Frequently asked questions related to COVID-19 & Graduate Education

The University’s Safe-Campus Website should be your first stop for COVID-19 related questions. 

The decentralized structure of our University means that the answers to many questions related to the pandemic and graduate education will vary by college, department or program. When the Graduate School has specific information about an issue or question, we will provide it below. If the information is best found elsewhere at the University, we will make every effort to point you directly to it.

If you have a question related to graduate education and fall semester that isn't answered below or on the University’s Safe Campus site, please submit your question via this Google Form. Graduate School staff will respond to you as soon as possible. Please note that we often receive multiple questions that are essentially seeking the same information. In these cases, we aggregate these questions and thus it may look somewhat different from the original question posed.

Please note that these FAQs make frequent reference to the University's Sunrise Plan. All labs are required to submit individualized Sunrise Plans in response to COVID-19, and all students working in labs are to be provided a copy of their lab's Sunrise Plan by the lab supervisor. If you have not received your lab's Sunrise Plan, please contact your lab supervisor or your advisor.

Resources

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Admissions

For Students/Prospective Students

How can I take an English language proficiency exam while testing centers are closed?

Please see our English Language Proficiency page for testing options during COVID-19.

How are processing for i20s and visa interviews affected by COVID-19?

Students should check with their local consulates regularly for the most up-to-date information on the resumption of visa services, and schedule appointments as soon as they are able.

For Faculty/Staff

What if an international student is already in the U.S. at another institution?

These students are NOT required to travel overseas for visa purposes and they are NOT required to visit a U.S. consulate before starting their grad program at the U of M. In general you should expect these students to be able to report to campus just as a domestic student would.

TA/RA Appointments

Who do I contact if I have a COVID exposure?

Students should contact Boynton Health, and their supervisor(s) or HR directly if they are employed.  Boynton will conduct any required notifications, like contact tracing.  Supervisors/HR should be versed in what else is needed, for example, covering class assignments if the grad student is a TA. 

Who do I contact if I test positive for COVID? See above. 

Note that Boynton will do contact tracing. 

Who should I contact to view my sunrise plan?

Your lab supervisor.

Who should I talk to if there are deviations from my sunrise plan?

Your Graduate Associate Dean. You may also report concerns at https://umn.ethicaladvocate.com/ or https://compliance.umn.edu/report

What is the threshold of on campus infections that will cause a reduction in effort?

Please refer to the University's safe-campus website for the most current information, links, and archived materials.

Are there any guidelines on the maximum number of people who can work in a lab at the same time?

The approved Sunrise plan for your lab.

Do I have to work if I don't feel safe?

No. However, if you are employed to do work that can only be done on campus, then you should consider all potential impacts of not working including funding stipulations, VISA requirements, etc. and the possible need to resign from that RA/TA/GA position, or fellowship.

How specifically are we protected from repercussions if our lab requires us to come in and we decline to do so?

Students cannot be forced or pressured to come to school/work.  Students should Notify the Student Conflict Resolution Center if they feel pressured to come to work. Please note that if you are employed to do work that can only be done on campus, then you should consider all potential impacts of not working including funding stipulations, VISA requirements, etc. and the possible need to resign from that RA/TA/GA position, or fellowship.

If I only go to the lab for 2-3 hours a day, can I get discounted parking? 

President Gabel approved a parking cost reduction plan to allow faculty, staff and select graduate students to suspend their parking contract payments, while continuing to work. For specific job codes that meet eligibility requirements, please visit the Parking and Transportation website.  Additionally, individual departments may purchase vouchers for individuals based on specific concerns/needs. Please also note the U’s 624-Walk Program, available for any student/staff. A security monitor is available to walk you to your cars/buildings 24/7.  

How should labs plan ahead in case a lab member tests positive but has active research going on?

Please refer to the University's safe-campus website for the most current information, links, and archived materials.

What are the policies about notification if someone in your lab/neighboring lab/floor tests positive?

Please refer to the University's safe-campus website for the most current information, links, and archived materials.

Are there any efforts to have regular (i.e., weekly) testing of on campus personnel to ensure there are not asymptomatic spread?

Please refer to the University's safe-campus website for the most current information, links, and archived materials.

When will we change phases in the Sunrise Plan? What are the Phases? How do they pertain to me?

Please refer to the University's safe-campus website for the most current information, links, and archived materials. 

What steps do I have to take before I can go back into my lab for the first time post-COVID?

Please refer to the University's safe-campus website for the most current information, links, and archived materials.

Will there be university, college-level, or department level guidance for researchers traveling for holidays/in general for visiting families?

  • Travel restrictions and updates can be found at U Travel. Travel domestically for University business only if you must. International travel for University purposes is prohibited until at least May 31 (Note: This restriction does not apply to personal travel.). There continues to be an exception process available for faculty, staff, and students who must travel internationally as part of their University research or scholarship. Specific guidance on international travel is available from the U.S. Department of State.

What online teaching resources are available for TAs?

There are currently two central locations where TAs can get support for online teaching:

The Keep Teaching website includes:
  • Support for academic technology (i.e. teaching with Zoom and Canvas)
  • Online consultations
The Center for Educational Innovation website includes:

Prelim/Final Oral Exams

I’m scheduled to take my doctoral preliminary oral soon. What are my options? Can I take the exam off-site? 

Graduate milestone examinations can again be conducted on campus. As a reminder, the University’s mask mandate for fully vaccinated individuals has been lifted; however, those not fully vaccinated are expected to wear their masks in University buildings. If preferred, these graduate milestone examinations can be conducted electronically, including the required public presentation component of the doctoral final examination.  Please refer to information about requirements and best practices related to off-site participation.

Our program’s doctoral preliminary written examinations are scheduled to be given soon. Students are required to sit for the examination at a specified UMN site with a proctor. Do we have to reschedule/cancel? 

Graduate programs can again hold in-person doctoral preliminary written exams. As a reminder, the University’s mask mandate for fully vaccinated individuals has been lifted; however, those not fully vaccinated are expected to wear their masks in University buildings.

Our master’s program requires a final written examination. Students are required to sit for the examination at a specified UMN site with a proctor.  Is an on-site master’s written examination allowed?

Graduate programs can again hold in-person master’s final written exams. As a reminder, the University’s mask mandate for fully vaccinated individuals has been lifted; however, those not fully vaccinated are expected to wear their masks in University buildings.

Additional University Resources