March 16, 2020
Dean of the Graduate School Andrew G. Campbell
Tags Grad and Medical Students

To Brown Graduate Students: University Updates on COVID-19 with Graduate Student Considerations


Dear Graduate Students,

I’m writing  to follow up on the recent messages sent to the Brown community. We in the Graduate School know that graduate students are feeling impacted in a number of ways by the rapidly changing circumstances surrounding COVID-19, including in areas of research, instruction and the planning of academic and personal travel.

In addition to the regular updates available on Brown’s COVID-19 website, we also have established an FAQ on the Graduate School website that will be regularly updated, allowing us to address graduate student-specific questions as they arise and archive any messages sent to graduate students. First, we know there are many questions about funding, now that the University is moving many activities off campus. These and other questions are addressed in this email.


All students who are currently being supported/funded by Brown will continue to receive that support/funding, regardless of whether they remain in Providence or are approved to continue their responsibilities out of residence.

University Travel and Reimbursements

Given the restrictions on travel, students who already have academic or professional travel approved for any time through May 30 will need to cancel or postpone those travel plans. The Graduate School will not be approving any travel applications until further notice. Detailed information on requesting refunds and submitting reimbursement requests is included on the Graduate School’s COVID-19 FAQ website.

Personal Travel/Remote Teaching and Research

Graduate students considering personal travel to leave Providence are encouraged to review with their programs whether they can meet their Brown obligations remotely and, if so, notify their programs that they plan to continue their teaching and research out of residence. Please review the University’s guidance on Travel, where any changes will be updated.

Continuity of Operations (Remotely)

The University remains open and operational, with some important changes. As has previously been communicated, all classes are moving to a virtual format. University Library buildings are now closed (with staff working remotely). All non-critical, on-campus research will now also be restricted to essential activities. Activities that are deemed critical, including animal care and other lab activities, will be maintained. In accordance with current University policy, students who are not required to be on campus for these reasons should plan to remain off campus.

After March 18, the majority of faculty, research staff, postdocs, and graduate students are expected to work remotely. Graduate students who have been working with project materials should gather materials, data, and resources that you expect to need in the coming weeks as soon as possible — over the next few days — so you have with you as much of the materials and information you will need to continue to make academic progress while Brown maintains remote education and mostly remote operations. Graduate students who are involved in critical research activities, as described below, and who meet the qualifications for coming to campus for essential operations after March 18 should practice social distancing, measures for maintaining health, and sanitizing work environments.

I want to highlight a few key areas in this transition that may impact graduate students:

University Services

Campus Life, including CAPS and other health services, will continue to operate to support the needs of all students. For information related to accessing health services, please see the Student Support section of Brown’s COVID-19 website. If you will remain in Providence and plan to use Health Services and/or CAPS during the coming months, please complete this short one-question survey so we can plan resources accordingly.

To enhance the health and safety for those who must remain on campus, the University will deploy more custodial staff to areas where graduate students and faculty work and congregate.

All Graduate School administrative functions will be maintained, with many transitioning to remote service. The best way to reach the Graduate School with questions is to email [email protected]. Deans and staff can meet with you remotely by phone or Zoom. You can make a remote meeting appointment with the Associate Dean of Student Support, as well.

Laboratories and human/animal subjects research

Please read the guidance for faculty and students in research laboratories that the provost and vice president for research outlined in a March 15 communication. More information about changes in research operations, including for research continuity planning, is collected on the Research page of the COVID-19 website.

Among the factors to consider in these environments are the following guidance on essential activities:

Animal care. Many animals in research labs require specialized care that in some cases only graduate students may be able to provide. We also recognize that this is important for the continuation of your graduate research. Where possible, specific graduate students may be asked to periodically provide care for these animals. Arrangements will be made by PIs and departments to designate the graduate students who will serve as site-critical personnel for the continued care of animals.

Human subjects. All human subject research activities must be conducted remotely effective Monday, March 16. In particular, research participants are no longer permitted to travel to campus, and Brown personnel must not travel to participants' homes

Other essential functions. Other critical lab functions may also involve limited numbers of graduate students, such as maintaining high and ultra-low temperature equipment and supplies. PIs have been asked to identify any graduate students who are site-critical to maintaining essential activities and to communicate with those students in the coming days.

Academic Requirements and Deadlines

We appreciate that these developments pose additional challenges for timely academic progress, particularly for students planning to graduate in May. We encourage students to consult with their programs about adjustments to processes and the format of final steps in the degree (e.g., dissertation defenses). However, to enable students to graduate in May, the current deadlines for dissertation submission, applications to graduate, and the submission of final grades, remain in place.

Graduate Student Support

In the event that you become ill or have received medical advice to be isolated for a specified period of time, please let the Graduate School know so our staff can provide support for you, and to assist your program in finding alternative ways where possible to mitigate any potential impact on courses, teaching, research, or completing your degree this May. Our priority is the health and safety of all students, and it’s important that you follow health guidance and medical advice.

For questions and to alert the Graduate School on the matters above, please contact the Graduate School at [email protected] or 401-863-2600.

For more information on travel restrictions and updates, please visit Brown's informational COVID-19 website.

I know that this is a time of considerable uncertainty and anxiety, and we are committed to doing all we can to safeguard the well-being of our entire community. Thank you for all that you’re doing to support these efforts and to advance public health.


Andrew G. Campbell
Dean of the Graduate School
Professor of Medical Science
Molecular Microbiology & Immunology
Brown University