More Information for UVA Engineering Graduate Students - COVID-19 Changes


Dear UVA Engineering Graduate Students:

On Wednesday, March 11, the University announced that all graduate and undergraduate classes will be held online beginning March 19, among other measures in response to the novel coronavirus. More information about online courses will come soon. This message is to clarify some very important points, particularly for our graduate students who are engaged in research and teaching.

Note: If you are a graduate student who is enrolled in coursework only, then you should follow the guidance given here. That is, please remain “home,” whether that is in Charlottesville or elsewhere.  This applies to many of our Master of Engineering or Master of Computer Science students.

Here is what we want our UVA Engineering graduate students to know right now:

Meeting Your Needs

  • Our top priority is the health, safety and well-being of you and our undergraduate students, faculty and staff. This is at the core of everything we are doing. Please see more information later in this message about health precautions and travel guidance.
  • The directive in President Ryan’s message for “students” to “return home” acknowledges that “home” may well be Charlottesville, which is particularly relevant to graduate students. As such, graduate students are not being instructed to leave Charlottesville and return to, for example, their families’ home town.
  • Graduate students who live in on-Grounds housing are welcome to stay in their residences, and the University is making dining services available. You can see the University’s message for grad students in UVA housing (except Range residents) here, and the message for Range residents here. Note that the message for Range residents says they must complete the survey provided to them by Housing & Residence Life as soon as possible; access to the rooms for those who have not completed the survey will be cut off at noon on March 18.

Clarifying Responsibilities

  • Our graduate students who are engaged in teaching and research should continue to complete those responsibilities in accordance with the University’s guidance for travel and health, and with their faculty advisors’ and instructors’ direction. We are committed to continuing your assistantship wage or stipend for the duration of the semester. Those responsibilities may include work on grounds.
  • The University’s research and teaching operations will continue, although adjustments will be made. Our faculty value their teaching assistants for help with instruction and graduate researchers for research projects.
  • If graduate students engaged in research and teaching have questions about how their labs will operate for the near future, or how the courses they support will operate, they should first talk to their advisors and course instructors. Please remember that faculty are still figuring things out too, in accordance with the evolving University guidance, so we ask that everyone be as patient and flexible as possible. Many faculty are already considering/communicating modifications to their office and lab schedules.
  • If graduate students and their faculty advisors agree that their work can be done effectively by remote methods, they should work remotely and limit in-person interactions. No graduate students should feel pressured to return if they are concerned it puts them, or their peers and colleagues here on Grounds, at risk. Grad students should discuss reasonable accommodations directly with their advisors. If necessary, questions and concerns should be directed to the program’s director of graduate studies. The names of those directors can be found here.

Protecting Our Community’s Health and Safety

  • We know many graduate students, along with faculty and staff, have questions or concerns about health and safety in our labs and offices. All of us must follow the University’s guidelines for travel, which are issued in accordance with recommendations from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the U.S. Department of State and the Virginia Department of Health. Please monitor the University’s travel guidance website to stay informed about the latest recommendations.
  • We appeal to you, in light of your responsibility as a University citizen, not to return to Grounds if you meet any of the CDC guidance for exposure to the coronavirus. This includes recent travel to a CDC Level 2 or 3 affected area, exposure to someone who has been diagnosed with COVID-19 or is suspected to have had exposure to the virus, or your own symptoms (fever, cough or difficulty breathing).
  • Adhering to health precautions is critical for all us.  They can be found on the University’s health precautions website, in accordance with recommendations from the CDC, the Virginia Department of Health and UVA Student Health and Wellness. These precautions involve avoiding contact with people who are sick, staying home when you are sick and washing your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom, before eating, and after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. In your work/lab and study spaces, clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using household cleaners and EPA-registered disinfectants that are appropriate for the surface, following label instructions.
  • Precautions to minimize contact with people include holding group/lab meetings via conference call or videoconferencing; staggering the times when people work in labs; limiting lab/facility work to only what must be done there, with activities such as data analysis being conducted remotely; and maintaining physical distance from other people when you are in the same spaces. The UVA research continuity website has multiple suggestions. 
  • The CDC is one of the most highly regarded authorities in the world, and the agency has an excellent FAQ and risk assessment documentAccording to the CDC: “For the majority of people, the immediate risk of being exposed to the virus that causes COVID-19 is thought to be low. There is not widespread circulation in most communities in the United States.” Furthermore, the CDC advises that severe symptoms are extremely rare except in people who are immunocompromised or have specific health conditions such as diabetes, or who are elderly. This means that it is important not to panic, but we all must adhere to health and prevention recommendations to do our part to stop the spread of this virus and protect those who are most vulnerable.
  • The CDC also cautions against stigmatizing any person or group due to perceptions that the novel coronavirus is associated with any particular country or region. The CDC states: “Diseases can make anyone sick, regardless of their race or ethnicity;” “Stigma hurts everyone by creating fear or anger towards other people;” and “Stopping stigma is important to making communities and community members resilient,” because communities need to focus on facts in order to combat disease. We agree wholeheartedly with the CDC on this.
  • If you have any questions or concerns that are not answered here, please direct those first to your faculty advisors and instructors. If you still have questions, you may write to the Office of Graduate Programs at gradengineering@virginia.edu.

The novel coronavirus poses a significant challenge for our entire University community and well beyond. However, our UVA Engineering students, faculty and staff are proactive, resilient and dedicated to overcoming challenges of all kinds. We will get through this together.

We anticipate more communications coming out from the School and University to address specific issues. Please watch for additional messages.

Thank you for your support and patience while we work through the next days and weeks.

Craig H. Benson, Dean   

UVA Engineering

 

Pamela M. Norris, Executive Dean

UVA Engineering

 

N. Scott Barker, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs

UVA Engineering

 

Amy M. Clobes, Director of Graduate Programs

UVA Engineering