University of Pittsburgh is operating under a modified status.

Q: What is the definition of “essential travel” as it relates to graduate students? Research collaborations? Fieldwork and other off-site research? Personal reasons? What is the process of petition/appeal? Do restrictions apply to grant-sponsored travel? 

A: The majority of travel is currently considered nonessential. The determination of whether travel is essential can only be made by responsibility center heads. 

Q: Can future travel be booked?

A: Future travel should not be booked. 

Q: Can I travel to a domestic conference if I am paying my own way and not receiving any University funding?

A: The University cannot prevent people from making their own travel arrangements. However, please be aware of current risks and review guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Q: How will I be reimbursed for travel expenses if I did not complete travel due to COVID-19? What happens if I charged an expense to my personal credit card?

A: Students and postdocs should contact the individual in their department/unit who typically handles their travel reimbursements. Schools/units have been informed that planned University-sponsored travel that did not happen due to COVID-19 should be reimbursed as planned. Please contact Nathan Urban if you encounter difficulties or have questions.

Q: Should we cancel our school’s three-minute thesis competition? 

A: Yes. Pitt is developing a University-wide virtual submission and judging process. 

Q: Should schools/units look for ways to offer professional development programs/training by remote methods, such as the upcoming Improvisation for Advising Conversations graduate student workshop, if there are resources to do so?  

A: Yes. Where possible, these kinds of programs should continue. Maintaining engagement with colleagues is especially important during this time, and developing virtual programs would be one way of maintaining a sense of community.  

Q: Does the ban on recruiting apply to prospective students who already live in Pittsburgh and wish to visit campus?

A: University facilities are not open to the general public at this time. You are encouraged to consider talking with prospective students by phone or email or through a virtual meeting technology.

Q: If a walk-in prospective student comes to our office unannounced and asks for information about the school, are we prohibited from meeting? 

A: University facilities are not open to the general public at this time. You are encouraged to consider talking with prospective students by phone or email or through a virtual meeting technology.

Q: Would our graduate students be permitted to access our facilities to practice manual skills as they needed? If so, should we state that no more than 25 students may be permitted to use the lab at any one time?
Added 3/18

A: Yes, this is permitted. Please reduce the number simultaneously present to significantly less than 25 and ensure that there is a clear procedure for sanitizing any equipment that is used. Please refer to your school, department or faculty advisor for specific guidance and approval.

Q: Regarding dissertation/thesis defense protocols: Can we use Zoom or other technology to allow committee members to participate remotely? Can we “close” them so that non-committee members are welcomed virtually but not in the room?

A: The University is allowing both of these to be done virtually. Schools are developing specific guidelines for these protocols. For assistance in setting up public presentations via video streaming, contact Kornelia Tancheva, director of the University Library System.  

Q: Will schools be waiving their school requirement that not more than one committee member will be participating remotely in a dissertation defense?

A: Check with your school, but most schools are relaxing these requirements.

Q: Is it best to hold research group meetings online, or is in-person permissible, with students given the option to attend online?

A: Online meetings are preferred, particularly for larger groups. If you must meet in person, please choose a sufficiently large space as to allow at least six feet between participants. As a reminder, no events or gatherings of more than 25 people are to be hosted at this time.

Q: Is it permissible to host small events (under 20 students) for local graduate students?

A: Please consider whether a virtual gathering is possible. If you must meet in person, please choose a sufficiently large space as to allow at least six feet between participants. 

Q: If there are classes with less than 25 students (e.g., journal clubs) can they still be held as usual?

A: All in-person classes should move to an online setting. Lab meetings and other non-class meetings also should be moved online if possible.  

Q: What is the best way to give exams?

A: The University Center for Teaching and Learning has provided guidance. We are exploring electronic proctoring solutions, but the University currently does not have a license for this technology. If you are interested in this approach, contact Nathan Urban.

Q: Are electronic signatures acceptable for forms that were otherwise hard copy?

A: Yes. For all University forms related to graduate studies, DocuSign is ideal. However, if implementing DocuSign causes a delay, an electronic form attached to an email indicating endorsement is acceptable. 

Q: Would we be permitted to hold practical/manual laboratory testing (physical performance of patient case) for our graduate students? The practical/lab exams are performed one onone with a faculty tester and are completed in our Musculoskeletal classroom—with approximately 10-12 testers and associated students at any one time—over the course of four hours (30 min./student).

A: Central guidance is being developed and will be included here when available. 

Q: Will this situation impact my graduation credits or the time it takes to complete my degree?

A:  We are working hard to prevent any impact on credits and academic progress. If you have concerns, please contact your program director or the graduate associate dean in your school. After that step, if you still have concerns, please reach out to Nathan Urban.

Q:  I am a graduate student who is currently out of the country. Will final exams be given virtually?

A: Yes. Final exams will be given virtually. 

Q: How do we operationalize the additional 10 working days of sick time that have been granted to postdocs?

A: If anyone is sick, especially with symptoms similar to COVID-19, they should stay home and should not be penalized for this decision. This principle should also be applied if you have members of your household who are suspected of having COVID-19. It is important to the health and safety of University members and the greater community that people who may be sick are able to avoid contact with others. No one should feel like they cannot stay home because of financial or job-related consequences. 

Q: What happens if a TA, TF, GSA or a GSR gets sick or has COVID-19 symptoms? 

A: When you are sick, go home and stay home. Upon arrival at home, graduate students should promptly call Student Health at 412-383-1800. They should also call their faculty contact to inform them of illness. As a reminder, our TA/TF/GSA policy states: “In the event of serious illness or physical incapacitation, the graduate student appointee involved shall receive salary and health benefits for the remainder of the academic term.” This should be used for students who have symptoms or who believe that may have contracted COVID-19. This guidance should similarly be extended to GSRs.

Q: What will happen to GSR stipends if labs need to be closed?

A: The University is awaiting federal guidance, and we hope to have this soon.