Updates from the Vice Provost and Deans

 June 29, 2020

Planning for 2020-21

Dear undergraduates,

This is the first in a series of weekly newsletters for undergraduates, titled “Re-Approaching Stanford,” through which we will convey further updates, important timelines and action items as we prepare for the academic year 2020-2021. Students’ families will also receive these updates via the newsletter for parents and guardians today, and will receive further updates directly from us.

We know that you have been eagerly awaiting news of which class years will be on campus for which quarters. Thank you for your patience as we sorted through and balanced the many considerations, including your responses to the ASSU survey. As the president and provost communicated earlier this month, we will be inviting about half of our undergraduates to campus for each quarter in academic year 2020-2021, and frosh will be invited back in the fall and seniors in the spring, assuming that this is allowed by health officials at the time.

Consultation and feedback

We deeply appreciate the many students, faculty, staff and family members who contributed to our thinking and the ASSU for their highly informative survey of undergraduate students on this topic. Your ideas and expressions of concern were central to our decision process. The following factors were particularly important in determining the plan below:

Ensuring that students who need to be on campus for their personal safety, academic success or other special circumstances are able to have the support the campus provides.

  • Most students asked to be on campus with students in their cohort year, rather than organized by some other rubric.
  • Many students also asked to be on campus with students in close proximity to their cohort year.
  • Because of their proximity to graduation, seniors and many juniors have the least flexibility in course choices.
  • Summer following junior year is a critical time for internships, research, public service projects, or honors thesis work.
  • Spring graduation makes it impractical for seniors to be on campus in summer.

Read the full announcement at the Student Affairs website.

 May 14, 2020

Dear Stanford Undergraduates:

I hope this note finds you doing well as you navigate your studies from residences around the globe. I’m writing to share with you a special opportunity that the university is extending to Stanford undergraduates.

During this year’s Summer Session, 12 courses incorporating 300 available slots will be awarded free of charge to undergraduate applicants via a randomized lottery system. Our goal: to help students continue to make degree progress following a very disruptive Spring Quarter. Each course being offered is either Ways-certified or satisfies Stanford’s full language requirement. Students will be awarded full credit, as long as they enroll for a letter grade, even though the classes are free.

Application and Selection Process

Beginning Monday, May 18, eligible students will be invited to apply for one class they wish to take. The one-week application period ends Sunday, May 24, at 11:59 PM Pacific time. Applicants for each course will be entered into a randomizer by the University Registrar. All students who apply for one of the free courses will be notified about lottery results the week of May 25th. Students selected through the lottery will be auto-enrolled for their chosen course and contacted with additional details. Waitlisted students, as well as those students whom the lottery does not select, will be informed of their status following the application period.

12 Free Courses, 300 Available Slots

The 12 courses offered free of charge this summer include:

  • Acting 1: Fundamentals of Acting TAPS 120A
  • Citizenship POLISCI 135
  • Classical Greek Philosophy PHIL 21S
  • Drawing 1 ARTSTUDI 140
  • Gender at Work: Understanding Gender Inequality in the Workplace SOC 127D
  • Intensive First-Year French FRENLANG 5
  • Intensive First-Year German GERLANG 5
  • Intensive First-Year Spanish SPANLANG 5
  • Intensive Latin CLASSICS 4L
  • Philosophy as Freedom PHIL 23S
  • Voice Class 1: Beginning Voice, Level 1 (Group) MUSIC 65
  • Witches, Witchcraft, and Witch-Hunting in Early America RELIGST 24S

A full description of courses and policies related to participation can be found at summermatrics.sites.stanford.edu.

A reminder about this unique opportunity will come to you early next week by way of the Academic Advising Newsletter that is issued to all undergraduates every Monday. I hope you are regularly reading this very important weekly communication to stay informed about opportunities, deadlines, and general support and resources available to you. If you have questions about whether this Summer Quarter opportunity would benefit you in your overall academic planning, I encourage you to reach out to your academic advisor and/or your major advisor.

Best wishes as you move through the final weeks of spring quarter. Please continue to stay healthy and safe, and reach out to any of our VPUE staff if we can connect you to key resources or support you in any other way during this unusually challenging period.

Warmest regards,

Harry J. Elam, Jr.
Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education
Senior Vice Provost for Education
Vice President of the Arts

 April 4, 2020

Dear Undergraduate Students,


As we begin this spring quarter, I want to thank you for perseverance, your resilience, and your commitment to your education—especially amid such unprecedented and unsettling circumstances. Your lives and your studies have been profoundly upended and interrupted. Your prior planning for this academic year and your aspirations for the rest of your undergraduate career are undoubtedly requiring readjustment. I can understand that the enormous stress of managing day-to-day issues connected to physical and mental health, home, and family all have challenged your ability to perform academically at your best. I know this is an exceptionally difficult time for all of you. In recent weeks, I have heard from many students concerned about their grades, their well-being and their futures. What I have found both striking and touching is the overwhelming concern many of you have expressed for your fellow students within the context of examining what measures would best serve our entire community. I recognize that some recent shifts in university policy enacted in response to the COVID-19 crisis have sometimes displeased or frustrated you. Let me offer my sincerest apologies if any decisions have left you feeling like your voice wasn’t heard. Please know that we are listening and that we promise to continue seeking to understand the issues of greatest concern impacting your learning and to be sensitive to your personal circumstances and hardships. Please convey specific questions and concerns to your Undergraduate Advising Director, AARC Advisor, or Specialist Advisor, or email your thoughts directly to me.

The Promise of Spring

Entering this spring quarter of uncertainty, my heart goes out to those nearing the end of their Stanford journey, as I know this is not the senior spring that you always thought you would spend at Stanford. Without the usual Commencement, this year lacks the traditional closure that follows four years of university life. We recognize, too, that for seniors, even for those with certain employment or grad school acceptances, these final months may represent a particular ledge of uncertainty made more acute because of the pandemic. On a very personal level, I share some of the seniors’ feeling of sadness, disappointment and loss because this will be my last spring—after 30 years—at Stanford, and it will not unfold in ways that I imagined. What I hope for all our students, and frankly for myself, is that any disappointment of what cannot be as we expected does not erase all that what has been, and does not mean we cannot imagine new meaningful social and communal rituals and traditions. In that context, our time past, present, and ongoing with Stanford becomes all the more special, all the more intense, all the more meaningful. In this light, I had a recent conversation with Stanford trustee Srinija Srinivasan ’93, who expressed her desire for transforming this time of fear and anxiety into moments of curiosity and discovery. How can we work together and convert the inherent uncertainty of these days into new possibilities? We have an unusual opportunity to explore new approaches to teaching and learning, of reaffirming our values and reaching across differences, of rediscovering ourselves and our intellectual purpose, of rearticulating what makes Stanford truly special.

Advising and Summer Programs

This coming quarter will be both unusual and exceptional in many ways. Be on the lookout Monday for a message from Dean of Academic Advising Louis Newman who will share some considerations for how to manage the unique challenges that a quarter of all online classes will bring. I also want to strongly encourage you to keep up with the Academic Advising newsletter that comes to you weekly with timely academic updates and resources. As usual, you can also consult with your Academic Advisor, all of whom are holding virtual check-ins with students. You’ll find additional guidance at the Learn Anywhere/Teach Anywhere website—a helpful resource for our community with the most up-to-date information you need in one place. The Spring update section at should be particularly useful. The student section at healthalerts.stanford.edu should also continue to be a valuable resource for you. This remains a time of dynamic change and, inevitably, disquieting uncertainty. As you learned in the Provost’s most recent communication, a variety of summer residential programs will be cancelled or moved entirely online. Beyond the cancellation of BOSP summer programs, we regrettably have decided to also suspend Sophomore College and Arts Intensive for 2020. These programs both integrate rich residential communities and experiential field or arts practice components. Thus, it became clear to me that these dynamic, community-building programs would not function well as remote classes this fall. We are hopeful that these experiences will return stronger than ever in 2021. By contrast, the Bing Honors College will offer meaningful online support for students to continue to make progress on their honors projects as they work remotely, and so will go forward with an adapted program this September. Summer research opportunities will also be affected by new policies. Undergraduate Research staff are working, however, with any students who have already been funded to re-design projects in a way that will meet the University's policies on travel and other activities. The staff is also working with departments, programs, and faculty who have VPUE funding to adapt summer undergraduate research projects and programs now that such activities will need to be conducted remotely.

Our Community

With all the concurrent demands of sheltering-in-place, of trying to find community despite social distancing, of navigating unusual places to study, and of recalibrating spring plans, this quarter still provides us with a unique opportunity to reflect on what we want out of a Stanford education and what makes our experiences at Stanford special. I do not see this just as an academic exercise but rather one that goes to the heart of why we are here. Under these unimaginable circumstances and even across physical and social distances, students, staff, and faculty can come together as a caring community in this defining moment.

Wishing you all the best,

Harry J. Elam, Jr.
Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education
Senior Vice Provost for Education
Vice President of the Arts

 March 12, 2020

Dear Undergraduate Students,

We very much appreciate that these are unprecedented times that have greatly challenged our educational system. The university has taken definitive steps in plans to protect your health and well-being, as well as that of the entire Stanford community, even as it works to move forward academically. After much careful deliberation, the administration has determined that we will not cancel final exams wholesale. Many students have been preparing for their exams for weeks and rely on them to lift their grades; given this, and work already done by faculty to prepare online exams, we want to honor both efforts. In addition, cancelling exams would not add any further protection against the spread of the virus and would prove more disruptive to students who want and need to complete their coursework this quarter.   

While we will not cancel or postpone all winter quarter exams, we have provided a variety of options and resources for students and for instructors during this challenging period. We have already offered instructors the option of using the work that students have to date to assess them. An exception has been approved by the Committee on Undergraduate Standards and Policy (C-USP)) to permit students to request late class withdrawals and/or changes to class grading basis to CR/NC (for those classes that have CR/NC as an option). You can read detailed information at registrar.stanford.edu. Students can also request an incomplete for a class, as long as this request aligns with the stated guidelines (search for “incomplete and repeat grades” at the Registrar’s Office site.  

Information for students on how to take their final exams will be posted on the TeachAnywhere site on Friday evening. Please look for the "Student Information" box at the bottom of the home page. Guidance on the tools that instructors will be using will be posted there. As you undertake your exams, there are also resources for both instructors and students on administering and preparing for take-home final exams within TeachAnywhere’s FAQ section. As you prepare for exams and consider your options, the For Students section within Stanford’s HealthAlerts site should also prove extremely useful. 

Finally, for those students feeling stressed and anxious related to COVID-19, you can access clinical mental health resources 24/7 from anywhere in the world by calling 650-723-3785. Students who remain on campus can walk into CAPS at Vaden for services during regular business hours, or call 650-723-3785.   

We thank you for taking the time to reach out with your concerns. Please know that we do hear you, and pledge to keep working together with you to get through this very difficult period. 


Harry J. Elam, Jr.
Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education

Sarah Church
Vice Provost for Faculty Development, Teaching and Learning 

Stephen Graham
Dean of the School of Earth, Energy and Environmental Sciences

Debra Satz
Dean of the School of Humanities and Sciences

Jennifer Widom
Dean of the School of Engineering

 March 12, 2020

Campus Messages from the Susie Brubaker Cole, Vice Provost for Student Affairs

 March 9, 2020

Dear Undergraduate Students,
On Friday, you heard from Provost Persis Drell that the remaining Winter quarter classes will no longer meet in person and that class activities, including meetings and final exams, will take place online. Details about specific courses and assignments will come directly from your instructors. We recognize, however, that you are likely to have questions as instructors and students work to adjust to these unprecedented circumstances. Therefore, we write today with comprehensive information about changes in academic policy and where you can get additional answers and support.

  • An extensive FAQ has been created with information about academic policies and support on the Teach Anywhere website. These FAQs are for both instructors and students.
    • The FAQs include specific guidance for how the Honor Code should be applied and interpreted in these unusual circumstances. This is an important section for all students to review. As always, you remain responsible for upholding the Honor Code.
  • Where to get advising
    • If you have questions about academic planning or about University policies and procedures, please consult with your Academic Advisor (Undergraduate Advising Director assigned to your residence, Academic Advisor located in the Athletic Academic Resource Center, or Academic Advisor in Sweet Hall). Book an appointment with an Academic Advisor at https://undergrad.stanford.edu/academic-advising-stanford.
    • The Advising Student Handbook is another source of information to begin to address any academic issue or concern. Please visit: https://studenthandbook.stanford.edu.
    •  For questions about major requirements, contact your department's or program’s Director of Undergraduate Studies or undergraduate Student Services Officer.
  • Changes in policy for Winter quarter
    • An exception has been approved by the Committee on Undergraduate Standards and Policy (C-USP) to permit students to request late class withdrawals and/or changes to class grading basis to CR/NC (for those classes that have CR/NC as an option). This exception recognizes that course requirements may have changed as a result of the University’s response to COVID-19, which prohibits in-person class instruction and exams. Requests for this exception must include correspondence from the instructor-of-record for the course that acknowledges/verifies the change(s) in course requirements which have prompted your request. The Requests for Exceptions noted above will not be considered if there are no changes to the course requirements. (Please note that late Requests for Exceptions for change of unit total are not appropriate and cannot be considered.) The deadline to submit this exception request is Sunday, March 15 at 5:00 PM (Pacific Time). To learn how to submit the exception request, visit the Registrar Office’s website
  • Instructions for international students and those with academic accommodations
    • International students with academic concerns connected to COVID-19 such as online courses, optional practical training, or advising, please see the recent message from the Bechtel International Center.
    • For students who may need academic accommodations related to a disability, please refer to the guidance from OAE.

In closing, we recognize this is a challenging and anxious time as our community adapts to current circumstances surrounding the COVID-19 virus. We understand that you are very concerned about your academic progress and your ability to complete the Winter quarter successfully. Please know that all of us here at Stanford are working diligently to support your health and well-being both within and outside the classroom.
With gratitude for your understanding,
Harry Elam, Jr. 
Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education
Stephan Graham
Dean, School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences
Debra Satz
Dean, School of Humanities and Sciences
Jennifer Widom
Dean, School of Engineering