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Resumption of In Person Thesis and Dissertation Defenses

Updated November 16, 2021

As we head into the home stretch of the Spring 2021 semester I want to thank you for your continued support of graduate education during these trying times. I also want to update you on the campus plans for the fall in regards to thesis and dissertation defenses. 

Starting with the Fall 2021 semester, we will return to in-person thesis and dissertation defenses. During the 2020-2021 academic year, the University allowed for remote defenses during a public health emergency without request for an exemption to our standard policy. In Fall 2020 the Graduate School also implemented a new online process for generating and submitting electronic reports of the examining committee.  Thesis and dissertation defenses during Spring and Summer 2021 can continue remotely without prior approval.

In line with the University’s plans for a resumption of in-person classes for the Fall 2021 semester, the Graduate School is planning for more normal operations. Starting on August 30, 2021, all thesis and dissertation defenses must occur fully in person unless an exemption has been granted by the Graduate School. If public health conditions necessitate a return to remote defenses, we will adjust our policies in coordination with the Provost’s Office.

We will continue with electronic reports of the examining committee (REC), rather than reverting to the paper reports that we used prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. All thesis and dissertation chairs, or their designates, are required to submit a request for the electronic report of the examining committee 10 business days before a scheduled defense in Summer 2021, Fall 2021, and thereafter.  Additionally, as of fall 2021, the old hardcopy of the REC will no longer be accepted.  REC’s must be signed/approved and processed using Adobe Sign.

As stated in our policy on remote participation in a thesis defense or a dissertation defense:

  • The committee must be physically present in the examination room during the entire defense and during the committee's private deliberations following the examination. 
  • Participation by telephone is not permitted under any circumstances. Remote participation by video teleconferencing is permitted under the following circumstances:
    • Permission to conduct a remote-participation defense must be obtained by the dissertation or thesis chair from the Graduate School in advance. In making this request, the chair must indicate in writing that they have read the rules for a remote defense listed below.
    • Approved web-conferencing software must be used that allows all participants to see and hear each other during the entire defense.
    • The candidate, the committee chair (or at least one of the co-chairs) must all be present in the examination room; none may be at a remote site. For dissertation defenses, the Dean’s Representative must be present in the examination room.
    • For thesis defenses, only one remote site may be used for remote participation.
    • For dissertation defenses, if necessary, members other than the chair and dean’s representative may participate from one or more remote sites as long as the conferencing software supports the rules of the conduct of the defense. 
    • Permission for remote participation in a thesis and dissertation defense must be approved in advance by the Dean of the Graduate School. The request for remote participation must provide a compelling reason and/or explanation as to why each remote committee member cannot be physically present.
    • The program must pay for any costs associated with the remote participation. The remote participants must connect to the defense using hardware that will ensure that all participants are visible and audible and that the connection is stable and available throughout the scheduled time of the defense.
    • The Dean’s Representative is responsible for ensuring that all requirements for remote participation are met, that the remote participation was uninterrupted, and if interrupted, that the defense was paused until all remote participants were fully restored.

In light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the Graduate School will consider exemptions to the remote defense policy for the fall 2021 semester. These exemptions will include unusual circumstances such as:

To request a remote defense during the fall 2021 semester, you can complete this form starting on August 1: Please allow ten business days for a resolution that is not an emergency, and note that a remote defense cannot occur without prior approval. 

I wish you a successful and safe completion of the spring semester. Once again, I thank you for your dedication to graduate education during these highly challenging times.

Steve Fetter
Associate Provost and Dean of the Graduate School

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