COVID-19 Questions? 10 Answers from SBU

Stony Brook has set up a Coronavirus Information website with press releases and lots of information on the virus and how the school is handling it. Perhaps the best section for getting your questions answered is the FAQs, which are frequently updated with new information: https://www.stonybrook.edu/commcms/coronavirus/faq/index.php

Here are 10 Questions and Answers we found the most relevant for graduate students at SBU.

Classes & Academics for Students

  1. Will we be able to return to campus in the Fall?
    As of now, Stony Brook is still planning for a timely start to the fall semester (on-campus), while continuing to evaluate conditions to make sure circumstances are safe for our students. We will provide updates as soon as possible related to any changes to the semester’s schedule or mode of instruction. No definitive decisions have yet been made about the fall term. We plan to provide the campus further updates no later than June 30th; sooner if we are able. Along the way, we will update the University Coronavirus website with timely information regarding the fall semester.
    If the university returns to normal operations with face to face classes this fall, F-1 students will be required to fulfill program requirements predominantly on-campus, so to not exceed the SEVP limitation of one on-line/distance education class or 3 credits per session. If classes continue to be offered through alternate modes of instruction for the fall semester (i.e. distance learning / online) it is not clear what that will mean for international students and their non-immigrant status, as SEVP and the U.S. Department of State have not communicated how long these special accommodations for F-1 and J-1 students will extend.

    Check out this new website for more information: https://www.stonybrook.edu/commcms/comingback/faqs.php?accordion=panel-d13e105
  2. Accommodations for students with disabilities surrounding online learning. Options?
    If students will be needing any disability related accommodations, please contact Student Accessibility Support Center sasc@stonybrook.edu or (631) 632-6748. 

Graduate School

  1. How will the Graduate School accommodate students that are defending their thesis/dissertation during the remainder of the Spring and Summer 2020 semesters?
    All thesis/dissertation defenses for the Spring and Summer 2020 semesters can be held through video conferencing. Each committee member, and the student, is approved to video conference for the defense. You do not need to fill out revision forms for any committees that have already been submitted. We will be working from the assumption that all defenses will be conducted through video conferencing for the Spring and Summer semesters.  Electronic signatures will be accepted on all signature pages.
  2. I am experiencing an acute financial hardship as a result of COVID-19 that is impacting my academic progress. Where can I go for emergency financial assistance?
    The Student Emergency Support Fund is meant to provide direct and/or indirect resources to matriculated Stony Brook undergraduate and graduate students who are experiencing an acute crisis that has or could adversely impact their ability to make continued progress toward attaining their degree. Examples where resources may be required to support a student in crisis include:

● Housing Insecurity (homelessness or imminent risk of homelessness) 
● Food Insecurity (lack of resources to sustain daily dietary and nutritional needs) 
● Unexpected financial distress of a short term nature, adversely impacting the student’s ability to continue as a student at Stony Brook 
● Unmet need required to acquire educational materials and resources necessary to be successful in the academic environment The application can be accessed here. Upon submission of the application, a Student Support Team member will reach out for a phone conversation to review specific needs and offer resources.  Please note that an application does not guarantee financial support, as each case is reviewed individually to determine what’s most appropriate.

  1. What if my work has been deemed critical to university operations, but I don’t feel comfortable coming to campus?
    For TAs, GAs, and RAs whose work is critical and needs to be performed on campus but who are concerned about coming to campus because of their particular situation or are experiencing symptoms, please reach out to Student Health Service for guidance. People in a mandatory or precautionary quarantine situation as determined by the relevant public health authority will have the fourteen day quarantine absence covered without loss of pay. If a GA, TA or RA chooses not to work, either on site or at an alternative location, they must record their absence. For additional guidance, graduate student workers should talk with their supervisors. You can also contact the campus general telephone line about work-related questions, such as alternate work locations and essential employee designations, at (631) 632-5000.
  2. Where can I find guidance from the funding agencies?
    Some guidance so far is included below: 
    NIH: 
    • General information on coronavirus and policy updates
    • NIH Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare
    • For those using animal models, guidance for preparing for the coronavirus outbreak 
    NEH:
    • General information on coronavirus and policy updates
    NSF:
    • General information on coronavirus and policy updates, including a call for Rapid Funding opportunities for research on the crisis

Many federal funding agencies are posting FAQs and guidance related to proposal submission and award management:
National Endowment for the Arts (NEA)
National Institutes of Health (NIH)
National Science Foundations (NSF)

In addition, the Council on Governmental Relations has compiled Frequently Asked Questions Regarding COVID-19’s Impact on Federal Awards on topics related to Travel Charges, including Cancellation Costs, Remote Work Environments, Project Progress Obligations, Salary Charges etc. HERE

  1. Where can I find resources to help me manage stress and anxiety over the outbreak?
    Counseling and Preventive Services (CAPS) has a 24 hour hotline that is available for students and for postdocs if you need to talk to someone now. 

Employee Assistance Program (EAP) has a page on COVID-19 specific resources, including tips for supporting our mental health during an outbreak, as well as guidance on finding and working with a therapist.

For more guidance, consult the main coronavirus FAQ.

Research Activities and Laboratories

  1. Where can I find funding opportunities related to COVID-19?
    We are actively curating a list of funding opportunities related to COVID-19 using our Pivot by Proquest funding opportunities database as well as grants.gov.  Our list of COVID-19 funding opportunities can be found here.
  2. In case of sponsored research disruption, will sponsoring agencies consider longer no-cost extensions?
    For most federal agencies, a first no-cost extension for up to 12 months is automatic. PIs should document any impact of COVID-19 to provide validation for any future no-cost time extension requests. Currently, there is no clear guidance if agencies will consider longer than usual or multiple no-cost extensions due to this situation. 
  3. I am self-isolated, quarantined, and/or at home caring for a sick family member and am unable to submit my grant by the stated deadline. May I request an extension?
    Most federal agencies, including NIH and NSF, do not grant prior approval for late submissions; however, there are existing policies that address extenuating circumstances.  Current NIH guidance can be located at NOT-OD-15-039 and Special Exceptions to NSF’s Deadline Date Policy (PAPPG 19-1).  We strongly encourage you to discuss your specific situation with both your agency Program Official and your Sponsored Programs Grants or Contracts Specialist.

If all else fails, ask the ombudsman. Donna Buehler, SBU’s ombuds, is hosting weekly informal sessions at 1 pm, on Wednesdays. (https://www.stonybrook.edu/commcms/ombuds/resources/workshops.php). You can also set up a 1 on 1 meeting with her via zoom or phone. https://www.stonybrook.edu/commcms/ombuds/contact.php

Stay safe and healthy!

Author: sbugwise

We are the Graduate Women in Science and Engineering group at Stony Brook University and we are dedicated to supporting women in STEM fields.

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