Virginia Tech™home

Dean DePauw answers graduate student questions

photo of Dean DePauw wearing a black jacket, standing in front of shrubs in Arlington VA
Karen DePauw, Vice President and Dean for Graduate Education (Photo by Erin Williams/Virginia Tech)

Graduate School Dean Karen DePauw is continuing the conversation started during the Graduate Education Town Hall Virginia Tech held online on July 21.

The Dean received more than 100 questions from graduate students and has endeavored to answer them. You'll find links to guidelines, plans, resources, and other information in her answers. She also suggests that graduate students review the statements, FAQs & more at the Graduate School website

Dean DePauw shared some general remarks on social media regarding graduate students' questions asked before the July 21 Town Hall:

"All VT locations for graduate students will open in August. The Week of Welcome is August 17-21, with virtual orientation and a virtual GTA workshop (details forthcoming). Classes start August 24 in three modalities: face-to-face, hybrid, and online."

"Guidelines and expectations for graduate students across the university regarding Fall 2020 opening can be found on this webpage. Read about roles and responsibilities of faculty and graduate assistants (GA, GTA, GRA)."

"Underlying principles and commitment for graduate students in Fall 2020: Health and safety are primary concerns. Others are academic quality and rigor, academic progress and degree completion, research and scholarly activities for graduate students."

"A reminder: The GRE is not required by VT Graduate School. We encourage holistic admissions to build an affirming, inclusive and diverse graduate community. Read more about holistic admissions."

The questions are organized below by topic. Questions are in bold, followed by the Dean's answers.

You’ll find a link to the recording of the July 23 town hall at the end of the questions and answers.

(Posted July 26,2020)

Why does VT continue to require the GRE for all graduate programs when it undermines university diversity and is extremely discriminatory? If the MPH program can eliminate it, why can't the entire university be better about it?

GRE scores are not required by the Graduate School and haven't been for 20+ years.  Although some departments require GRE scores, many are moving away from the GRE. 

How will teaching and research assistantships be impacted by the current academic setting?

We will continue to offer teaching and research assistantships for Fall and Spring semester.  The assignments associated with these assistantships will vary following the Graduate School guidelines for Fall 2020.

What guidance can you offer incoming graduate students who were previously offered Graduate Assistantship positions that have now been converted to wage positions? (Specifically in regard to Out-of-State waivers and/or tuition remission benefits).

Please contact me (kpdepauw@vt.edu) or the Graduate Student Ombudsperson office to assistance in resolving the situation.

When is the departmental deadline to inform graduate students of their contracts and GTA changes?

Please contact the Department directly about an assistantship.  The contracts are being entered into the system currently.

What guarantees can VT offer GTAs that, if they teach in-person in the Fall, they will be safe and, in particular, they will receive necessary protective equipment, including face shields and plexiglass dividers in the classroom, at no cost to them? Also, who/which units will cover the cost of these protective equipments so that the students and GTAs can be/feel safe?

Graduate students are not required to work on campus.  In addition, we have issued Graduate School guidelines and university-wide procedures posted on the Provost's website.  VT has prepared the Fall Opening plan, which includes information about testing, tracing, contingency plans, health and safety regulations.  Please review the University's plan

Some graduate students may feel unsafe attending in-person classes. What options are there for those who feel this way, but are funded through teaching assistantships for classes that will occur in-person?

 There are options for graduate students working as GTAs for a class that is listed as in-person. From the Fall 2020 Graduate Education guidelines:

Graduate students should be involved in conversations with supervisors about their assistantships including: responsibilities and modifications as needed, options for the location of the work (on campus, telework, or hybrid), and performance expectations.  Once agreed upon, a written summary should be shared with the student, supervisor and graduate program director. 

As GRAs, GTAs, and GAs, graduate students have choices including: original assistantship and work on campus; original assistantship, but telework; new responsibilities for assistantships on campus; new responsibilities for telework.

My Ph.D. fellowship is only funded for three years. As a consequence of this pandemic, my field work has been postponed indefinitely. I will not be able to finish my Ph.D. in the anticipated amount of time. Will fellowships be extended?

It is possible that fellowships could be extended due to the circumstances of COVID-19, but it will depend upon the type of fellowship and source of funding.  Please work directly with the department about the possibilities for extension or a new source of funding to help you complete.

What is being done to ensure graduate students aren't coerced, by the supervisors of their assistantships, into working in situations they do not feel safe in this Fall? I am specifically asking about policies and standardized enforcement beyond the existing, individualized processes like the Faculty Senate's Ethics Committee. 

The Graduate school has issued Guidelines for Fall 2020 and will work to enforce these guidelines.

Will the graduate school committee have a plan in place for teaching assistants this Fall semester in case of emergency? For example, when many students are sick and potentially have spread to others, will there be guidelines in place to protect me and will I still be expected to perform 100% at my TA duty if I have been exposed?

We will follow current guidelines for serious illness and absence from work (found on this website).  In addition, VT has prepared the Fall Opening plan, which includes information about testing, tracing, contingency plans, health and safety regulations.  Please review the plan.

In the spring semester, we could not compel a graduate students holding employment (through GRA, GTA, or wage position) to work on campus. Will this also be true in the fall semester?

Graduate students are not required to work on campus.  In addition, we have issued Graduate School guidelines and university-wide procedures.  VT has prepared the Fall Opening plan, which includes information about testing, tracing, contingency plans, health and safety regulations.  Please review that document. 

These questions concern our campuses in the greater Washington D.C. metro area, which includes Alexandria, Arlington, and Falls Church, and our campuses in Roanoke.

How about the Falls Church campus this Fall semester? Will classes be all in-person, or online?

Courses offered in Falls Church and the greater Washington D.C. Metro area will be offered in the three modalities of in-person, hybrid and on-line.  Check the timetable for exact modality.

What organization is responsible for testing and contact tracing in Northern Virginia?

The details for testing and tracing are not yet finalized for the Northern Virginia  area.  Once completed, Mike Mulhare, Virginia Tech's Assistant Vice President for Emergency Management, will share the information.

There is a long-term strategy to change Virginia Tech's presence in Roanoke over the next 5 years, but most of the current students in Roanoke will not get to see the benefit from that change. What are the specific actions your team is taking to deliver resources for current Roanoke-based students in the meantime since they do not have many at the moment?

Currently, the Division of Student Affairs and the Graduate School are working together with the Vice President for Health Sciences to increase and provide as many resources as possible to the Roanoke-based graduate students.  

Will the Fall 2020 graduation ceremony take place?

The decision has not been made yet.

What contingency plans are in place in case the State of Virginia mandates closing universities due to spikes in COVID-19 cases?

VT has developed a comprehensive document regarding Fall opening, including contingency plans.  This document is available on the Provost's website.  The contingency plan is articulated in Appendix.

How will the university respond to a COVID-19 outbreak and the possibilty of early closure?

 VT has prepared the Fall Opening plan which includes information about testing, tracing, contingency plans, health and safety regulations.  Please review that document.

In the event that a second stay-at-home order is put into place, displacing students, will graduate students maintain their assistantship employment? 

This is likely the case, similar to the pivot in March.  Assistantship assignments could modified based upon the responsibilities. See the Graduate School guidelines.

Is there a backup plan of what will happen if COVID-19 case rates go up and the university needs to shut down during the semester?

 VT has prepared the Fall Opening plan, which includes information about testing, tracing, contingency plans, health and safety regulations.  Please review the plan.

Is there a scenario in place where undergraduate students are sent home due to COVID-19 spikes, but graduate students remain on their current plans? Particularly smaller programs with cohorts of 8-15 students (roughly 50-60 students in the program overall)?

We don’t have a specific plan yet, but we would consider this.

For graduate classes that are currently marked as hybrid or face-to-face, is there a possibility that those will change to online thorughout the semester?

It is possible that a course might change to online during the semester if the university has to implement a contingency plan (see the university's Fall 2020 plan).

What is the moral and economic calculus that the Administration is using to determine if and when to pull the ripcord on the Fall semester and go fully online? If no such discussions have happended at the administrative level, when does the administration expect to have that conversation?

 VT has prepared the Fall Opening plan, which includes information about testing, tracing, contingency plans, health and safety regulations.  Please review the plan. 

Obviously we're hoping and planning for the best, but does the university have pre-determined lines in the sand for when we start to pull back operations (e.g., x number of new cases in x number of days = all courses move online)? If so, what are they?

VT has prepared the Fall Opening plan, which includes information about testing, tracing, contingency plans, health and safety regulations.  Please review the plan for details.

Is there a specific standard or a way to determine whether we may shift to online learning again in the middle of the coming semester?

VT has prepared the Fall Opening plan, which includes information about testing, tracing, contingency plans, health and safety regulations.  Please review the plan for details.

I was under the impression that most of our classes would be offered online or as a hybrid model. All of the classes in my department are being offered face-to-face. What will the protocol be if I have essential travel (and thus have to quarantine) and miss class? Have instructors been told to be flexible in offering Zoom options for students who cannot come to class?

Yes, your instructors will work with you to make arrangements for you to complete the course, especially in the case of illness.  See guidelines on the Provost's website and the University's plan for fall.

Classes offered from the graduate school are large in number. Will students have an option to take these courses online (e.g., professoriate certificate classes)?

Yes, the GRAD courses (the Future Professoriate courses, for example) are available through a Zoom option.

What can we do if a course that we need for our plan of study is only being offered face-to-face, but we do not feel safe to attend class in-person? I do not want to adjust my plan of study and miss out on specific learning apportunities, but I do not feel safe to take any classes in-person this semester.

First, contact the instructor to see if an alternative learning modality could be arranged.  Second, I suggest that you work with your advisor and Graduate Program Director to review your Plan of Study for potential modification.

Were graduate students surveyed in ther preference on returning to campus? As an adult living in the community with my family, I am extremely concerned about the consequences of allowing undergraduates to return to campus and requiring graduate students to attend in-person classes. How are these concerns being addressed?

Formal surveys of graduate students were not conducted, but I heard a number of concerns raised about health and safety issues when the undergraduates return to Blacksburg.  Specific information about the steps being taken can be found in this teaching and learning report from the Provost's office, the VT Ready site, and in Vice President for Student Affairs Frank Shushok's letter to the community.

How are students expected to transition between back-to-back online and on-campus lectures with 15 minutes in between? Many graduate students have the advantage of having an assigned desk on campus, but we know that the virus spreads well in tight spaces such as an office. Will policies around this change, or will students have to accept the risk?

VT is working on identifying spaces on campus for students to work and study in between classes.  This will include WiFI hotspots as well.  The GLC is available for graduate students and is accessible via Hokie Passport when the building is closed.

For students that have in-person and virtual classes back to back (to back, to back, to back) how are students meant to get from campus to a safe location to attend virtual class (in their apartment) in 15 minutes? I will be making five trips to and from campus every Tuesday and Thursday. Will there be safe spaces on campus for students to attend virtual lectures?

VT is working on identifying spaces on campus for students to work and study in between classes.  This will include WiFI hotspots as well.  The GLC is available for graduate students and is accessible via Hokie Passport when the building is closed.

Will the libraries be open for students to take online classes on campus?

Yes, the libraries will be open. In addition, we are working on identifying spaces on campus for students to work and study in between classes.  This will include WiFI hotspots as well.  The GLC is available for graduate students and is accessible via Hokie Passport when the building is closed.

McComas gyms and group exercise classes are a big source of infection among the students on campus. Why are they being opened?

These are only being opened under the CDC and VHD guidelines. Also see the McComas Hall section on this page.

What plans does the univeristy have for offering students safe places to work on campus in-between classes if they're not able to return home during the day?

VT is working on identifying spaces on campus for students to work and study in between classes.  This will include WiFI hotspots as well.  The GLC is available for graduate students and is accessible via Hokie Passport when the building is closed.

Why are we continuing with reopening when it will increase COVID-19 spread in Blacksburg? Will COVID-19 testing be free and available for all students, graduate students, post-docs, faculty, and staff?

VT  has issued Graduate School guidelines and university-wide procedures.  VT has also prepared the Fall Opening plan, which includes information about testing, tracing, contingency plans, health and safety regulations.  Please review the plan for details.

Why is the College of Veterinary Medicine going back to in-person when COVID-19 cases in southern Virginia are rising? If they continue to rise, will we transition online? At what point would we transition online? What happens inf a person in a Vet School class tests positive? Does everyone in that lab section have to quarantine?

Classroom and clinical instruction in the College of Veterinary Medicine this fall will be conducted using the same range of modalities (online, hybrid, and in-person) as elsewhere on campus, selected with attention to the same considerations for student and instructor preferences, testing, tracing, contingency plans, and health and safety regulations. See the Fall 2020 opening plan.  If you have specific questions about how a particular course will be taught, please contact the CVM's Office of Academic Affairs (acadaff@vt.edu)

My husband works for the University (staff) and has been told he will be working remotely at least through the end of the calendar year. Why has it been deemed safe for graduate students to return to in-person classes if many staff are still being instructed to stay away?

Faculty and staff are given the option to return to campus or telework.  There is no requirement to return to campus or stay at home unless under guidelines issued by the Governor. Courses available to graduate students (and undergraduates) are offered in three modalities: in-person, hybrid or on-line.  Students are able to select their course schedule accordingly.

Even though school is resuming in-person, 3 of the 4 classes my daughter is taking are online. Why am I still being sharged Out of State tuition? She will be residing in Blacksburg, and has signed a lease for an apartment. 

Eligiblity for resident tuition is set by the Commonwealth of Virginia.  If she's an undergraduate student, please contact the Bursar's office.  If she's a graduate student, contact the Graduate School at grads@vt.edu

How is the school protecting graduate students during this time? Rent in the Blacksburg area is astronomical, funding is being rescinded by programs like NHGS, and parking fees and restrictions are increasing. If we're barely on campus, there needs to be some give and take for paying activity, transportation, and health services costs while also paying for a parking pass the few times we do need to be there.  

The Graduate School is aware of the financial challenges faced by graduate students.  Tuition and fees are set by the University Board of Visitors. Clarification of the new parking regulations and bus transportation will be forthcoming.

Will the cost of our tuition be reduced (or at least not inflated) for the Fall semester, as in-class teaching options will be reduced or eliminated?

Tuition was kept at the same level as last year and will not increase this year.

Can you please negotiate a better deal with Aetna for us graduate students? The out of pocket maximum is way too high ($6,250); so is the deductible ($455 in-network). I actually reached the maximum last year and I'm financially independent, as I'm sure many of us graduate students are.

The negotiations with AETNA were successful in that no increase was implemented for 2020-21.  The contract with AETNA is reviewed every few years and the Graduate Student Assembly (GSA) is asked for input.

Why is tuition not being reduced drastically when classes are online or if students decide they would like to participate remotely?

The university has set the tuition rates for the year. There is no increase in tuition for this year.  

Why are we paying the virtual tuition fees if almost the entire campus is going online due to the COVID-19 pandemic? Why are we not just paying the regular amount of tuition that we pay each semester? This seems unfair to students who are taking classes that have transitioned from face-to-face to being online. 

I recently learned of this issue and am working to resolve the issue.

Would you please address why graduate students are being charged an extra $81.25 per credit for Virtual Campus classes when all summer classes were mandatorily virtual and some fall clases may be as well?

This is an issue that I recently became aware of and we are working to resolve the discrepancy.  Please contact me directly so I can investigate, kpdepauw@vt.edu

The following questions were similar in their concern about fees, and the Dean responded with a single answer to them. We list the questions first, and then the Dean's answer.

Will there be a reduction in graduate student fees for the fall 2020 semester, given limited access to services such as the gym, rec sports, special events, etc.?

Why are we being charged comprehensive fees for the fall semester when gradaute students do not benefit from the majority of the fees, especially now when many of us likely won't even be on campus and we are still making $20,000?

Why does Virginia Tech charge graduate students comprehensive fees that equate to over 11% of most students' annual stipend for services that are predominately tailored to undergraduate students?

Under the assumption that many students will be too afraid to even leave their houses due to the pandemic, why haven't the athletic and recreational activity fees decreased along with the transportation fee? This especially is a concern, considering gyms are a prime location for people to interact and spread the virus.

Why are students still paying sports/gym fees if we will not have access to them?

Why aren't student fees lower, since we won't have access to activities and services?

Will we be charged the same tuition that we had when we had full access to on-campus facilities? I don't think that it is fair to be charged for things like the athletic fees, sports fees, and student activity fees. These are things that we cannot participate in with COVID-19 procedures and therefore it does not makes sense to charge students for them.

We are encouraged to work from home and not come into the office. However, we are expected to pay student fees for university facilities (i.e., gym, library). In order to access these facilities, we would need to pay for a parking pass. Why are there no discounts for graduate comprehensive fees and parking passes? It’s concerning that Tech wants us to use facilities like the gym, but not our offices.

Why do we need to pay the same amount of comprehensive fees as last semester? Will the gym and student activities operate as usual?

Why were graduate students required to pay comprehensive fees over the second half of the spring semester when campus was shut down? If we need to shut down again in the fall due to a wave of infections, will we still be required to pay this fee for services we cannot access?

Are graduate student comprehensive fees being adjusted for the fall semester, and if so, what adjustments are being made, given the changes to services being provided?

Will there be a reduction in comprehensive fees next semester? As graduate students, we do not take a big part in the student activities and student cultural activities in the first place, and because we are going mostly virtual, we are not really using the school facilities (health center, gym, etc.).

Will comprehensive fees be lessened due to many courses being offered solely online?

What is going to happen with the comprehensive fees? There are items that will no longer be functioning as usual (clubs, for example) and it doesn't make sense to keep funding them as before.

Charging us athletic and virtual learning fees when VT is the one putting things online is inexcusable. We should have reduced fees because we'll be doing less on campus, not more.

The University's official statement on fees can be found on the Ready page of the VT Website.  It includes the following information.

Virginia Tech seeks to ensure a holistic, vibrant student experience that meets student needs and expectations and is sensitive to the overall cost of education. Comprehensive fees are a mandatory cost of attendance for students matriculating to the Blacksburg campus that support the operation of self-supporting (auxiliary enterprise) units that provide services for the benefit of all students. For students enrolled less than full-time, the comprehensive fee is pro-rated. In recognition of students living and studying away from the Blacksburg campus, comprehensive fees may be reduced by $300 per semester for full-time students enrolled in an all-virtual schedule and who certify that they will reside more than 50 miles from the Blacksburg campus for the entire semester. More information and an application form can be found here.

For a list and description of fees, visit the Bursar website.  The site outlines the mandatory fees, comprehensive fee components, supplemental program fees specific to individual colleges, and more. Mandatory fees cover the estimated cost of delivering a bundled set of services. These bundled services are designed as part of the total cost of attendance, without regard to individual usage of each service, to create the maximum community benefit at the lowest cost.

Our current tuition rates charged reflect the cost to deliver online and in-person instruction. Our most significant cost is the salaries of our faculty and staff, who have been working through the spring and into the fall to deliver the highest-quality educational experience possible and with the academic rigor expected at Virginia Tech. Virginia Tech is committed to providing a high-quality education irrespective of the mode of delivery, fully online, fully in-person, or a hybrid of the two. Any reduction in tuition income would negatively impact the ability of the university to meet that commitment. The campus disruption and the move to deliver classes online throughout the pandemic has increased the university’s costs. While we realize that the cost of instruction will continue to increase, the university’s Board of Visitors recently approved both a tuition freeze and an increase in student financial aid to help our students and their families during this unprecedented time.

I'm an SPES graduate student whose funding has been compromised by COVID-19. I am sure I'm not the only student in this position. My classes are nearly finished and all I have left is my thesis. What can be done to alleviate labs who have lost funding and students who depend on funding to complete their degrees?

This is a challenging situation.  Please work with your faculty advisor and department graduate program director to explore possibilities for funding or adjustments to your research efforts.

Some international students may have to face financial issues during the pandemic, esecially if their assistanship is cut. How can the university help those students to continue their study here?

In these cases, it is important to work closely with the department regarding graduate assistantships and look for announcements from the Graduate School about wage positions and assistantships.

Will more Graduate Assistant positions become available to address graduate school income and food insecurity?

It is not likely that more GA positions will become available for Fall 2020.  The university is working on a Food Access project starting in the Fall.

How will you enforce social distancing and safe practices in the student population?

Specific protocols have been developed and will be followed in accordance with the Fall Opening plan, which includes information about testing, tracing, contingency plans, health and safety regulations.  Please review the plan for details.

What efforts are you taking to ensure that graduate students who are "required" to come on campus are safe and not exposed to COVID-19?

We have very specific guidelines (CDC, VDH) that must be followed by graduate students (as well as faculty, staff, and  undergraduates) to return to campus.  For graduate students who decide to be on campus as a graduate assistant (GA, GRA, GTA), Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is available through the department/program. No graduate students will be required to be on campus.

What steps are being taken to ensure contact tracing and campus wide testing that is available to students at an affordable cost?

VT has prepared the Fall Opening plan, which includes information about testing, tracing, contingency plans, health and safety regulations.  Please review  the plan for details.

How is the university going to enforce/encourage mask wearing on campus (classes, outside, public transportation) to protect persons that must be on campus for classes or assistantships? Will it be only when the 6-foot distance is not guaranteed or all of the time?

VT has prepared the Fall Opening plan, which includes information about testing, tracing, contingency plans, health and safety regulations.  Please review  the plan for details.

My son is a PhD candidate/researcher at Virginia Tech. What specific steps are being taken to ensure the safety of all graduate students who advise, mentor, or teach undergraduates? 

VT has prepared the Fall Opening plan, which includes information about testing, tracing, contingency plans, health and safety regulations.  Guidelines have been issued by the Graduate School and specific guidelines for managing courses will be forthcoming for all instructors (e.g., faculty, GTAs).

What is Virginia Tech's plan to ensure that students are tested prior to going home at Thanksgiving so they don't unintentionally bring the virus home if they are infected?

I don't think we have a policy on this topic.

How will on-campus courses continue after a student becomes ill? What if a professor becomes ill?

We will follow current guidelines for serious illness and absence from work.  In addition, VT has prepared the Fall Opening plan, which includes information about testing, tracing, contingency plans, health and safety regulations.  Please review the plan for details. All instructors have been asked to identify back-ups, colleagues capable of stepping in to complete courses should the primary instructor fall ill.

What resources exist for students who contract COVID-19 during the semester and are required to be hospitalized? 

We will follow current guidelines for serious illness and absence from work.  In addition, VT has prepared the Fall Opening plan, which includes information about testing, tracing, contingency plans, health and safety regulations.  Please review the plan for details.

What options do students have if they need to leave school mid-semester as a result of COVID-19 related death of a loved one?

We will follow current guidelines for serious illness and absence from work.  In addition, VT has prepared the Fall Opening plan, which includes information about testing, tracing, contingency plans, health and safety regulations.  Please review the plan for details.

How will you ensure that graduate students have access to COVID-19 testing and supportive care?

Graduate students are not required to work on campus.  In addition, we have issued Graduate School guidelines and university-wide procedures.  VT has prepared the Fall Opening plan, which includes information about testing, tracing, contingency plans, health and safety regulations.  Please review the plan for details.

What kind of measures will the school take if there are students who test COVID-19 positive while classes are still going on, given that the virus has two to three latent periods?

Specific protocols have been developed and will be followed in accordance with the Fall Opening plan, which includes information about testing, tracing, contingency plans, health and safety regulations.  Please review the plan for details.

What measures is the university administration putting in place to ensure the safety of faculty and instructors?

The University must abide by the strict CDC and VHD guidelines for all faculty and instructors.  See the classroom conduct and guidance plan on the Provost's website. 

Why is Virginia Tech directly going against CDC guidelines by having students go back to in-person classes? As a public health student who has been informed that the majority of my classes will be in-person, I question the legitimacy of not only the VT public health master's program, but of VT itself. 

We are working within the CDC and VDH guidelines.  Graduate students are not required to return to in-person coursework.  Ask the individual instructors for the availability of alternative formats (e.g., Zoom) for in-person classes.

What are the measures for protecting those who have to work in campus buildings? If the work can be done remotely, can GAs refuse to work in the office?

Graduate students are not required to work on campus.  In addition, we have issued Graduate School guidelines and university-wide procedures.  VT has prepared the Fall Opening plan, which includes information about testing, tracing, contingency plans, health and safety regulations.  Please review the plan for details.

Will graduate students be expected to attend internships in-person after Thanksgiving break when classes go all online?

This will depend upon the heatlh and safety guidelines in place at the time.  Please contact the department for specific advice.

What will the university's enforcement policy be towards students that don't adhere to proper PPE requirements (i.e., wearing a mask or face covering at all times in the public areas)? Additionally, what will the university's enforcement of off-campus pandemic-related infractions be (e.g., large parties with attendance above the state-mandated limit)?

Guidelines for classroom management including students not complying with wearing masks will be made available in the very near future.  These individuals will be referred to Student Conduct.  For GTAs who contract COVID-19, we will follow the existing guidelines for serious health issues  and adjsut accordingly.

How many people have to die before we move to full remote learning? How will you ensure safety on elevators?

Specific protocols have been developed and will be followed in accordance with the Fall Opening plan, which includes information about testing, tracing, contingency plans, health and safety regulations.  Please review the plan for details.

What will happen if GTAs contract COVID-19? Will they lose income? Who will teach their classes? How should GTAs respond if students do not comply with wearing PPE?

Good questions.  Guidelines for classroom management, including students not complying with wearing masks will be made available in the very near future.  These individuals will be referred to Student Conduct.  For GTAs who contract COVID, we will follow the existing guidelines for serious health issues  and adjust accordingly.

How will VT be ensuring that students will not transmit COVID-19? It seems as though academic integrity is already compromised. Should the health of GTAs, faculty, and staff members (and their families) be compromised to try to salvage academic integrity?

Guidelines for classroom management including students not complying with wearing masks will be made available in the very near future.  These individuals will be referred to Student Conduct.  For GTAs who contract COVID, we will follow the existing guidelines for serious health issues  and adjsut accordingly.

What will happen if a student in the lab course I am TA-ing gets COVID-19? Will everyone in the class be informed of the exposure and be directed to quarantine for an appropriate amount of time?

Specific protocols have been developed and will be followed in accordance with the Fall Opening plan, which includes information about testing, tracing, contingency plans, health and safety regulations.  Please review the plan for details.

What protections are in place for graduate students who become infected with COVID-19 and as a result cannot conduct research, teach, or perform other graduate student duties for a certain period of time?

We will follow current guidelines for serious illness and absence from work.  In addition, VT has prepared the Fall Opening plan, which includes information about testing, tracing, contingency plans, health and safety regulations.  Please review the plan for details.

On addressing racism and active participation, can we promote pro bono work for faculty, so they become engaged in education/training of African students (in all levels)?

There is a good possibility that something like this will occur in alignment with our experiential learning focus and student engagement efforts.

What are the possibilities for new international graduate students to enroll actively in research and teaching in the Fall? Will they have to defer to next Spring, or will they be able to come to Tech?

Incoming international graduate students can come to VT and enroll in courses and research credits. If one is able to secure appropriate immigration documents, they are welcome to join VT at the campus to which you were admitted.

I am an international graduate student from Taiwan. Since I have been notified by the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) that I will need a new I-20 in order to obtain an F-1 visa, I would like to request a new I-20 (if VT can issue one to us) or any supplemental document, which can prove that VT is offering hybrid courses, in order to successfully obtain my F-1 visa and attend Fall 2020 in time. 

The issuance of I-20s is handled by the Cranwell International Center.  The statement by President Sands on the VT Ready site should provide evidence that VT will be opening in hybrid mode.  

How will the university help incoming international students who haven't been able to obtain an F1 visa due to embassy closures, but do not want to defer to the next semester or year? Would tuition waivers still be given, even though they are unable to hold graduate assistantships?

Unfortunately, tuition remissions are only offered with assistantships.  

I am a  graduate student and I plan to do a CPT (Curricular Practical Training) in Fall 2020. However, due to the new policy in July, I was told that there might be some uncertanties for CPT in Fall. In case I cannot go to my internship in Fall, I registered for 3 courses to satisfy the policy. However, I found that I cannot drop them now and got charged for the credits. Is there any way I can drop it and get rid of being charged?  

Please contact me (kpdepauw@vt.edu) to assistance in resolving the situation.

Why have the graduate students, who teach your students, perform the lion's share of your research, advise, tutor, and mentor undergraduates, and generally keep the university humming, not been involved in the planning for the upcoming semester in a formal manner via the Graduate Student Assembly? Our concerns are much the same as faculty, NOT undergraduates. We need to be at the table - invite us. 

Graduate students have been invited "to the table," especially through the Graduate Student Assembly (GSA), Graduate Representative to the Board of Visitors, and members of VT GrATE (Academy for GTA Excellence).  GSA has been asked and they have reviewed several documents in preparation for Fall Opening.  Members of VT GrATE have been instrumental in formulating policy, best practices and workshops including the GTA workshop for teaching/learning environment.

Is there a schedule for the August graduate orientation? I couldn't find one online.

New graduate student orientation will be held during the Week of Welcome - August 17-21.  The virtual orientation is scheduled for Friday, August 21, and will be posted soon.

The Dean received several questions about parking fees and new parking regulations. We will share all of those questions below, followed by the Dean's answer. 

How will students get to campus now if bus service is reduced and parking is not free anymore?

Do the new parking restrictions apply to all parking spots on campus, or just F/S spots?

I bike/bus to work every day, but occasionally have to come into the lab after hours (7 or 8 p.m.). With the new parking rule (enforced until 10 p.m.), what I am supposed to do if an emergency comes up in lab and I have to come in, especially if the parking office closes at 5 p.m.? I'm not going to pay for the bike, bus, walk program, as I only have to drive to campus if an emergency arises.

How are the new parking changes conducive to a safe and transparent campus?

Will you please consider waiving parking passes for social distancing? It's silly for us to pay full price for a pass that might only be used for a month or two when the alternative is packing onto an overcrowded bus.

With the recent change in parking policy enforcing parking passes from until 5 p.m. to until 10 p.m., have you considered the negative effects this will have on graduate students with late classes who cannot afford these passes?

How are you planning to accommodate graduate students attending late classes by requiring expensive parking passes during afternoon and evening hours on campus?

How will the University be increasing availability of Blacksburg Transit buses (i.e., not reducing stop frequency in the evenings) AND ensuring that social distancing and safety guidelines can be met on Blacksburg Transit (i.e., more buses) between 5-10 p.m., since parking on campus will still be enforced? How does the cost of increasing bus availability compare to the profit VT parking would make ticketing between 5-10 p.m.?

The late enforcement hours recently instituted by VT parking will disproportionately affect graduate students as well as those involved in student organizations. Will the university be reducing the cost of parking passes to help accommodate students?

Will the new parking service rules be revoked?

Will off-campus students that work on-campus (for VT) have any way to get parking passes ahead of the masses? I am afraid of riding, due to COVID-19, cannot walk since I live too far from campus, but also work past the time that buses run every 15 minutes if I can't get a parking pass. It's not safe past 10:30 p.m. to stand waiting for the next bus as a small female in addition to the COVID-19 crisis.

Why was the parking enforcement changed from 7 a.m.-5 p.m. to 7 a.m.-10 p.m.? If anything, the rules should be relaxed, as riding a packed Blacksburg Transit bus isn't safe anymore.

The new parking restrictions seem unreasonable, put an additional unnecessary financial burden on students, and will necessitate that more students use the already crowded public transportation in Blacksburg. How do you justify increasing obstacles to students using private transportation, which allows for physical distancing from others, in the midst of our current public health crisis?

Why the sudden change in parking enforcement, despite clear challenges already existing with regard to getting to campus in these unprotected times?

Can you explain how the increased parking enforcement hours are anything other than a way to line the pockets or the university and its administrators?

How do you think the change in parking enforcement hours makes accessing campus more equitable for graduate students, night school students, night-workers, or students attending meetings on campus at night? How is it more convenient for these people to pay more money to participate in these on-campus events? How does taking more money from these groups make their lives more flexible?

Why is the university putting in place stricter parking restrictions at a time that public transportation is limited and inherently dangerous? How do you expect all of your graduate students to participate fully in things like GTA positions and research, which the unversity hires them for, when they cannot safely access campus? This is especially harmful to low-income graduate students.

Why have parking restrictions become more stringent during the COVID-19 pandemic? Are weekend restrictions enforced by permit type? Is a C/G permit holder able to park on the Drillfield or an F/S space on the weekends or before 10 p.m.?

Why have changes been made to the times graduate students can park on campus, especially after 5 p.m. and weekends?

Regarding the new parking enforcement hours: Is the enforcement for the new parking hours (5-10 p.m. and weekends) permit specific? For example, would I be ticketed if I had a C/G pass but parked on the Drillfield on the weekend, or can I park anywhere outside of business hours as long as I have a permit?

Why are you not allowing parking on evening or weekend anymore? It is unfair to students and you guys are not doing anything to help us at all.

Parking services are now enforcing parking permits until 10 p.m., instead of 5 p.m. Why is that? This would cause more crowding in public transportation in the middle of this pandemic. Also, it really messes things for both undergraduate and graduate students who work late. I understand the COVID-19 situation may have affected them financially. Is it possible to revert this once things are back to normal?

Can you justify the latest parking rule changes, which will negatively affect specifically graduate students? Also, with the COVID-19 situation, Blacksburg Transit transportation would have its own limitations. How would these new parking regulations help in that case?

With the new parking rules, students will be forced to use the bus more, leading to a higher risk of COVID-19 spread. Also, weekend parking was essential for graduate student research, since the bus services on the weekend are sparse. Why were these changes made?

Why did the parking services change to be enforced from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., 7 days a week? This just forces more students to use the bus more frequently and this is not good when we are in the middle of a pandemic. This also messes with students needing to stay late to work on projects. Since there will be no employees after 5 p.m., why is this necessary?

The parking services are even more strict and expensive than ever this year to encourage the use of public transport and biking. With COVID-19, having people use public transport seems unsafe, even with all of the students wearing masks. Why was the policy changed in a time where public health should be the main concern not the amount of money parking services is making?

Parking services made changes to the parking policy, including moving the time in which no permit is required for parking to 10 p.m. Graduate students who live off campus will now have to take public transportation during the COVID-19 pandemic or buy a permit for a few trips. What governance processes did Parking Services go through to create their changes? When were graduate students given an opportunity to weigh in?

The new parking rules do not allow non-permit parking on campus in the evening or on weekends. This will drastically impact graduate students' research. How is VT planning to tackle COVID-19 spread by forcing more people to take buses? Will the frequency of buses increase? Will social distancing be observed in buses?

Why are parking fees/rules changing?

Since now Blacksburg Transit buses limit 9 passengers per bus, how would the Blacksburg transportation system work during the Fall semester?

The Dean’s answer: Clarification of the new parking regulations and bus transportation will be forthcoming.

I was denied a request for an incomplete grade at the end of the turbulent Spring semester. My instructor claimed I didn't provide enough extenuating circumstances to get the accomodation I requested. Wasn't the transition caused by COVID-19 enough reason to oblige my request? Are there plans to prevent such denial of help to gradaute students from reoccuring during the pandemic? I got an F for the course.

Please contact me (kpdepauw@vt.edu) or the Graduate Student Ombudsperson office to assistance in resolving the situation

Will the Graduate School be extending the deadline to defend dissertations in order to walk in graduation? (Like they did the previous year for COVID-19.) Due to circumstances related to COVID-19, many students had to change plans, etc., and extending the deadline would be extremely beneficial. 

The Graduate School will make exceptions and extend deadlines as appropriate.  

How are you ACTUALLY helping graduate students? Right now it looks like our fees are increasing, parking costs to do our work are increasing, and we'll still be front and center as GTAs during a pandemic. Graduate students feel used, abused, and disregraded by Virginia Tech. I'm not even confident I want to finish my degree because I'm disgusted by VT. 

I'm disappointed that you feel "used, abused and disregarded" by VT.  Please contact me directly (kpdepauw@vt.edu) so we can discuss your concerns and I can share the many ways that the Graduate School is working to help graduate students.  You can also contact the GSA.