COVID-19 Memo

In light of the unprecedented disruptions experienced by the campus community, new guidelines for graduate students have been put into effect by Grad Div for Spring into Summer (see the COVID-19 information hub for graduate students: What follows is a summary and reminder, with a few adaptations for the Rhetoric program (borrowed in part from Todd Kuebler, GSAO in History).


Given the needs of many graduate programs to have grades for accreditation, the grading basis for graduate courses will not be changed. Graduate students are reminded that they can change to a Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory (S/U) grading option at any time before the last day of instruction, Friday, May 8, 2020, for the spring semester (Grad Policy on Coursework). As part of the relaxation of regulations approved (see below), graduate programs may increase the fraction of S/U courses that can count toward degree requirements beyond the existing cap of 1/3. However, the stipulation regarding letter grades applies to graduate courses: instructors must continue to maintain and submit records of letter grades earned.


The deadline to file a dissertation or thesis for a Spring 2020 degree has been extended to Friday, May 29, 2020 in response to the unprecedented disruptions experienced by the campus community in light of COVID-19 concerns and shelter-in-place restrictions.

Should students not be able to meet the new extended deadline, Grad Div will be allowing all students to file dissertations and theses during the summer, for Summer 2020 degrees, free of charge. Minimum enrollment and other eligibility requirements will not apply to summer filing. International students must consult with Berkeley International Office staff regarding all enrollment and graduation plans.

The Graduate Division has approved a blanket one-semester increase in normative time for doctoral students. To extend a student’s normative time, Graduate Student Affairs Officers should request an extension through the Graduate Division Exceptions eForm. This is best done near the end of a student’s career, when impacts of expiring normative time may become relevant for some students. International students should consult the Berkeley International Office regarding any changes to their degree plans. Please alert the GSAO if you wish to increase your normative time.

NB: The increase pertains only to an increase in normative time. It does not come with an increase in funding (at least not at the time of this memo). Existing eligibility policies for funding requirements remain in place: funding is guaranteed through the end of year 5, while eligibility for additional funding, where available, continues through the end of year 7.

As in the past, students must advance to candidacy prior to the first day of the Fall 2020 semester (8/19/20) to qualify for the NRST reduction. (Students who advance in the summer are eligible for the NRST reduction.)

Qualifying Examinations

QE extensions are possible should students need to request them. Students should consult with the HGA and their committee chair/s first, explaining the reasons for the extension request. No forms are necessary as this is an informal intra-departmental matter. Once agreement has been reached students should arrange for and confirm new examination dates with their committee members students should submit a QE form (see below).

As a general policy, students are reminded that extending the QE exams beyond a reasonable date has the potential to hinder progress going forward. A balance between accommodations under current conditions and making good progress needs to be struck. As always, students should seek out advice from their advisers, and they should use discretion. Faculty are reminded to exercise forbearance given the unusual stresses that students have been subjected to in the present situation in the areas of physical and mental health, teaching loads, and research (e.g., with the closure of libraries and other facilities, including access to computers, the internet, and printers).

Remote QE’s

Grad Div has approved a blanket exception to the policy to allow all members of a qualifying exam committee to participate via Zoom or other video conferencing software.

The procedure for students remains unchanged. Students must submit a QE form (as usual) on CalCentral. They must further prepare a memo requesting an exception for an all-remote examination and documenting how the exam will be conducted, i.e., where members will be physically located and any other relevant information about the logistics of the exam. (See below.) Once students have gathered this information from their committee, they should submit the memo to the HGA for signature. The GSAO will then submit the memo on behalf of the students. If the dates shift for unforeseen reasons, students must resubmit a changed QE form (as usual).

NB: The memo must acknowledge that the remote member(s) will be audible, present for the entire exam (not just their subject) and will deliberate and vote with other members following the exam.

Students may use the following template for their memo:

Professor X will be home while sheltering in place in compliance with State and University mandates and intends to participate for the entire exam including deliberation.


Professor Y intends to participate for the entire exam including deliberation, from Z (location) where Y is currently in residence while on approved leave.


Zoom Protocols, Tips, and Security

In order to best prepare for your Qualifying Examination using Zoom, the Rhetoric Department is providing the following resources for all participants in the Examination.

The initial policies from Graduate Division remain unchanged with new provisos for Zooming:

At no time shall any participant record any portion of the Qualifying Examination. Any recording without the knowledge and consent of all participants and organizers will be done in violation of California Recording Law and will be referred to the Center for Student Conduct for adjudication with the recommendation for expulsion.

Preparation for the examination

    • In order to become familiar with video conference students are encouraged to practice with others taking their Qualifying Examination as well or Zoom or similar platform.
    • Alternative resources to connect to Zoom should be available on tablets or phones.
    • UC Berkeley has developed some Video Conference Best Practices that may also be of assistance in utilizing Zoom or similar platforms.
    • Zoom has also provided a Zoom Help Center to assist with any questions that may arise.


Guidelines and logistics for conducting an oral exam using Zoom

  • The QE Chair will set up and host the meeting a few weeks prior to the examination so that everyone has the Zoom meeting link and any specific information for the examination.
  • In general, sharing meeting ID publicly is appropriate in some cases but only in conjunction with other security measures as outlined here.
  • When scheduling, a unique Meeting ID (i.e. not the faculty’s recurring Personal Meeting ID) should be used. For general instructions on Zoom scheduling, click here.
  • Enable the waiting room and, optionally, the password feature to prevent uninvited participants from joining as well as to ensure that the voting section is confidential.

Day of the examination

  • The meeting will take place using Zoom, please make sure it is downloaded on your computer, laptop, or phone and that there is sufficient energy available for a 3 hour meeting.
  • Examiners should ensure they are available both over audio and video.
  • Do not interrupt other examiners during their twenty minute sessions. Inactive examiners are encouraged to mute their audio while others conduct their questioning. This will also prevent interference from static noise and other background sounds.
  • Consider using the ‘raise hand’ icon during the deliberation phase so multiple people do not speak at the same time.
  • Do not leave the call even temporarily except for the scheduled break.
  • Before voting, the Zoom host should confirm that only the appropriate participants are present in the Zoom meeting. Students should be invited to re-enter the waiting room when faculty need to consult in private.

Security measures against zoom-bombing are outlined here:


To secure your zoom use the latest patch:


It may be safer to open Zoom from your browser (not the app). When starting a session your computer will ask you to “Open zoom?” (the application), but if you look down the screen you will see the option “start from your browser”—click on that instead. This may work better in some browsers and not others.

Summer Funding

Regular summer stipends are unaffected.

Summer plans have been disrupted, but additional summer funding requests were decided on prior to these disruptions. This has resulted in some temporary inequities: some students applied for greater amounts depending on the costs associated with their summer projects. We will do our best to address these inequities next summer. In the interim, we advise students to save as much of their unneeded funds for next summer as they can, knowing that the next funding cycle will have to reflect the unequal distributions of the funds earmarked for summer 2020. We further ask students to keep track of how they have used their funds this summer and to submit a brief account to the GSAO before the start of the coming fall term. (Receipts are not necessary, just a general account.)