Category: Duke University Page 1 of 6

Message for students living on campus about Mayor’s stay-at-home order

This message was sent to all students living on campus

Dear on-campus students,

We are writing to follow up on Mayor Schewel’s announcement that the City of Durham will enact a “stay at home” order effective Thursday, March 26 at 6 p.m.

All Duke students who are living on campus or in Durham must abide by this order, just as we expect Duke students to follow local and state laws. Students who are approved to remain on campus may not leave campus, and off-campus students may not come on campus.

For students who are approved to remain on campus at this point, Duke defines “home” as your current room assignment on West Campus or at 300/301 Swift Avenue or SmartHome. Students on campus must remain in their assigned residence hall and assigned room as much as possible.

You may leave your residential assignment in order to:

  • Take walks or get exercise on campus grounds. Please continue to practice social distancing and remain six feet away from others on campus.
  • Pick up to-go food orders or visit the University Store, again while remaining on campus grounds.
  • Exercise your approved emotional support animal on campus.
  • Attend to urgent medical needs, such as visiting Student Health or the Emergency Room. Please reschedule all non-essential medical appointments. If you are experiencing respiratory symptoms consistent with the onset of COVID-19, please call Student Health for instructions before visiting the clinic.

During the stay-at-home period, undergraduate students living in Duke residence halls may not travel off-campus for reasons unrelated to the above circumstances, and students living off-campus may not enter any Duke buildings.  Failure to abide by these expectations will result in disciplinary action through the Office of Student Conduct. This is in addition to any action that the city and law enforcement agencies may take.

If you have questions, please contact For urgent needs, students who remain on campus should contact the RA On Call or the Dean on Call at 984-287-0300. Additional reminders around existing resources are below.

Join Mayor Schewel’s call for young people to act responsibly for the sake of yourselves and other community members. As he said in this morning’s press conference, “We have to offer another kind of kindness now—the kindness of distance.”

Thank you for your attention to this information and for all that you are already doing to maintain social distancing, wash hands, and look out for yourselves and others. We are here to support you in the days ahead and appreciate that this is not easy for anyone.

Sincerely yours,

Mary Pat McMahon
Vice Provost of Student Affairs

Gary Bennett
Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education

Change in Grading Policy for Graduate and Professional Students

TO:        Duke Graduate and Professional Students 
DATE:   March 19, 2020
RE:        Change in grading policy for graduate courses, Spring 2020

We made an announcement yesterday about an immediate change in grading policy for undergraduate courses taken in Spring 2020 – notably to change the grading policy from a letter grade default to S/U default, but to also allow students who choose to receive a letter grade for any course to submit a form requesting this option.

The stress and anxiety created by the COVID-19 pandemic is the primary motivation for this change in policy. Concerns about stress and anxiety apply equally to our graduate students, indeed perhaps more so given the existence of young families for some, dislocation from familial support for others, abrupt changes in schools, childcare and work environments, and disruptions in markets generally. We understand these emotions and want to avoid adding to them.

Towards this goal, we have been working to identify a change in grading policy that can be implemented quickly and with few spillover effects or unintended consequences. As you are aware, graduate students at Duke are enrolled in a large number of degree programs that span ten schools within the university. Some of these schools, and some programs, have specific professional, accreditation and/or licensure requirements that make an (even emergency) change in grading policy difficult if not impossible to implement. At a minimum, some schools and programs need time to consult with external agencies or regulating bodies to determine the extent of flexibility that can be offered. Please see the section below identifying specific schools or programs that will either follow different policies or require more time to determine whether more flexible grading policies are possible.

Schools and programs will move to the following grading policy for the Spring 2020 semester, with the important exceptions for Divinity, Law, Medicine and Nursing noted below.

Effective immediately, Spring 2020 graduate courses will transition to a default S/U grading option. If students choose to receive a letter grade for any course, they can do so by submitting a form to the registrar, no later than 5pm EST on the last day of classes or as prescribed by the school where the course is offered.

  • Some schools (such as the Divinity School) have already adopted new policies that provide for flexibility in grading. The Divinity School, for example, has implemented an opt-in P/F grading. Those school-specific policies prevail, so students taking classes in those schools should be aware of any differences.
  • Some schools have grading rubrics that are similar but not identical to S/U. This policy will therefore be adapted to these school-specific grading scales, understanding that the extrapolation will not be exact but captures the spirit and intent of the policy.
  • The last day of classes differs across schools. The last day for you to submit the form to request a letter grade will depend on the calendar for the school in which the course is offered. For example, if a 700-level course is offered within Arts & Sciences, the last day of graduate classes for The Graduate School of April 15 applies. As another example, the Divinity School has implemented a policy that all such forms should be submitted no later than April 1.

Graduate level courses include 700-level classes (taken by graduate students only) as well as 500-level and 600-level courses (taken by undergraduates as well as graduate students). Thus, the S/U policy will apply to both undergraduate and graduate students enrolled in these classes.

Courses taken for S/U grades during Spring 2020 will count towards curricular, major, continuation, and graduation requirements.

  • Current Graduate School policy requires that at least 24 of the 30 credits required for a masters degree be earned in letter-graded courses. A change in this policy will be made for graduate students affected by the Spring 2020 semester. The change will allow for the number of letter-graded credits to reflect the unusual nature of the Spring 2020 semester.  For example, if a graduate student is taking three (3) courses this semester and all three would have been necessary to meet the 24-credit requirement, the number of required letter-graded credits will reduce by nine (9). If a student is taking one (1) course this semester and this course would have been necessary to meet the 24-credit requirement, the number of letter-graded credits will reduce by three (3).
  • There will be no reduction of the 24-credit requirement for courses taken S/U in semesters prior to Spring 2020 or after Spring 2020. That is, the change in this policy is specific to the unusual events affecting Spring 2020.

Faculty will grade students as usual during the semester, and enter the S/U using our existing rubric (where S is equivalent to a C- or above).

Duke will include a designation on students’ transcripts, indicating the extraordinary circumstances encountered in the present semester.

We have reviewed this emergency change with each of our schools and the vast majority are able to move forward quickly with this approach, noting the following differences:

  • Duke Divinity School had already implemented its own version of a flexible grading policy for graduate courses. Students taking graduate courses in the Divinity School will therefore follow the Divinity school-specific policy articulated.
  • The School of Medicine (SOM) is largely able to follow this approach with the exception of clinical education activities where more time is needed to work through the highly disruptive nature of the pandemic and to minimize, if not avoid, unintended consequences to students. SOM will reach out to medical students separately once these issues have been resolved.
  • The School of Nursing (SON) and School of Law (Law) face complex issues with any grading change as their programs are affected by accreditation, licensure, as well as state-by-state regulatory bodies. SON and Law leadership are working feverishly to determine what flexibility is possible. Understand that parties are trying to minimize if not avoid unintended consequences to students. SON and Law will reach out to nursing and law students separately once these issues have been resolved.

There may be programs with specific requirements that we have not called out but which may need to deviate from the policy described above. We are asking any such programs to reach out to their students directly, and quickly, with updated information.

We hope this change in policy eases some of the stress many of you are facing at this extraordinary time, while at the same time encouraging your learning and engagement for the remainder of the semester. More than anything else, we hope you and your loved ones remain healthy and safe.


Sally Kornbluth, Provost
Jennifer Francis, Executive Vice Provost
Paula McClain, Dean of the Graduate School

Parking Made Available Closer to Worksites

In an effort to support critical health care operations and social distancing, Duke is adjusting parking access so community members with valid permits for remote parking lots can park closer to campus. 

From Friday, March 20, until April 30, community members with R1, R2, R3, HEW, and Mill parking permits may park in Parking Garage 3, H Lot, Hock Garage, and Circuit at no additional cost. The parking permit and DukeCard ID will operate entry and exit gates.  

The changes shift approximately 800 community members to closer campus parking, reducing the need for a bus ride. In addition, nearly 1,800 spaces are vacant and within walking distance to medical and research locations.

Spaces designated for patient parking will not be accessible for employees during weekdays in Parking Garage 1, Parking Garage 2 and the Research Drive Garage. Employees with a permit for a specific garage can still park in the employee parking sections in their designated garage (example: Research Drive Garage Permit Holders can park in the employee section of Research Drive Garage, off Research Drive; NOT the patient parking section off Eye Care Drive). Evening and weekend access remains unchanged. Bus service to the R1 and R2 lots ended as of March 19, at 8 p.m.

These facilities are within walking distance to most Health System locations.  If a permit holder requires transportation to a work location, the H2: Hospital Loop runs between PG3, the Duke Medicine Pavilion and the H lot from 5:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. and makes limited stops at the front of Duke Hospital from 5:40 a.m. to 6:50 a.m. 

Permit holders will be notified by email when parking permit restrictions return to normal, whether prior to or after the target date of April 30.

An Update About Commencement

This email was sent on March 18, 2020
Dear Members of the Class of 2020,

You have heard from me many times in the past few days, and I wish that today I were writing with better news. In light of the rapid spread of COVID-19 and the latest public health advisories on travel and large gatherings, we have made the very difficult but necessary decision to postpone commencement for the Class of 2020, including departmental ceremonies and other associated events.

I know firsthand that commencement is one of the highlights of the Duke experience—an uplifting and inspiring celebration of our graduates and their accomplishments, and a memorable occasion in the life of our great university. I also know how disappointing this turn of events will be for you and your families, at a time when we are all sadly engulfed in disappointing and disheartening news.

Over the next few months, we will face unprecedented disruptions—both as a university community and in our personal and professional lives. These circumstances will be particularly distressing for the Class of 2020, who have been robbed of your final few months with classmates and friends at Duke. I share your disappointment—and sadness—that our campus will remain quiet this spring, without the joyful celebration that marks the passage of another year.

For all of these reasons, I am resolutely committed to an in-person recognition of the Class of 2020.  Commencement will surely take place, and here on campus.  And while we are still in the early stages of exploring possible dates and details of this ceremony, rest assured that it will reflect the indelible mark that this class has left on Duke. We also plan to send your diplomas later this spring–more information will be coming in the days ahead.

In the meantime, I am very pleased to report that Ken Jeong (T ’90), who was to deliver the commencement address on May 10, has generously agreed to work with us on an online celebration to mark that moment—albeit remotely—while we await the opportunity to assemble with him in person.

Also, in the meantime, I hope you will take care of yourselves and those around you, by heeding the advice we are all receiving about practicing social distancing and regular hand washing—while at the same time carving out time for a walk or a hike, or a good book, and plenty of rest.  We’ll get through this, together.

Thank you again for your understanding and support in these most unusual times. I am proud to be a member of the extraordinary Duke community, and particularly proud of our Class of 2020 as you rise to the challenge of completing your courses of study in the coming weeks. My very best wishes to you all.

Vincent E. Price

Duke to Continue Pay for Employees

March 18, 2020

Dear Colleagues,

Duke has a dedicated workforce of employees and contractors who support our essential missions of education, research, patient care and public service.  As the coronavirus crisis continues to spread, we want to reiterate our commitment that all Duke faculty and staff will continue to stay in a paid work status regardless of their work location or work schedule.  

We also know that contract workers in our food service facilities and hotels, while not directly employed by Duke, are equally valuable members of our community.  Thus, we are making a commitment to provide financial assistance to ensure that all food service workers who are currently assigned to work full-time in Duke University facilities as well as employees of the Washington Duke Inn and J.B. Duke Hotel will maintain their current pay through May 31, 2020, to the extent that their employers are unable to do so, and they are not covered by pending state and federal government programs.

As part of this effort, we may need to reassign both Duke employees and contract workers to new and different job responsibilities to meet urgent needs.  Details on that process will be forthcoming.  In the meantime, please know how grateful we are for your service during this extraordinary time.  Our university and our community are better for it.

Tallman Trask III
Executive Vice President

Announcement about Grading

This email was sent to faculty on March 18, 2020

Dear colleagues,

The unprecedented challenges imposed by COVID-19 require us to consider novel ways to support the curricular efforts of our students and faculty. This is a moment that has been characterized by widespread anxiety, uncertainty, social, and geographic disruption. As academic leaders of this great university, we believe that bold action is necessary to maximize students’ curricular engagement.

Accordingly, during Spring 2020, we will transition courses to a satisfactory/unsatisfactory (S/U) grading option, but allow students the opportunity of receiving a letter grade.

Effective immediately, Spring 2020 courses will transition to a default S/U grading option. If students choose to receive a letter grade for any class, they can do so by submitting a form to the registrar’s office no later than April 22 at 5:00 pm EST.


  • Courses taken for S/U grades during Spring 2020 will count towards curricular, major, continuation, and graduation requirements.
  • Faculty will grade students as usual during the semester, and record the S/U designation using our existing rubric (where an S is equivalent to a C- or above).
  • Grades of S and U are not factored into a student’s grade point average.
  • This policy does not apply to 500/600-level courses. Although undergraduates may enroll in these graduate courses, they are subject to the grading policies of the hosting graduate program.
  • Given this shift, we will suspend the Dean’s List for the Spring 2020 semester.
  • Duke will include a designation on students’ transcripts, indicating the extraordinary circumstances encountered in the present semester.

We expect that this strategy will ease the necessary transitions into remote course delivery and promote strong engagement throughout this most extraordinary phase of Duke’s history.

We remind all colleagues to consult the excellent faculty resource, Keep Teaching (, which offers practical guidance for transitioning courses to remote delivery, using both low- and high-tech approaches. In particular, we strongly recommend that faculty attend to our recommendations for administering remote assignments and assessments (

Best wishes for a healthy, fulfilling, and intellectually stimulating semester.

Go Duke!

Sally Kornbluth, Provost

Valerie Ashby, Dean, Trinity College of Arts & Sciences

Ravi Bellamkonda, Dean, Pratt School of Engineering

Gary Bennett, Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education

Jennifer Francis, Executive Vice Provost

Judith Kelley, Dean, Sanford School of Public Policy

Mary Pat McMahon, Vice Provost/Vice President Student Affairs

Toddi Steelman, Dean, Nicholas School of the Environment

COVID-19 Update at Duke

March 17, 2020

Dear Colleagues,

We have been informed that at least 15 additional members of the Duke community who were part of the same overseas travel group that we reported on Friday have tested presumptively positive for COVID-19.  Four other members of this group were diagnosed with COVID-19 in another country and are remaining there until they have recovered.

All members of this group were directed by Durham County Department of Public Health and Duke to undergo a self-quarantine at their homes off-campus upon returning to Durham and that will continue until they receive medical clearance.  We understand that the individuals who tested positive are in good health.  Durham County Public Health and Duke Health will work to test all other individuals who traveled with this group.

The university is providing support for these individuals to the extent possible.  In addition, Durham Public Health officials are working to complete a contact investigation to determine if these individuals may have had close contact with others within Durham County while symptomatic. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines close contact as being within approximately 6 feet of a person with a COVID-19 infection for a minimum period of 10 minutes or longer.

While our thoughts are with the individuals who have tested positive, it is also essential we protect individuals’ privacy to the greatest extent possible.  Neither Duke nor public health authorities will identify any individual patient, nor will we provide any information that could compromise their confidentiality, like their address.  While this is both law and policy, it is also a matter of personal safety: individuals can become targeted, threatened or harassed should this information be shared.

As this situation continues to become more acute, the university is taking all necessary steps to  address our highest priorities: ensuring the health and safety of the Duke and Durham communities by limiting opportunities for the spread of the virus; protecting our health care providers, hospitals and clinics; and advancing our missions of education and discovery through teaching and research.  Please visit for the latest updates on Duke programs, services and policies.

Finally, it goes without saying that this is a global crisis.  As we can expect to see growing numbers of confirmed coronavirus cases within our Duke community, it is vital that we all use common sense and good judgment. Any one of us who has been in contact with others could have been exposed to the coronavirus. We should all take every precaution to minimize exposure to the most vulnerable among us, and to protect everyone.

Kyle J. Cavanaugh
Vice President for Administration and Emergency Coordinator

Closing of Duke University Libraries

Dear Duke Community,   

The Duke Libraries will close to the Duke and broader communities on Wednesday March 18 at 5pm. Library staff will continue to scan documents, focusing on course requests, through 5:00 pm Friday, March 20, 2020. All library staff will work from home thereafter.  

To ensure the health and safety of users and library staff through close of business March 18, users who wish to check out books will be distributed as necessary to checkout stations spread apart in Perkins and Lilly so users can move through quickly and with as much distance from each other as possible.  

At the same time, the Libraries are making extra efforts to enable digital alternatives. The public services staff is developing information for faculty and students and will be posting it to the Library’s COVID-19 update page ( on library resources available and whom to ask for help.  Library leadership is working to arrange open access to collections for research purposes, and will be sharing updates on the update page as soon as they have them. As well, the library will maintain extended online chat services from 9:00 am to 12:00 midnight (asklib) for reference questions; they will also offer research consultations as well as (if requested) instructional sessions by Zoom.  

Please know that Libraries staff will make best efforts to meet specific course and research needs. We ask for everyone’s understanding given that interlibrary lending systems are shut down nationally, and there is limited ability to move materials between libraries within the university.   

Professional school libraries messages will follow soon or are available on websites:  

School of Medicine:   

Fuqua School of Business: The Ford Library is closed and librarians are providing library services remotely. The Reference Librarians Team is using email and chat ( to help students and faculty with research. The Data Services Team ( will continue to assist faculty with data purchases. For further information about Ford Library collections and services, visit this website:   


Deborah Jakubs
Rita DiGiallonardo Holloway University Librarian & Vice Provost for Library Affairs  

Jennifer Francis
Executive Vice Provost

New Direction for Researchers

This information was sent on March 17, 2020

Dear Colleagues,

We recently asked PIs of Duke research laboratories to develop contingency plans in the event of a campus shutdown as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak. This message is to inform you that we must now implement these plans, which will severely curtail laboratory research activities on Duke’s campus and in our leased facilities.

Due to the rapidly deteriorating conditions, only hands-on activity essential to preserve the future viability of research programs will be permitted in most laboratories. All laboratory PIs should begin to activate their wind-down plans effective now, 03/17/2020. All non-laboratory research in Duke facilities that requires direct person-to-person contact must also cease at this time.

This directive does not apply to essential clinical research studies involving human subjects, clinical research that may be done remotely or laboratories actively supporting direct ongoing clinical care, which will be addressed in a separate communication. In addition, research work directed towards vaccination against, treatment or diagnosis of COVID-19 is exempt from this directive, but must be approved in advance by your Dean and communicated to me.

Each wind-down plan should have identified no more than three key individuals who have been assigned to maintain essential experiments/activities, and those that need special attention to avoid catastrophic financial and data loss. To the extent possible, these individuals should only be in the laboratory for the time it takes to secure the continuity of the research program. All research group meetings must be conducted virtually, as we have already specified for classes and other group gatherings.

Scholars whose research does not entail laboratory work should comply with the spirit of our current guidance in order to limit campus presence to essential personnel, while making contingency plans for a more extended period of reduced access to campus.

We understand your research is critically important, and during this period we urge you to devote your time to activities that may be accomplished primarily outside the laboratory. In addition to various writing and analysis activities, we also expect to sustain access to research computing resources during this time.

Duke officials are working with national associations and federal funding partners to determine allowability of certain costs during this unique time, including compensation for individuals funded on grants and other costs associated with travel, conferences, etc. Guidance for how to charge to grants during this period, and other issues, are detailed at We ask that PIs not contact federal sponsors about this matter, as we are contacting them centrally. For grants from non-federal sources, PIs may wish to contact their sponsor if an interruption to research is anticipated.

We are not saying here that research must stop, only that research activities in Duke facilities must wind-down, with the aforementioned exceptions. Research can continue, with a focus on those things like writing, analyses and computations that may be done off-campus. Research group meetings should continue, implemented virtually.

We are living through a highly unusual interruption to activities at Duke, including our research. I thank you for the care you have given this matter, and the spirit of cooperation and understanding with which our adjustments have been implemented. We will get through this challenge together, and I look forward to soon seeing operations at Duke return to normal.


Lawrence Carin
Vice President for Research

Duke Admin COVID-19 Recap – Ep. 1

This email was sent to all students on March 16, 2020

Dear students,
We appreciate that you are navigating many transitions and challenges on this Monday of extended spring break. We also know you have questions about Duke’s response so far to the coronavirus global health crisis and impact on your studies.

This week we’ll take your undergraduate life-related questions through and respond via interviews with Duke students and by updating the FAQs on our website. Special thanks to Linda Zhang ’20 for leading this kickoff video.

Gary Bennett
Vice Provost of Undergraduate Education

Mary Pat McMahon
Vice Provost of Student Affairs

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