REVISED FGS COVID-19 Communication

REVISED FGS COVID-19 Communication

Dear Members of Graduate Studies,

As part of York University’s efforts to keep the safety and wellbeing of students, staff and faculty, front and centre in its response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and to assist more broadly with public health initiatives, Senate Executive has declared that

  • no in-person classes will be held for the remainder of the F/W 2019-2020 and W 2020 academic terms effective Monday, March 16th, 2020.
  • courses will continue through online delivery formats for the remainder of the F/W 2019-2020 and W 2020 academic terms effective Monday, March 16th, 2020.

Similarly, all in-person events are cancelled, effective immediately, and the Tait Mackenzie Centre and the Glendon Athletic Club are closed until at least April 30, 2020.

Please note that graduate classes are not to be held either on campus or off-campus. This is consistent with the Provost's advice of March 13: "All face-to-face classes are suspended as of Monday, March 16. This means that any in person class activity has been suspended until further notice. This applies to both undergraduate and graduate courses.”

I want to assure students and program members that all of the regular functions of the Faculty of Graduate Studies are fully operational. These include all facets of Academic Affairs and Student Affairs, including matters such as funding, awards, admissions, petitions, Wellness, etc. For all information about Grad Studies matters relevant to COVID-19, updated regularly, visit

Some specific matters of immediate importance
Winter Graduate Course Completion
Start making your course materials available to students electronically in order to complete your course in a non-in-person format. As stated in the Community Update #10 COVID-19- Course Completion Plan, “Moodle has been amended to include all instructor information. This negates the need for a request to create a course on Moodle and will facilitate set up for next week. Courses will appear on instructor dashboards along with all of someone’s existing courses. Instructions can be found at” Learning Technology Service, along with other UIT teams, are now available to support the preparation of online course delivery next week.

Moodle is password protected, has a discussion board function, and can host uploaded materials in a variety of formats. Password protection for your and students’ uploaded materials, for instance, presentations or essays, is important.
Public sites without protection may present challenges with removing content,
intellectual property, etc.

There are resources online through the Teaching Commons which may help with
adapting to online delivery:

Additionally, please pay attention to students who are registered with Student
Accessibility Services and require individualised accommodation plans. Online
formats may not adhere to existing accommodations plans. New plans may need to
be created.

We appreciate that graduate courses are usually driven by in-person participation;
however, between now and Wednesday 18 March 2020, please articulate how you
will adapt your graduate course to online formats, modifying in-person formats and,
if required, assessments. Convey this information to your GPD, who will compile and
forward it as a program response to and the relevant anchor
Faculty AD Grad by noon on Wednesday 18 March 2020, so that we can support your decisions best and be able to identify where the strong challenges may be. All
Faculties need to assess the information and coordinate plans by Friday 20 March

As a precaution, submit all grade information that you have to date to your Graduate
Program Assistant, so that the information can reside in two places – with you and
the Program. We understand that grades will be partial and unevenly distributed for
those enrolled in your course.

Comprehensive / Qualifying Examinations
Graduate Programs should assess whether their regular format for students to
undertake the comprehensive/qualifying examination accords with Senate
Executive’s declaration concerning courses and the Community Update from the
Provost on course completion planning.

Consider whether you are able to make use of alternative formats with relevant
assessment standards, if your regular examination formats need to be altered.
Teaching Commons resources may be helpful in imagining possibilities as well as what might be feasible with Moodle and Zoom for, where applicable, the written and oral components respectively.

We appreciate that these decisions involving Program Executive Committees and/or
membership agreement may take more time to facilitate than individual decisions
concerning course materials; however, by Wednesday 18 March 2020 or as soon as possible thereafter, please articulate how you will adapt your comprehensive or qualifying examinations to non-in-person formats. Convey this information to your GPD, who will forward it to so that we can support your decisions best, be able to identify where the strong challenges may be, and facilitate future queries.

Thesis & Dissertation Defences
Thesis and Dissertation Defences involve external examiners and under regular
circumstances are open to the public. As with moving to online formats for course
completion, an online format of thesis and dissertation defences can be set up via
Zoom. FGS has a Zoom Pro license, enabling all members of the defence to
participate electronically from different remote locations for a session of up to 5
hours. Instructions about how to create online meetings from multiple, remote
locations are available on our COVID-support website:

Graduate Program Assistants also have instructions about how to set up a multi-user
Zoom meeting available on the GPA Resources tab of the FGS website (Faculty and
Staff drop-down menu):

Some procedural conditions, however, which are important for fairness and any
potential petitionable issues:

  1. Before moving from in-person to a remote Zoom defence, the student and all
    members of the committee must send to the Graduate Program Assistant
    their agreement in writing (email confirmation) to hold the defence in this
    electronically mediated format at the originally specified in-person time. The
    GPA will then forward the confirmations to FGS via
  2. Students have the right to choose not to have an online audio/visual defence.
    They can opt to defer the defence with no penalty until such time as the
    university recommends a return to regular formats for classes and other
    program requirements.
  3. If for any reason the external examiner is unable to participate in an
    electronically mediated defence, then the defence must be rescheduled.
  4. In all cases, FGS and the Registrar’s Office will finalise the student record
    without penalty to the student.

Travel Guidelines
Please refer to York University’s Community Update regarding travel. They include
matters concerning travel to but also what to do after travel from global regions:

Attend to these guidelines carefully and seriously. Recognise that any region not
currently restricted may become so tomorrow. (See below re: cancelled fieldwork
and research necessary for degree completion).

Expense Reimbursement for Cancelled Business Travel
Relative to the Faculty of Graduate Studies members (professors and students),
“business” includes travel for academic purposes, including research (fieldwork,
conferences, etc.).
Please refer to the University’s communication regarding cancelled business/research travel:

Cancelled Research and/or Fieldwork travel or Work with Human Participants that
will Affect Regular Timelines of Degree Completion

The immediate focus is on completion of the winter term. Officially and currently,
the summer term begins in May, when students may be scheduled for program related fieldwork research and travel.

If research and fieldwork, including work with human participants that is necessary
for completion of degree requirements and achievement of the program learning
outcomes is affected by travel restrictions and in-person contacts becoming no
longer advisable, then students will have to wait until all restrictions are lifted to
reschedule. FGS will work with the Program and the Registrar’s Office to resume the
program term lengths without penalty to the student.

Programs should consider, however, whether there are any alternative means to
achieving the program learning outcomes. Simply put, if conducting in-person
fieldwork is essential to the learning outcomes for degree completion and it cannot
be completed because of official travel restrictions, then there is little leeway
available, and FGS will help to facilitate as seamless a transition as possible once all
restrictions are lifted.

Thomas Loebel, PhD
Dean & Associate Vice-President
Faculty of Graduate Studies
York University