on campus, please refer to the frequently asked questions on the Princeton Research website. Please note that even essential research operations are voluntary. As always, Dean Christine Murphy remains ready to support graduate students in the natural sciences and engineering, and Dean Geoffrey Hill is here for those in the humanities and social sciences.

Housing Guidelines

  • All non-essential indoor gatherings of any size are prohibited; outdoor activities are only permitted if appropriate social distancing guidelines can be observed.
  • Visitors to student living spaces are not allowed. While graduate students are able to remain in their on-campus housing, you may not invite others who are not registered occupants to stay in your housing.

Tri-State Travel Restrictions

  • On March 30th the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) issued a domestic travel advisory for New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.

Seeking Support

These are very challenging times and we remind you that the team at the Graduate School and at Counseling & Psychological Services are here to support you.

Contact Information

  • Counseling and Psychological Services (CPS) can be reached at (609) 258-3141, and virtual CPS counseling sessions are being offered as well. CPS has also prepared very helpful guidance on how to take care of your mental health during this pandemic; please do take a moment to review it.
  • You can contact the Student Life team at the Graduate School Monday through Friday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. via email or phone. After hours and weekends, you may contact the Dean-on-Call for urgent matters by calling the Department of Public Safety at 609-258-1000.

Updates on Healthcare

Student Health Plan Announcement

  • On April 1, University Health Services announced updates to the Student Health Plan regarding increased coverage for COVID-19-related care, including coverage at 100% for telehealth/telemedicine, COVID-19 testing, and COVID-19-related hospitalizations. More information can be found on the University Health Services website.

COVID-19 Testing and Contact Tracing

  • We are asking each of you to notify University Health Services (UHS) immediately if you are tested for coronavirus by any health care provider in any jurisdiction. This includes students who recently departed campus. This process will allow UHS to conduct additional contact tracing and determine if there was any potential exposure to other members of our community so that they can take appropriate next steps to mitigate further spread of the virus. If you have been identified as a close contact of any member of our community who has been tested, you will be notified by UHS.

Temporary Infirmary Closure

  • On March 30, University Health Services (UHS) said it will continue its temporary suspension of operations in its overnight infirmary until it can be properly staffed. This suspension is a precautionary public health intervention related to the COVID-19 pandemic and its continued effect on UHS staffing. Please note the temporary closure is not a reflection of any change in the current status of public health policy on campus or in the community. If you do not feel well (have a fever, cough, trouble breathing) or otherwise have an urgent health concern, you can continue to contact UHS at 609-258-3141.

Academic Adjustments

We are working closely with the academic departments and the Registrar to make necessary adjustments to assist graduate students with their academic progress.

Enrollment and Grading Options

  • Graduate students who are enrolled in courses this semester should make certain that their enrollment and grading options shown in TigerHub accurately reflect their course activity and program needs. Changes may be made in TigerHub until the course change deadline of Friday, May 1, for the current spring semester. Changes should be made only after consulting with a program adviser and/or DGS, in order to ensure that program requirements are met.
  • Courses in which graduate students are currently enrolled – at both the graduate and undergraduate level – may now have a Pass/D/Fail option that was not available when the course began, and some undergraduate courses have moved to a mandatory Pass/D/Fail option. It is therefore especially important this semester to verify enrollment and grading options, as they may have changed since the time graduate students first enrolled in courses. If graduate students require a grading option that is not available in TigerHub, they may use this form to request that grading option. The form, along with accompanying emails of approval from the instructor and DGS, should be submitted electronically to the Registrar.

Advanced Degree Applications and Final Public Orals

  • Ph.D. students who will defend their dissertations in time to be included in the June degree list and before the University returns to normal operations should consult the Graduate School website for modifications to the advanced degree application process and the Final Public Oral (FPO). Graduate program administrators within departments and the Academic Affairs staff at the Graduate School continue to be available to assist students preparing to defend and to guide them through the electronic defense and submission process.

Hourly Work and Hardship Funds

We continue to address financial concerns and to find solutions to ease the financial impact of changes related to COVID- 19.

Continuity of pay accommodation for graduate student casual hourly workers

  • Graduate students who perform casual hourly work (separate from stipend support) and are able to work remotely may continue to do so and be paid as usual.
  • Graduate students who have been paid wages regularly for hourly work during the spring semester and who are unable to continue this work remotely will continue to be paid at a rate equal to their average weekly amount earned between January 27 and March 8. This pay accommodation will continue until May 17.

Applying for hardship funds

  • Graduate students with financial need who are suffering hardship related to COVID-19 may apply to an emergency fund administered by the Graduate School. Students who would like to be considered for this limited emergency funding, which may cover needs including but not limited to relocation/travel costs, storage fees, food insecurity, etc., should apply here.
  • These funds are intended for emergency costs related to COVID-19 and not intended to cover costs that would otherwise have been incurred, such as tuition and fees, computer equipment that was otherwise necessary, regular rent, etc. If you have questions related to a potential request, please reach out to Sarah Mullins (

Getting Involved in Service to Others

In the spirit of Princeton’s informal motto — in the nation’s service and the service of humanity — Princeton alumni, faculty, staff and students are serving and supporting their communities and fellow Tigers in ways large and small amid the challenges associated with COVID-19. Please share your #TigersHelping story via Instagram and Twitter.

Stories of #TigersHelping

We are delighted to share just a few examples of the many ways graduate students are individually and collectively finding ways to help:

  • Annabel Lemma, PhD candidate in CBE, is assisting her home country of Ethiopia by translating and sharing important information from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) about COVID-19 in the official language of the country, Amharic.
  • Graduate students from the Association of Chinese Students and Scholars (ACSSPU) raised funds to purchase 3000 FDA-certified medical masks which were donated to the Princeton University Health Center and Penn Medicine Princeton Medical Center.
  • The Graduate Student Government (GSG) established a Slack channel to maintain consistent communications with the broader graduate student community and help build connections. There are more than 600 graduate students subscribed to this channel that features an opportunity for graduate students to share information, questions and concerns as well as virtual community building activities. This is one of many examples of the GSG’s outstanding leadership during this difficult time.

Pace Center

Engaging in service from a distance within your home community or within the greater Princeton community is another way to make a positive impact during these challenging times.

Building Virtual Community

This week, several new virtual programs and opportunities were announced by teams at the Graduate School as well as many campus partner offices. And although we can't celebrate on-campus, we will host a Virtual Graduate Student Appreciation Week (April 5- 10).

Celebrating Graduate Student Appreciation Week

Throughout the coming week there will be virtual programs and contests including a #WithGRADitude Campaign, Trivia Night, Pet Photo Contest, and Design Your Personalized Zoom Background Contest. Please check out the full line-up here.

Other Virtual Events and Programs

  • For personal and professional development, the GradFUTURES website includes an easily accessible listing of dozens of online programs and resources. We are delighted to highlight several programs featuring graduate alumni who have volunteered to help offer advice and support as part of our new GradFUTURES Virtual Meetups series. Many thanks to alumni/ae Carol Barash *89, Natalie Berkman *18 and Jake Herb *17 for joining us this week—and special note that Carol Barash is now offering a weekly Storytelling Meetup. Please check out the GradFUTURES weekly newsletter for events, programs and opportunities for the week ahead.
  • The Student Life team continues to offer community building programming and support for 70+ graduate student organizations in their virtual programming initiatives. Virtual events are posted on the Graduate School events calendar and students can find the April events calendar here.
  • The Access, Diversity and Inclusion team has launched a NEW website that includes several virtual community building events.
  • Please also check out the virtual community building activities, workshops, and resources that the Graduate School and partner offices in Campus Life and throughout the University are offering for students: Check back each week to see what else has been added to the schedule.

In the spirit of our upcoming Graduate Student Appreciation Week, I would like to extend my heartfelt appreciation to the leadership of the Graduate Student Government and the leaders of all graduate student organizations for their outstanding efforts to connect and strengthen our graduate community in these difficult times. I’d also like to thank all graduate students for continuing to comply with guidelines and act in socially responsible ways to protect the health and safety of others – and for finding myriad ways to help and support each other and to contribute to world-wide efforts to fight this pandemic. I am deeply grateful to each and every one of you.
Wishing you safety, health and resilience,

Sarah-Jane Leslie

Dean of the Graduate School