Student Affairs

The GSAS Office of Student Affairs is responsible for the welfare of graduate students and monitors their academic status, progress, and discipline. The office also administers leave/travel applications and readmission applications.

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Student Affairs

Clarification on Dissertation Submission

Posted Monday, 23 April 2012

An announcement from Richard J. Tarrant

Interim Dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

This year, as Harvard moved to an electronic platform for submission of PhD dissertations, the procedures governing the archiving and circulation of dissertations changed. The Office for Scholarly Communication, a branch of the Harvard University Library system, took over the responsibility for circulating dissertations, via the DASH (Digital Access to Scholarship at Harvard) repository. This role was formerly held by University Archives, another branch of the library system.

The new procedures called for the electronic dissertation to be available for circulation through DASH; the bound dissertation, still to be held in Archives, would no longer be circulated.

In recent days, concerns have been raised about the open-access nature of the DASH repository. Simultaneously, questions have arisen about the process of embargoing dissertations when open access is deemed undesirable.

In response, the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences and Harvard University Library are amending the circulation options available to students when they submit their dissertations. We outline these options below and clarify longstanding policies governing the embargo process.

  • GSAS students submit their dissertations online, through a tool developed by the FAS Registrar, the Harvard University Library, GSAS, and ProQuest, the standard publisher of dissertations in the United States.
  • By default, the submitted dissertation will enter the DASH repository for circulation through open-access channels. But in the online dissertation submission tool, students will now have the choice to opt out of open access through DASH. If they check the opt-out box during the submission process, DASH will not circulate the dissertation.
  • Students who choose to opt out of DASH open access will retain a menu of choices for distribution via ProQuest.
  • During the online submission process, students will also be asked whether they choose to embargo (that is, delay release of) the dissertation. They are given the option of embargo periods of 6 months, 1 year, and 2 years.
  • If a 2-year embargo is insufficient, students may indicate that in the submission tool by writing a note to the administrator to declare an ongoing embargo.
  • Once embargoed through ProQuest, the dissertation will then be embargoed through DASH.
  • Once an ongoing embargo has been set, the dissertation will not be distributed unless and until the embargo period ends.


In all cases, students are encouraged to explore the issues related to embargo, open access, and publication with their advisors, dissertation committee members, and senior colleagues in their fields. Norms vary widely, and open-access norms are evolving rapidly.

Please refer to The Form of the PhD Dissertation for details on all facets of the dissertation process: