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8/3/2020 - Update on Graduate Studies

To: Members of the Graduate Student Community
From: Doug C. Rees, Dean of Graduate Studies

We find ourselves in a highly uncertain and unfamiliar environment where the evolution of the global pandemic requires constant adaptation and response.

I recognize the challenges that this period of relentless change has brought to your lives, and that each day brings new questions about the upcoming academic year, your wellbeing, and the direction of the graduate school program. I want to let you know that the Institute is working to bring as much clarity as possible, even while we await official guidance from county and state officials on approved higher education instruction models, while also managing changes in federal requirements for incoming international students.

I have worked with multiple offices within the Institute to prepare a set of Frequently Asked Questions addressing topics of concern across the areas of academics, housing, and health and hygiene. Please take some time to review these FAQs as they address changes to processes and policies that have been developed to ensure the health and safety of the community.

I would like to highlight several topics discussed in these documents: first, in recognition of the current course of the pandemic, Caltech is allowing incoming graduate students to matriculate remotely. In view of the uncertainties in public health and immigration guidelines, Caltech cannot guarantee that incoming international students with Initial F-1 and J-1 SEVIS records will be able to come to campus and remain in compliance with immigration guidelines. Accordingly, these students have been asked to remain outside the United States for the fall term; this recommendation will be re-evaluated for future terms.

Second, in recognition of the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on graduate students' ability to complete their degree requirements, requirements for candidacy and qualifying exams will be extended by a minimum of one term, and the Institute will offer a second conferring of degrees in 2020 at the October Board of Trustees meeting. To be eligible for degree conferral in October, degree requirements must be met no later than September 29, 2020.

Finally, I understand that there have been many questions about campus housing and protocol and processes for mitigating risk in those environments. A recent letter from Housing detailed processes relevant to moving and room assignments. We recognize that the delayed lottery process presented new challenges to the community and continue to assess the demands for housing as incoming graduate students clarify their plans. We anticipate that the opportunity for incoming graduate students to matriculate remotely may alleviate some of the current demand for campus housing.

Furthermore, while incoming graduate students are typically allowed to start arriving on campus after the June commencement, this summer incoming graduate students are not allowed to arrive before September 1. This break between residents will provide Housing and custodial staff the necessary time to clean and transition residences.

And as a final note on our efforts to support student wellbeing in the residences, the guest policy for residences has been updated. Those living in Caltech housing will be prohibited from having guests until further notice. This change, detailed in the new Health and Hygiene Policy for Graduate Students, was made in recognition of the critical role that maintaining physical distance and minimizing interactions with individuals from outside of your household plays in mitigating the spread of infection. Students in housing will receive change notices to their contracts and leases to confirm this change. In addition, all campus gatherings and activities are prohibited. Once conditions change, the Office of Residential Experience will be organizing and supporting graduate student programming.

I recognize that none of this is easy and thank you for your patience and understanding as we navigate these fraught times. Please be assured that Caltech is committed to supporting our incoming and current graduate students to provide a safe and rewarding education program as we move toward a time when we can resume full activities.