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Spring 2022 FAQ

COVID Spring Policies

Why did staff get to work remotely during the first two weeks of school when students were not allowed a remote option?

To de-densify campus so students and faculty can continue with core learning and research needs, some staff whose work can be completed effectively off campus and whose positions are not student- or public-facing were permitted to work in a remote or hybrid format. Decisions on remote or hybrid work were made by business or work unit leaders, not individuals.

Why are graduate programs not allowed to have hybrid class options, even when professors want them?

The vast majority of graduate programs were designed for in-person instruction because it offers such an important opportunity for learning, leadership and scholarly exchange of ideas. In addition, the modality of instruction (as in-person vs. online) is overseen and approved by both regional and professional accreditors through a lengthy process at the program (rather than the class or course) level.

Finally, studies have shown that online learning is not equally effective for all students, as explored in a July 2021 working paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) titled “Is Online Education Working?” Findings suggest that students who are doing well in classes will continue to do well, but those who are struggling academically will fall further behind.

How were we able to offer remote learning early in the pandemic, but are unable to do so now?

As a university, we are part of a complex regulatory and legal environment. The various institutions that accredit our university require a certain number of days of in-person instruction. Early in the pandemic, Vanderbilt was extended temporary flexibility to implement distance learning in order to maintain operational continuity during a global crisis.

The situation has evolved since the start of the pandemic in early 2020. Today, we have ready access to a life-saving, proven vaccine and extensive empirical evidence that the virus has not been transmitted during in-person learning in Vanderbilt classrooms.

What process should students follow to request classroom accommodations?

Requests for accommodations, including those that support in-person learning, can be made using the university’s Commodore Access Portal. You can also learn about requesting a medical leave of absence. Requests are overseen by Student Access.

Without hybrid options for high-risk people, is Vanderbilt in compliance with ADA requirements for disability accommodations?

As required by federal law, Vanderbilt reviews each request for accommodation individually and engages in an interactive process to determine reasonable accommodations for each person’s circumstances. That review is informed by information provided by the individual requesting accommodation and their medical providers. As a part of this individualized review process, Vanderbilt considers a range of possible accommodations for our community members.

What is the university doing to support graduate students who have lost productivity because they have lost childcare due to quarantines, etc.?

The difficulty putting together childcare is truly an unprecedented challenge to families with young children in our community. We hear you and we know that there are no immediate, easy solutions that ease this difficulty. We encourage open dialogue with your PI/Advisor to help you navigate any interruption to your productivity due to loss of childcare or children in quarantine.

Health and Safety

What options are available for students who would like access to asymptomatic testing?

If you are asymptomatic, you can use the campus testing center anytime it is open. You do not need an appointment, walk-ins are welcome. More information on testing can be found here.

Why were students only given a few KN95 masks to last the semester?

The KN95 masks provided to students are designed to last for 40 hours each, which equates to approximately three weeks’ supply. Our main goal was to provide masks to support students through the surge in January. If you have not received your masks from the university, you can reach out to your dean or department head offices or visit the Graduate School offices to pick some up. We will continue to evaluate the need for additional masks going forward.

In what other ways is the university prioritizing the safety and well-being of graduate students at this time?

The Student Care Network expanded its in-person and remote appointment options. Additionally, you have access to AcademicLiveCare , a telehealth platform that allows you to attend behavioral and physical health appointments on a smartphone, computer, or another mobile device, free of charge. ALC also offers ongoing appointments with licensed psychologists, counselors, psychiatrists, or other providers to help with life’s challenges. 

Is there any consideration for the increased numbers of COVID cases this semester?

Actually, positive cases on campus have been decreasing since students returned from winter break: the week of Jan. 16 we had a 1.63% positivity rate among vaccinated community members and the week of Feb. 6 that rate dropped to 0.61%. For more information, view the Vanderbilt COVID dashboard.

Can you provide an operationalized, precise threshold for remaining in-person since you say we’ll be in-person "until transmission and case data say otherwise?”

The Vanderbilt Public Health Command Center monitors several different data sources including the CDC, Metro Health, and the Vanderbilt University Medical Center. In addition to monitoring positive cases within our campus community, the Command Center also monitors transmissibility, or how many positive cases result from a positive case. Stay tuned for updates here on the Vanderbilt COVID dashboard.

Student Funding

We received a few questions pertaining to graduate student funding. For example, what is the Graduate School doing to acknowledge the high rate of inflation and the rising cost of living in Nashville?

The Graduate School is actively analyzing stipends to ensure they are competitive, help us recruit the best scholars, and support your needs for a successful academic journey. Additionally, the university broke ground on a graduate housing complex last summer, with an expected opening in the fall of 2023. This facility will include one- and two-bedroom studios and apartments at a below market rate to help offset the increasing cost of living in Nashville.

What is happening with the mental health fees next year?

Last year, some schools opted to cover the Student Health Fee for graduate students. That decision is made at the school level; we are likely to have more information after the budget is set later this semester for the 2022-2023 academic year.