November 25, 2020

Dear Students:

Congratulations on making it through this very challenging semester! I’m just writing with a few updates and reminders as we transition out of the semester, into grading and planning for the spring (and beyond).

I. Fall Semester 2020 Grading

Everyone in our University community has been under extraordinary pressure since the pandemic started early this year. This includes our graduate students, many of whom are balancing the demands of family (e.g. elder care, child care, home schooling) with their responsibilities on campus (e.g. teaching, research) and the work necessary to continue progressing toward their degrees (e.g. courses, research, field work). We have encouraged faculty to take these added burdens into account when they assign grades and reminded them that the “CV” grade is available together with the incomplete (“IN”) grade for graduate students who have been adversely affected by the pandemic. The CV grade provides an additional 3 months beyond the one-year afforded by the IN grade, for students to complete the work required for fall 2020 courses. As always, IN grades should be completed in a year but have the option for extensions of time if needed.

II. Spring Semester 2021

Registration: Registration appointments for spring 2021 open on November 30. Please work with your graduate programs and advisors to review course offerings and modes of instruction, including the new Class Features tool in ConnectCarolina. Timely enrollment for the spring semester is critical given the extended break between the fall and spring semesters.

COVID-19 Testing: The spring 2021 COVID-19 testing plan has just been released. Graduate students who must come to campus to work, do research, or teach or take courses are required to be tested once per week. Your program may have specific requirements and will communicate those directly. Please see this information about testing centers, protocols and exceptions to the testing requirements. Graduate students are not required to participate in prior to arrival testing before returning to campus.

Deadlines, milestones, etc: At present, we plan to adhere to the published calendar and deadlines for spring 2021. However, we realize our situation is very fluid and will work with the Registrar and others to adjust dates, if necessary.

Student Wellness Days: In lieu of spring break, the University has scheduled 5 “Student Wellness Days” (Monday and Tuesday, February 15-16; Thursday and Friday, March 11-12; Monday, April 5 for the majority of campus; dates may differ in the Professional Schools). We’ve asked faculty to be cognizant that the Student Wellness Days are intended as breaks from the semester and asked them to try not to schedule major assignments for students on days following these breaks. We hope you will extend the same courtesy to undergraduates in your courses.

Travel: As long as the state-wide travel ban continues, we will continue to review requests for exceptions to travel for research, meetings, and other academics-related business. Please work with your advisors/ graduate programs to submit travel requests through the RASR work flow.

International Students: Despite current trends, we are still hopeful that most international students will be able to join us on campus in spring 2021. For those who cannot, we will continue to review requests for exceptions to our policy that international students must be in the country to be hired as graduate assistants. International students should keep in close contact with their graduate programs and ISSS about their plans and needs.

Student Payroll and Awards: The standard dates for student employment were changed to accommodate the earlier start date in August. Students employed for the entire academic year (August 5 – May 4), will continue to receive a paycheck each month of employment, however, the payment for August was larger and the payment for May will be smaller than usual. For students hired for the fall semester only, August 5 – December 31, the last paycheck will be in December. For students hired for the spring semester only, the payroll dates are January 1 – May 5. Fellowships, awards, and other financial aid will be disbursed beginning January 11, 2021.

Finally, thank you persevering through this crisis. I know you are tired and that this calendar year has been replete with frustrations, disappointments, and complications. On behalf of everyone in The Graduate School, we value and greatly appreciate the efforts and sacrifices you have made to support this great institution. We hope you get some time for self during the break and wish you and yours a wonderful holiday season and all best for 2021.

—Dean Suzanne E. Barbour