March 18, 11:30 a.m. Accrediting agencies can now perform virtual site visits and extend the term of accreditation in light of the novel coronavirus, according to new guidance from the U.S. Department of Education.
Agencies are not required to implement virtual visits, but they have the temporary authority to do so. They should follow up with in-person site visits, which do not have to be full peer-review site visits, within a reasonable amount of time to meet statutory and regulatory requirements.
Virtual site visits should use interactive formats like telephone and videoconference meetings, rather than emails, the guidance says.
Accrediting agencies can adopt or modify virtual site visit policies without a public comment period if they wish to go this route.
For institutions that were in the process of renewing their accreditation and had a scheduled site visit during this time, agencies can extend the term of accreditation for a reasonable period of time. Accreditors can also provide a good-cause extension to institutions that are on probation but are unable to hold a site visit due to interruptions caused by the coronavirus.
The department’s guidance also reminds agencies that they can retroactively accredit institutions in the event of a canceled site for final approval, so that students can graduate from an accredited institution.
Agencies should record and publish their decisions to use these temporary flexibilities, as well as keep records of what colleges used these extensions and waivers.
— Madeline St. Amour
March 18, 10 a.m. Western Governors University is providing training webinars on how to host and manage virtual accreditation evaluation site visits in light of guidance for the novel coronavirus.
The nonprofit, online college is hosting the webinars with the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities, a regional accrediting organization, starting this week, according to a news release.
The commission plans to do virtual site visits to follow social distancing recommendations from local, state and federal governments.
Evaluation site visits are used to assess whether accredited institutions continue to meet the required standards for accreditation. Virtual evaluation site visits are uncommon.
The training webinars will focus on the basics of internet meetings, considerations of internet meetings, considerations for site visits and troubleshooting internet meetings.
— Madeline St. Amour
March 18, 9:37 a.m. The University of Washington Virology Lab and Stanford University are among the nation’s leading organizations in COVID-19 testing capacity, according to a tracker created by the American Enterprise Institute. The UW lab is able to test 2,000 patients a day, AEI said, while Stanford can process 1,000. Also among U.S. leaders in developing and processing tests are Yale University, the University of California’s medical centers, Washington University in St. Louis, Johns Hopkins University, the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and the NorthShore University HealthSystem in Illinois, which has a teaching affiliation with the University of Chicago.
Scientists at UW, for example, began developing their test shortly after reading in December about the spread of the coronavirus in China, the Seattle Times reported.
After a COVID-19 test from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention failed in the nation’s initial response to outbreak, the Association of American Medical Colleges reported that academic medical centers quickly sought to fill the void. The association said university labs in the first couple weeks were frustrated by a federal approval process that stalled deployment of tests. But the development and use of tests now appears to be scaling up.
The Stanford Clinical Virology Laboratory said earlier this week that it was using in-house diagnostic tests on hundreds of patient samples each day from around the Bay Area and beyond, with plans to process more than 1,000 tests per day. The university is able to return test results within 24 hours. And it has created a drive-through testing facility in Palo Alto.
Stanford labs have donated equipment and reassigned staff to help conduct the testing. And the university is producing some test components that are in short supply, including primers and probes used to amplify viral genetic material in patient samples. The virology lab also will provide support for a new clinical trial to test the efficacy of the antiviral drug remdesivir in treating people with the virus.
“Very few other places in the country are capable of providing this scale of COVID-19 testing at this point,” Dr. Benjamin Pinsky, the lab’s medical director and associate professor of pathology and of infectious diseases at Stanford’s School of Medicine, said in a statement. “Fortunately, we had the foresight in January to imagine that the ability to provide testing for COVID-19 would be important, and we worked hard to make that happen.”
— Paul Fain
March 17, 4:23 p.m. The American Library Association’s Executive Board is recommending academic, public and school libraries consider closing to the public in light of the new coronavirus outbreak.
“To protect library workers and their communities from exposure to COVID-19 in these unprecedented times, we strongly recommend that academic, public, and school library leaders and their trustees and governing bodies evaluate closing libraries to the public and only reopening when guidance from public health officials indicates the risk from COVID-19 has significantly subsided,” it said in a statement.
Closing libraries is typically a local decision. But the board urged administrators, local boards and governments to close libraries. It also threw its support behind paid leave and health-care coverage for staff while libraries are closed.
The question of whether to close libraries is difficult for many, because librarians “pride themselves on being there during critical times for our communities,” the statement said. But it also noted that libraries “are by design unable to practice social distancing to the degree recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other health authorities.”
Keeping libraries open could do more harm than good, according to the ALA Executive Board. But the board also noted ways different libraries are providing services even after closing, such as by providing online classes to students, offering online access to resources and working with various officials to determine what services are needed.
— Rick Seltzer
March 17, 4:15 p.m. The Schools, Health and Libraries Broadband Coalition is calling on the Federal Communications Commission to expedite affordable broadband services for unconnected Americans in light of the novel coronavirus.
In response to the public health crisis, colleges and schools are closing and moving coursework online, which can pose a problem for the about seven million students who don’t have access to broadband internet at home, according to the letter from the coalition.
The coalition recommends that the FCC take several steps, including:
- authorize emergency funding from the Universal Service Fund for hot-spot lending programs
- encourage internet service providers to expand low-cost broadband service offers
- provide a subsidy to providers to offer free or low-cost broadband to students who have to stay home
- allow schools and libraries to extend their networks to homes
- allow rural schools and educational nonprofits to claim Educational Broadband Service licenses
- authorize funding for wireless internet service providers to deploy broadband in unserved areas where schools are closed
“The FCC can take several steps now to promote hotspot lending programs and allow schools, libraries and telehealth providers to increase their broadband capacity and share that capacity with the surrounding community,” said John Windhausen Jr., executive director of the coalition, in a statement. “We cannot leave people on the wrong side of an education gap and a healthcare gap, especially with the Centers for Disease Control recommending school closures for at least 8 weeks. The SHLB Coalition urges the FCC to harness the power of community anchor institutions to protect our nation’s access to healthcare and education during this difficult time.”
— Madeline St. Amour
March 17, 2:10 p.m. New York is suspending student loan debt payments due to the coronavirus.
The state’s Democratic governor, Andrew Cuomo, and attorney general, Letitia James, announced in a news release that state-referred debt payments for New Yorkers will be frozen for the next 30 days.
The state won’t be collecting medical or student loan debt, as well as other forms of debt, during that time. About 165,000 cases fit the criteria for the freeze, including patients who owe medical debt to state hospitals, those who owe student debt to State University of New York campuses and individuals or business owners who owe debt related to things like property damage.
The policy also suspends the accrual of interest and fee collection on outstanding state medical and student debt.
After the 30-day period ends, the attorney general’s office will reassess the situation, according to the release.
“As the financial impact of this emerging crisis grows, we are doing everything we can to support the thousands of New Yorkers who are suffering as a result of the disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic,” Cuomo said a statement. “This new action to temporarily suspend the collection of debt owed to the state will help mitigate the financial impact of the outbreak on individuals, families, communities and businesses in New York as we continue to do everything we can to slow the spread of the virus.”
— Madeline St. Amour
March 17, 2 p.m. Commencement ceremonies for Virginia’s community colleges are canceled.
Glenn DuBois, chancellor of the system of 23 community college, which enrolls nearly 230,000 students, announced the decision on Tuesday, citing recent guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that asks people to avoid public gatherings of 50 people or more for the next eight weeks.
The colleges will honor students’ achievements at a later time in a safe manner, DuBois said in a letter to the system’s community.
— Madeline St. Amour
March 17, 2 p.m. University of the People, an online nonprofit, is offering its accredited courses to any university to use as students move to online-only education as the novel coronavirus spreads.
All 115 of the university’s courses will be open to all colleges, according to a news release. University of the People’s faculty members will teach the courses, which students can take for credit at their own universities. The courses will cover topics in general education, business administration, computer science, health science and education.
“Universities are facing an enormous challenge in having to shut down campuses and start up online, all without sacrificing educational quality. However, online education is not simply improvising with the internet; it is an actual practice that requires technology and expertise,” Shai Reshef, president of the university, said in the release. “Because we have been online for more than 10 years, we are in a unique position to offer our courses to all interested institutions.”
— Madeline St. Amour
Senate Democrats to Again Propose Six-Month Deferment on Student Loan Payments
March 17, 12:33 p.m. As the Senate considers the $104 billion coronavirus stimulus package approved by the House, lawmakers are working on another stimulus package. And Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said Senate Democrats will propose letting student loan borrowers defer payments for six months.
Speaking on the Senate floor Tuesday morning, Schumer said the overall proposal will be for at least $750 billion.
“Our proposal will let you defer your mortgage loans for six months,” he said. “No penalty, fees or impact on your credit. We’ll do the same for student loans.”
Kyle Southern, director of higher education policy and advocacy for the millennial-focused advocacy group Young Invincibles, also called for a six-month deferment. In a statement he said, “Today’s young people are the most indebted in history, are more likely to be living paycheck to paycheck, and are more likely to be working in hourly or low-wage jobs that are being impacted by widespread closures. Every dollar counts for young people struggling to keep themselves healthy, safe and financially secure … By suspending required payments, the President can put hundreds of dollars per month in the pockets of young people, helping relieve an immense financial burden as they navigate this crisis.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell also said in a floor speech that Republicans will be working with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on additional aid. “We need to provide more direct assistance for American workers and families,” McConnell said.
Schumer on March 11 had already called for six months of payment forbearance on federally insured or guaranteed mortgages and federal student loans.
— Kery Murakami
Falwell, Liberty Bow to State Emergency Ban
March 17, 11:10 a.m. Liberty University is moving most residential classes to a digital format, just days after Jerry Falwell Jr., the university’s president, tweeted that classes would continue on campus.
The reversal comes after officials in Virginia, where Liberty is located, implemented an emergency ban on public gatherings of 100 people or more, according to a news release.
“We originally believed it was safest to return our students following their spring break instead of having them return following greater exposure opportunities from leaving them in different parts of the country for longer periods,” Falwell said in the statement. “But, the Governor’s recent decision to limit certain gatherings has left us no practical choice because we have so many classes of more than 100 students.”
The change will take effect when spring break ends on March 23.
Students can still return to campus after spring break and take classes online in their residence halls. Some classes, like aviation and nursing, will remain in-person.
— Madeline St. Amour
Senate Passes Bill to Protect GI Bill Benefits
March 17, 9:40 a.m. On Monday the U.S. Senate passed a bill that would give the Department of Veterans Affairs discretion to not reduce GI Bill benefits for student veterans who attend colleges or universities that shut down or go online only during the coronavirus pandemic. The Senate rushed through the emergency legislation late last night, Military Times reported. But its fate in the House remains unclear.
The measure is aimed at maintaining housing benefits payments under the GI Bill in cases where college programs switch midterm from in-person to online. It also would seek to prevent the disruption of tuition and housing benefits when an academic program has been preapproved as eligible for GI Bill benefits as an in-person program, but not an online one.
— Paul Fain
Guidelines From Feds on Students With Disabilities, Web Access and Preventing Discrimination
March 17, 9:15 a.m. The U.S. Department of Education issued guidelines for ensuring internet accessibility for students with disabilities and in preventing discrimination as colleges and K-12 school cope with the coronavirus pandemic.
A webinar from the department’s Office for Civil Rights is aimed at reminding decision makers of their responsibilities on web accessibility for distance learning.
“Online learning tools must be accessible to students with disabilities, and they must be compatible with the various forms of assistive technology that students might use to help them learn,” the department said in a news release. “The webinar advises school leaders to routinely test their online activities to ensure accessibility.”
In a fact sheet, OCR describes the rights of students with disabilities during school and college shutdowns and includes tips for preventing incidents of discrimination.
— Paul Fain
National Federation of the Blind: Don’t Make Online Accessibility an Afterthought
March 16, 6:15 p.m. The National Federation of the Blind is urging schools and colleges not to forget their legal obligation to make learning content accessible to all students as they rush to move courses online in response to the spread of COVID-19.
In a blog post today, Stephanie Flynt, government affairs specialist at the National Federation of the Blind, wrote that blind students “risk having their ongoing educational needs swept under the rug” as many institutions prepare to cease in-person instruction.
“Over the past two decades, we know the 21st century interactive classroom has dramatically evolved, but we also know the accessibility of instructional materials has continued to be viewed as an afterthought,” Flynt wrote. “The solutions exist, but must be prioritized.”
The National Federation of the Blind has compiled a series of accessibility resources for educators and is monitoring accessibility barriers through an education technology survey. Readers are invited to participate in an #AccessibleNOW Twitter chat on Friday, March 20, at 12 p.m. EST.
— Lindsay McKenzie
Leader of Calif.’s Two-Year Colleges: Response to Virus to Last Through June
March 16, 5:00 p.m. Eloy Oakley, chancellor of California’s community college system, said Monday that the system’s response to the coronavirus outbreak likely will last through June, reported Mikhail Zinshteyn, a California-based education reporter.
Oakley was speaking at a hearing. He said the state’s two-year colleges should “plan for a second peak of the virus sometime around August or September.”
The governing board for the system gave Oakley emergency powers for 180 days. He now has the ability to override existing local and state rules governing community colleges.
The system, which enrolls roughly 2.1 million students at 115 colleges, last week announced a move to online instruction. Oakley also said the colleges should cancel, postpone or move online all commencement ceremonies that are scheduled for May and June.
— Paul Fain
Northwestern to Reschedule Gathering of College Presidents From Around the World
March 16, 4:44 p.m. A summit of university presidents from around the globe that had been scheduled for early June has been postponed as COVID-19 spreads.
Dozens of presidents were expected to attend the U7+ Summit at Northwestern University. The gathering was intended to help university leaders “play a leading role in addressing critical global challenges” like climate, inequity, polarization, technological transformation and community engagement.
Postponing the gathering will allow leaders to focus on issues at home, according to a Northwestern news release. The event will be rescheduled, it said.
“We are deeply committed to working across institutional and geographic boundaries to address our greatest global challenges,” Northwestern’s president, Morton Schapiro, said in a statement. “However, the health and safety of our academic and global communities is of paramount importance at this time, necessitating a postponement of the U7+ Summit.”
In addition to Northwestern hosting the event, Columbia University, Georgetown University and the University of California, Berkeley, are listed as co-sponsors. Representatives from more than 50 universities were invited.
— Rick Seltzer
Colleges Begin Canceling Commencement Ceremonies
March 16, 4:18 p.m. The University of Michigan on Friday became one of the first U.S. institutions to cancel spring commencement ceremonies.
Many other colleges and universities have said they will decide on commencement later. But that may be changing Wednesday, as several colleges have made the call to cancel the events.
Kellogg, located in Michigan, cited federal guidelines recommending against larger gathering of people.
“We are in unprecedented times and we are taking unprecedented measures as an institution to prevent exposure to the coronavirus that is rapidly spreading in Michigan and around the world,” Adrien Bennings, president of KCC, said in a statement. “We are disappointed that we won’t have the opportunity to celebrate our Bruins’ success by handing them a diploma as they walk across the stage to the applause of their family and friends, but we will find some other way to recognize their accomplishments.”
— Paul Fain
In Reversal, LA Community College District Suspends All Classes
March 16, 2:15 p.m. The Los Angeles Community College District announced the suspension of all classes, both online and in-person, beginning today and going through March 29.
The governing board for the district, which enrolls roughly 230,000 students, made the decision after initially planning to move to online class delivery after canceling classes for the first two days of this week. The district had said the two-day pause would be used to train faculty members to access and teach in the online platform.
But after an emergency meeting over the weekend, the board instead opted to suspend all classes and in-person services at the colleges until the end of the month.
“There is nothing more important to me and to my board colleagues than the safety of our students, staff and faculty. This was a difficult decision to make, but it was the right one that provides protection and stability during these challenging times,” Andra Hoffman, the board’s president, said in statement.
— Paul Fain
Some International Applications Soaring to University of the People
March 16, 2:04 p.m. The online nonprofit University of the People reports a huge spike in global applications in response to the coronavirus.
“We are seeing an enormous jump in numbers of applications and interest from areas highly affected by the coronavirus, from students whose schools may have shut down or who may be in quarantine themselves,” Shai Reshef, president of the University of the People, said in an emailed statement.
“We are happy to accommodate these students affected by mounting health concerns,” he said.
The university, which is a tuition-free, accredited American university, received 300 applications from students in China during the winter term from October to December 2019. So far this term, which started Jan. 1, the number of applications from China has tripled.
Web traffic from Italy, Japan and South Korea — all countries badly impacted by the pandemic — has also doubled in recent months.
— Lindsay McKenzie
College Board, ACT Reschedule Exams
March 16, 12:19 p.m. The College Board and ACT have rescheduled upcoming exams.
The SAT of May 2 has been canceled. Makeup exams for the March 14 SAT, scheduled for March 28, have also been canceled “in response to the rapidly evolving situation around the coronavirus (COVID-19).”
Students who had been registered to take the SAT on one of those days will receive refunds.
At this point, the next SAT that has not been called off is June 6.
ACT has rescheduled the April 4 exam, moving it to June 13 “in response to concerns about the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19).” In the next few days, everyone who registered for the exam will receive information about the new date.
The College Board gave the SAT on Saturday, although many test sites were closed.
— Scott Jaschik
Census Bureau Shares Information on Counting On-Campus Students Who’ve Been Sent Home
March 16, 12:12 p.m. The U.S. Census Bureau is addressing some operations that count college students.
College students who live on campus are counted through their colleges or universities as part of a census operation that counts students in university-owned housing and other group quarters like nursing homes, halfway houses and prisons. That could get a little more complicated with so many campuses sending students home.
A little more than half of student housing administrators had been planning to respond to the census in a method that provides the Census Bureau with directory information about students. Another 35 percent had been planning to allow students to self-respond with individual questionnaires.
The Census Bureau is contacting those institutions allowing self-responses to ask if they’d like to change those plans.
Generally, students in colleges that are temporarily closed because of the outbreak will still be counted under the same processes as before.
“Per the Census Bureau’s residence criteria, in most cases students living away from home at school should be counted at school, even if they are temporarily elsewhere due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said a Sunday afternoon news release from the Census Bureau.
In other words, even if students are home on the official census day, which is April 1, they should be counted based on where they live and sleep most of the time. The Census Bureau says it is asking institutions to contact students with reminders about responding.
— Rick Seltzer
Guidance on International Students and Online Courses
March 15, 10:21 a.m. The Department of Homeland Security’s Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) has published more detailed guidance on how it will offer flexibility in relation to rules that typically restrict international students from counting more than one online course toward the requirement that they maintain a full-time course of study.
The guidance, published Friday, addresses three scenarios: one in which a school closes temporarily without offering online learning instruction, one in which a college temporarily switches to online instruction and the international student remains in the U.S., and one in which a college temporarily switches to online instruction and the international student leaves the country.
In the first case — in which a college closes — the Homeland Security Department said institutions should keep international student records active in the federal Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) so long as students intend to resume their course of studies when classes start up again, just as they would for regularly scheduled academic breaks.
For the other two cases, in which institutions switch to online instruction, SEVP said it will temporarily waive restrictions on international students engaging in online coursework. Students’ SEVIS records should stay in active status if they continue courses online whether they are inside or outside the U.S.
SEVP stressed that the measures are temporary and that guidance is subject to change. Colleges must notify SEVP of procedural changes they make to respond to the coronavirus within 10 days of making those changes.
— Elizabeth Redden
Grinnell Expands Pass/Fail Option
March 15, 9:45 a.m. Grinnell College, a liberal arts college in Iowa, is allowing students to take all their spring courses under a pass/fail grading system in light of the college’s temporary shift from in-person to distance education. Students have until April 10 to switch some or all of their spring courses to a pass/fail grading system. Students can still opt to complete their courses under a traditional A-F grading system, but Grinnell said expanded use of pass/fail grading “aims to reduce student stress during this already-stressful time, while still providing a pathway to fulfill program and degree requirements.”
— Elizabeth Redden
Academic Libraries Share Response to COVID-19
March 15, 9:10 a.m. Many institutions are busy preparing to take their in-person courses online, but few academic libraries have significantly altered how they operate in response to the coronavirus, early survey data reveal.
The Academic Library Response to COVID-19 survey was launched on March 11 by Christine Wolff-Eisenberg, manager of surveys and research at Ithaka S+R, and Lisa Janicke Hinchliffe, professor and coordinator for information literacy services and instruction at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Over 200 libraries responded to the survey in the first 24 hours, reporting “relatively little change” in how they serve users. Libraries reported prevention and mitigation measures such as increased cleaning and public event cancellations, but only 64 percent of libraries said they engaged in regular communication with staff to provide updates and guidelines on safety measures.
— Lindsay McKenzie
SNHU Shares Resources About Online Learning
March 14, 12:40 p.m. Southern New Hampshire University, which is one of the nation’s largest universities, enrolling more than 96,000 students in online programs, released tips for other colleges as they move instruction online. The resources include guides on how to build a teacher persona, support student success, handle feedback and forums, and accommodate diversity, equity and inclusion in the online classroom.
“In times like these, the importance of working together becomes more apparent than ever. Uniting as one community to share critical resources and information is both a sign of solidarity, and a sign of our collective commitment to the good and wellbeing of all people — not just the ones in our own campus classrooms,” Paul LeBlanc, SHNU’s president, said in a statement. “So as many colleges and universities move instruction online, SNHU would like to support their efforts in any way we can. We’ve compiled a list of resources and instructional tips that may be helpful, and invite our fellow schools to reach out to us if they feel the need as they navigate the process in the coming weeks.”
— Paul Fain
NCAA May Adjust Eligibility Rules for Athletes
March 13, 5:50 p.m. The National Collegiate Athletic Association’s three divisions will discuss adjusting eligibility rules for spring athletes, which would potentially allow seniors to compete for another season.
The Division I Council Coordination Committee agreed eligibility relief would be appropriate for all Division I athletes who participated in spring sports and said the details of any rules adjustments will come later. The Division III Administrative Committee officially granted spring sports athletes an additional season or semester of eligibility, according to statements released by the NCAA.
The Division II Administrative Committee will also allow spring athletes to be eligible for an additional season.
— Greta Anderson
Consumer Groups: Trump’s Student Interest Waivers Not Enough
March 13, 5:35 p.m. Consumer groups applauded President Trump’s announcement that he will indefinitely waive the interest on federal loans during the coronavirus crisis.
But having asked Trump and Congress to put in place a moratorium to give borrowers a break from making any loan payments during the economic fallout from the pandemic, the groups also said the president’s move didn’t go far enough.
“Freezing interest will keep balances from growing during this time and that’s important,” Persis Yu, National Consumer Law Center staff attorney, said in a statement.
“However, many borrowers are going to experience income shocks and urgent expenses that will impede their ability to make their regularly scheduled payments,” said Yu. “Moreover, people need the confidence to know that, if they are sick or medically vulnerable or need to care for children, that they can stay home and not face the draconian consequences of defaulting on their student loans.”
Yu also called for the Education Department to stop garnishing wages or taking payments from Social Security benefits and tax refunds during the crisis.
“No one should fall behind on their student debts because of this national crisis,” said James Kvaal, president of the Institute for College Access and Success. “Waiving interest is welcome, but the key question is whether student loan borrowers can reduce or halt their monthly payments during the crisis. Fully pausing student loan payments in addition to halting interest accumulation, and stopping punitive student loan collections, would provide much-needed, immediate relief to those individuals who may be unable to work and are facing economic hardship during this time of uncertainty.”
Mike Saunders, director of military and consumer policy at Veterans Education Success, said waiving interest rates will only marginally help student borrowers.
“We call on President Trump to ensure borrowers, as well as all Americans, have extra cash in their pockets until this global pandemic is over,” he said. “The federal government should not require Americans to prioritize payments to the government over ensuring the health and safety of their own families.”
A spokeswoman for the department said more details are coming on Trump’s order.
And earlier, a Democratic House aide said a moratorium on student loan payments is not expected to be included in the coronavirus package Congress is negotiating with the White House.
— Kery Murakami
Trump to Waive Interest on Student Loans
March 13, 4:10 p.m. At a news conference to declare a national emergency over the coronavirus pandemic, President Trump said he is issuing an emergency order to help student loan borrowers. “To help students and families, I have waived interest of student loans until further notice,” Trump said.
— Kery Murakami
Wife of UT Austin President Tests Positive
March 13, 2:30 p.m. Greg Fenves, president of the University of Texas at Austin, is being tested for COVID-19 after his wife, Carmel, tested positive for the virus.
A second member of Fenves’s family, who also works at the university, is presumed to have COVID-19 as well, according to a letter from Fenves to the university community.
Fenves, his wife and the other family member are in self-isolation. They are compiling a list of people they have recently had contact with. UT Health Austin nurses will reach out to those on the list who are affiliated with the university for screening.
Last week, Fenves and his wife traveled to New York City for alumni and student events. His wife began experiencing mild flu-like symptoms upon their return.
Classes at UT Austin were canceled and the campus was closed today, March 13, because of the positive test.
— Madeline St. Amour
Change of Plans for Monmouth
March 13, 2 p.m. At least one college already has changed its initial response to the novel coronavirus.
Monmouth College in Illinois initially planned to resume classes on March 18, extending its spring break by a few days.
In a letter sent Friday, the college said it reassessed and will instead allow flexibility for students and faculty members to make their own decisions.
The college will stay closed for an extra week after spring break ends and reopen on March 23 under what it’s calling a “flexible plan” for the rest of the semester.
Under this plan, students can choose whether to return to campus or study online. Residence halls and food services will open this weekend as planned, and students can return to campus this weekend.
Professors will work with students who choose to study online. Faculty members can also choose to move their courses fully online if they wish.
Staff will also receive flexible options for their work.
Monmouth will be holding workshops for faculty on moving courses online from now until March 23.
“There is no perfect answer to the crisis that has happened upon us,” a statement from the college reads. “We believe this response affirms our twin commitments to quality education and to campus community wellbeing — even as we acknowledge that a pandemic has a way of throwing a wrench into that mission.”
— Madeline St. Amour
Call for More Tests
March 13, 11:55 a.m. The Association of Schools and Programs of Public Health is calling on the Trump administration to take action to manufacture quality test kits for the novel coronavirus.
The association, which represents deans and directors of 128 accredited institutions for public health, said in a news release that it felt compelled to speak out about test-kit availability.
“When the United States failed to participate in the World Health Organization’s collaborative effort to bring testing to the world’s nations, it made an implicit commitment to provide its own tests,” the statement reads. “It has failed to do so, and clinical and public health organizations alike do not have anywhere near the testing capacity for an aggressive response to the expanding COVID-19 crisis.”
The association is asking the administration to use emergency public health measures and funding to facilitate public-private partnerships to validate and manufacture test kits for hospitals and clinics. Without enough reliable tests to diagnose and track the virus, the country won’t be able to combat the threat, according to the association.
— Madeline St. Amour
Flexibility for Students Abroad
March 13, 11:55 a.m. The Student and Exchange Visitor Program announced that nonimmigrant students can temporarily use distance learning, either from within the U.S. or elsewhere, to continue their courses in light of the novel coronavirus outbreak.
Some members of NAFSA: Association of International Educators had reported to the organization earlier that the Student and Exchange Visitor Program told schools and colleges to instead terminate records for students who took online portions of classes abroad.
After NAFSA contacted the program with their concerns and advocated that it allow schools and colleges to keep records in active status for students who switch to online courses, the program issued a statement correcting its guidance.
— Madeline St. Amour
No Student Loan Relief Expected in Coronavirus Package From Congress
March, 13 11:40 a.m. The multibillion-dollar coronavirus package being negotiated by Representative Nancy Pelosi, the House Speaker, and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin isn’t expected to include a temporary suspension of student loan payments, said a Democratic House aide. Advocacy groups like Veterans Education Success and The Institute for College Access and Successhad been hoping for some temporary relief. House Democrats, however, are working on proposals to provide help.
Meanwhile, Senator Patty Murray, the top Democrat on the Senate’s health and education committee, proposed a temporary exemption for students from repaying Pell Grants or student loans if their terms are disrupted. Under current law, Pell Grant recipients would have to return a portion of their grants to the federal government if they withdraw from school, or in this case, if their institution closes.
The bill, co-sponsored by Senator Chuck Schumer, the minority leader, and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, both New York Democrats, would provide $1.2 billion in funding to provide emergency financial aid to college students for basic needs created by unexpected college closures and COVID-19 related disruptions, including food, housing, health care and childcare needs.
It would also provide $1.2 billion in funding to help K-12 school districts and higher education institutions plan for closures, including how to provide meals to students, support efforts to clean and sanitize educational facilities, and to provide training to educators and other staff members on how to properly ensure their buildings are safe for students’ return.
The National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators applauded the co-sponsors “for acting quickly to find a solution to support financial aid recipients, who may now find themselves in dire situations in the face of this pandemic.”
— Kery Murakami
Bogus Fliers at Bates College about ‘Forced Contamination’
March 13, 10:50 a.m. Anonymous fliers appeared Wednesday on the campus of Bates College. They falsely claimed Bates was attempting to cope with the viral outbreak through “forced massed contamination,” because the college had determined that students and all others will get COVID-19, the Lewiston Sun Journal reported.
The college, which is located in Maine, quickly denounced the fliers, calling on students, faculty and staff members to discard them.
“We are all doing our best to grapple with a very challenging public health situation, this kind of action reflects seriously poor judgment and blatant disregard for the concerns and well-being of others,” a Bates spokesman said in a message to the Bates community.
On Friday Bates announced it was suspending classes and moving to remote learning. The college said students must leave campus by today.
In a message to the campus, Clayton Spencer, Bates’s president, expressed empathy for the resulting disruptions felt by students, their families and faculty and staff members.
“We find ourselves in a situation that is, quite literally, beyond our control. I understand that the solutions we are offering are necessarily imperfect and place extra demands on all members of our community,” Spencer wrote. “I have heard from many students over the past week. Some have expressed their anxiety about staying on campus under current circumstances, and others have described to me how devastated they feel at the prospect of having to leave campus and their Bates world mid-semester. My heart goes out to all of our students, as these are genuinely stressful and difficult times. But this is an unprecedented situation, and we have no choice but to take this course of action.”
— Paul Fain
Wharton Creates Coronavirus Course
March 13, 10:30 a.m. As colleges across the country shut down or move online in response to the spread of the novel coronavirus, the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania already is taking lessons from the outbreak and putting them into a course.
Epidemics, Natural Disasters and Geopolitics: Managing Global Business and Financial Uncertainty will be a six-week, half-credit course offered remotely starting March 25, after the college’s extended spring break, according to a news release.
The course will discuss financial market reactions to the coronavirus, emotional contagion and how the virus affects the trade war with China.
“There are significant business lessons to be learned from the global response to the coronavirus outbreak, and Wharton is at the forefront of sharing valuable insights and creating a community to exchange ideas,” said Geoff Garrett, dean of the Wharton School. “This is a teachable moment for the global academic community, and this course is just one example of how Wharton is coming together to provide support during a time of heightened anxiety and ambiguity.”
More than 450 students have already preregistered for the course.
— Madeline St. Amour
U-Haul Offers Free Storage
March 13, 10:30 a.m. More colleges are telling students to pack up and head home for the semester due to the novel coronavirus, often leaving students with costs for moving or storing their belongings.
U-Haul has stepped forward to offer 30 days of free self-storage to college students in the U.S. and Canada in response to the outbreak, according to a news release from the company. It also includes use of the company’s portable moving and storage containers.
“We don’t know how every student is affected. But we know they are affected,” John Taylor, U-Haul’s president, said in the statement. “More and more universities are giving instructions to leave campus and go home. Students and their parents are in need of moving and storage solutions. We have the expertise and network to help, and that’s exactly what we’re going to do.”
The free month applies only to new customers with college IDs, according to the release.
U-Haul has offered this deal before to specific communities impacted by natural disasters, but this is the first time that it will be offered nationwide.
— Madeline St. Amour
Sodexo Offers Expanded Sick Pay
March 13, 10:10 a.m. Sodexo, a company that operates food and dining services on many college campuses, announced Thursday that all employees, full- and part-time, will be granted sick pay for up to 21 days if they have a confirmed case of COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, or are asked not to come in because of related symptoms.
This use of sick pay only will be available after an employee has used up their accrued sick time. The limited and haphazard coronavirus testing regimen in the U.S. raises questions about how many employees with the virus will be able to access tests and confirm their cases. The country is far behind others in its ability to test for the virus, a fact acknowledged Thursday by Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
“Sodexo is committed to the health and safety of our employees, our clients and the communities we serve, and that includes supporting our employees where we can if they get sick as they service our clients,” Sarosh Mistry, president of Sodexo USA, said in a statement. “Our long-standing commitment to our employees is something we will stand by, especially at a time like this.”
UT Austin Shuts Down Campus Operations
March 13, 9:20 a.m. Citing two positive cases of COVID-19 in the Austin area, the University of Texas at Austin on Friday morning canceled classes and closed operations. Only essential personnel should work today, the university said.
Yesterday UT Austin suspended campus visits and all university-sponsored travel and issued a worldwide recall of faculty, staff and students on university-sponsored trips.
— Paul Fain
NCAA Cancels March Madness
March 12, 4:30 p.m. The National Collegiate Athletic Association canceled the Division I men’s and women’s basketball tournaments, along with all other winter and spring championships scheduled for the remainder of the 2019-20 academic year, the association said in a statement.
“This decision is based on the evolving COVID-19 public health threat, our ability to ensure the events do not contribute to spread of the pandemic and the impracticality of hosting such events at any time during this academic year given ongoing decisions by other entities,” the NCAA said.
— Greta Anderson
Feds Issue Guidelines for FERPA
March 12, 4 p.m. The U.S. Department of Education has issued guidelines for institutions regarding the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, or FERPA, and the novel coronavirus COVID-19.
Generally, FERPA doesn’t allow colleges to provide information about a student to others without their consent. But there are some exceptions that could allow colleges to send information to others without consent as they deal with the spread of coronavirus, according to Amelia Vance, director of youth and education privacy at the Future of Privacy Forum. Vance said much of that guidance was already outlined in what the department released during the spread of the H1N1 virus.
The first exception allows colleges to disclose students’ personal information without their consent if that information is necessary to protect the health and safety of others. For example, if a student tests positive for coronavirus or has symptoms, the college can release a statement saying a student tested positive, without identifying the student.
Colleges could also send emails to students who shared specific classes with the sick student and identify them by name. While the guidance released today says those situations are typically rare, Vance said that likely will not be the case with coronavirus.
For those who are worried about violating regulations, Vance pointed to a 2009 FERPA regulation that said the department won’t second-guess a college’s determination in an emergency unless most people would consider it unreasonable.
The second exception allows colleges to identify students to public health departments. If the college declares it’s an emergency, it can provide that information without students’ consent. If a college said it’s not an emergency, the department could hypothetically issue a subpoena to get the information, Vance said.
College officials should keep in mind that they are required to record instances when they share students’ information without consent, Vance said. She recommends that they keep track in real time so they don’t have to retrace their steps after the situation calms down.
— Madeline St. Amour
Ratings Agency Details Coronavirus Risks
March 12, 2:30 p.m. Operating and enrollment pressure could build on some colleges and universities as COVID-19 spreads, according to a note out this afternoon from Fitch Ratings.
Institutions with limited liquidity, those that rely heavily on tuition revenue and those that rely more heavily on endowment draws to fund operations generally have less ability to absorb revenue volatility before their finances take a hit, the note said. Those with larger operating margins and cash flow flexibility enjoy a stronger position.
Sources of operating risk include campus closures or other restrictions on students, faculty and staff. They also include lower dorm-occupancy rates and branch campuses abroad closing. Closures of only a few weeks aren’t expected to have a large impact on colleges’ operating performance, but pressures will build the longer campuses are shuttered.
Fees loom as an important issue. Income from auxiliary services like housing, dining and parking have grown in importance for many colleges and universities. A decline in fee revenue from services could affect margins if it stretches into the fall 2020 semester, according to the ratings agency.
Normally, universities don’t have to refund auxiliary fees, but some colleges may be choosing to do so on a prorated basis for services no longer being provided.
Fitch expects reliance on online classes to grow in the next few months, adding to an expected increase in online education over the long term. Enrollment during campus shutdowns could decline at institutions without strong online learning platforms.
Universities with significant international student populations could be in line for reduced enrollment and subsequent pressure on net tuition revenue in the upcoming academic year. The risk is notable because research universities tend to have the largest numbers of international students, but they also have stronger financial profiles than other types of institutions.
Market declines are expected to hit endowments but not have an impact on bond ratings. Fitch also mentioned the possibility that reduced economic activity could hit state budgets and in turn public funding for colleges and universities. But the ratings agency called the size of such effects unclear at this point.
— Rick Seltzer
Duke Suspends All Athletic Activities
March 12, 2:20 p.m. Duke University appears to be the first power-conference institution to cancel all its athletics events. Vincent Price, Duke’s president, said the university was suspending all practices and games, effective immediately.
“We are taking this action to protect the safety of our student-athletes, coaches, staff and others who are essential to these activities,” Price said in a statement. “I know it is a great disappointment to our student-athletes and coaches, whose hard work and dedication to their sports and Duke is inspirational to so many, but we must first look out for their health and well-being. This is clearly an unprecedented moment for our university, our region and the wider world. As we take steps to confront the spread of this virus, I’m grateful for the cooperation and support of the entire Duke community.”
The decision means Duke’s perennial powerhouse men’s basketball team, currently ranked No. 6 nationally in some polls, will not be participating in the NCAA tournament.
“We emphatically support the decision made by Dr. Price today regarding the suspension of athletic competition at Duke,” Mike Krzyzewski, the men’s basketball coach, said in the statement. “The welfare of our student-athletes, and all students at Duke, is paramount, and this decision reflects that institutional priority. Certainly, I want to applaud Dr. Price, who took a leadership role with his presidential peers and the Atlantic Coast Conference in arriving at this decision.”
— Paul Fain
Conferences Cancel Basketball Tournaments
March 12, 12:25 p.m. The Big Ten, the Southeastern Conference and the American Athletic Conference will not proceed with men’s basketball conference tournaments, fearing the spread of COVID-19.
Some men’s basketball games for these conferences have already taken place this week, and the women’s basketball conference championships for the Big Ten, SEC and AAC are complete.
The National Collegiate Athletic Association announced Wednesday it would hold Division I championship tournament games without public spectators, but it has made no indication of plans to postpone or cancel the tournament.
— Greta Anderson
NASPA Cancels Annual Conference
March 12, 12:10 p.m. The annual conference for the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators, NASPA, has been canceled due to growing concern over the novel coronavirus, COVID-19.
The conference was scheduled to run March 28 through April 1 in Austin, Tex. After the city declared a public health emergency and the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic, the organization sent out an email canceling the event.
Those who were registered for the event must email NASPA to cancel and receive refunds. Otherwise, the payments will automatically go toward fees for next year’s conference.
The organization plans to hold free virtual, live-streaming keynotes and other session from March 30 to April 10 in place of the conference.
The only other time NASPA has canceled its largest annual gathering was during World War II. Several other higher education organizations have canceled conferences, including the American Council of Education, the Association of American Colleges and Universities, and the International Studies Association.
— Madeline St. Amour
Growing Number of Two-Year Colleges Move Online
March 12, noon. Community colleges face a broad range of challenges in moving classes online, most notably a relative lack of resources among both the colleges and their students. But large numbers have begun making the switch in the last 24 hours. The Los Angeles Community College District and its nine colleges, for example, announced yesterday that it would suspend as many in-person classes as possible and move them to an online platform.
A spokesman for California’s community college system, Paul Feist, said Thursday that the system’s 115 colleges, which enroll 2.1 million students, can start moving courses online now and submit requests for approval after the fact. He said more than a dozen colleges had already told the chancellor’s office they are making the change. Very few are choosing to shut down campuses completely.
“The colleges are working very hard to protect the health and safety of students and staff while continuing with the educational mission,” Feist said. “We are accustomed in California to dealing with disasters, and community colleges will be a critical resource as we work through this.”
Other two-year institutions making similar moves include Long Beach City College, Des Moines Area Community College, Parkland College in Illinois, Maryland’s Harford Community College, Cuyahoga Community College in Cleveland, Rhode Island Community College and Northern Virginia Community College. The City University of New York, which includes seven community colleges, yesterday announced the transition.
“By transitioning to distance learning, CUNY will be upholding its responsibility as the largest urban public university in the country and meeting our goal of minimizing exposure to those on our campus communities to coronavirus transmission,” Félix V. Matos Rodríguez, CUNY’s chancellor, said in a statement.
— Madeline St. Amour and Paul Fain
Relief Fund for Students Affected by Closures
March 11, 11:22 p.m. The new Student Relief Fund is offering to match donations of up to $5,000 for grants aimed at the hundreds of thousands of college students who are affected by campus closures over COVID-19 concerns, who may face hunger and homelessness as a result. Believe in Students, Edquity and the Rise Fund are matching the donations. The grants will be distributed as emergency aid by Edquity and the FAST Fund, which has locations in 18 cities around the U.S.
— Paul Fain
New Guidance for Colleges in New Jersey, Medical Colleges
March 11, 6:28 p.m. The New Jersey Office of the Secretary of Higher Education issued new guidance for colleges and universities to make coronavirus-related decisions that affect campus life. The guidance addressed material hardships students might face, travel directives, continuity of instruction, quarantine facilities and procedures, cleaning protocols, and efforts to reduce anxiety
“These considerations include handling basic needs for those who need it (such as housing and food); notifying the surrounding community — including municipal and county leadership and the local business community — and decision-making involved with re-convening in-person instruction if an institution has decided to move its classes online,” the office of Zakiya Smith Ellis, New Jersey’s higher education secretary, said in a statement.
The Association of American Medical Colleges released new recommendations after a meeting at the White House. They covered:
- Increasing the availability and capacity of testing.
- Ensuring adequate supplies and stewardship of personal protective equipment.
- Holding patients harmless for the cost of testing and treatment.
- Increasing the availability and use of telehealth.
- Supporting hospitals’ efforts to expand capacity to meet surging needs.
“America’s academic medical centers are committed to mounting a vigorous response to contain and mitigate COVID-19 and to providing quality care to any patient affected by this public health emergency, including the under- and uninsured,” Dr. David J. Skorton, the association’s president and CEO, said in a statement. “Because of their expert faculty physicians, highly trained health care teams and cutting-edge medical technology, major teaching hospitals consistently maintain a heightened level of preparedness to respond rapidly to any major event at any time.”
— Paul Fain
Man With University of Delaware Connections is State’s Presumptive First Positive Case
March 11, 5:45 p.m. The Delaware Division of Public Health has announced the state’s presumptive first positive cause of COVID-19, which involves “a New Castle County man over the age of 50 who is associated with the University of Delaware community.”
The man affected was exposed to another confirmed case in a different state, according to officials. He is not severely ill. He isolated himself at home when symptoms appeared.
Epidemiologists are attempting to identify other individuals who were potentially exposed. Students, faculty and staff members with concerns about exposure risks are being asked to contact a University of Delaware call center.
— Rick Seltzer
More Universities Plan Remote Classes
March 11, 5:30 p.m. Several more major universities and systems have announced plans of varying scale for remote classes, affecting hundreds of thousands of students: the University of North Carolina system, Penn State University, the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Kentucky.
Penn State is strongly discouraging many students from returning to campus for several weeks. Penn is asking students to leave by Sunday.
The University of North Carolina system’s institutions will move from in-person instruction to “a system of alternative course delivery, where possible and practical, no later than March 20.” The alternative course delivery is to officially start March 23 and last indefinitely, but the system aims to return to in-person instruction as soon as possible.
Outside events and gatherings of 100 or more people are being canceled or postponed, and the university is suspending sponsored travel to in-state gatherings of 100 or more people, as well as travel outside the state, unless specially authorized.
Penn State University will move to remote instruction from March 16 through April 3. It plans to go back to in-person classes Monday, April 6, at the earliest.
During the three weeks following spring break, Penn State undergraduate and law students at all campus locations are being “strongly discouraged” from returning to on- and off-campus locations and dwellings. Residence halls and dining facilities will not be reopened for normal operations during the period, beyond facilities already in use.
Graduate students are also being asked to participate in classes remotely and not come to campus “specifically for face-to-face instruction.” Students who must be on campus will be worked with on an individual basis.
Elsewhere in Pennsylvania, the University of Pennsylvania is extending its spring break for all students aside from those in health-related schools or programs who have already had break or who are in clinical rotations. Penn plans to migrate classroom teaching to virtual instruction for both undergraduate and graduate classes, to begin March 23 and continue through the rest of the semester.
Penn is asking students who are out of town to not return to campus. Those on campus are being asked to leave by Sunday.
The University of Kentucky will remain open but continue instruction through “online or other alternatives” from March 23 through April 3 — the two weeks after its spring break for most students. It intends to go back to normal course delivery April 6.
Kentucky students will be able to return to campus residence halls. Research and health-care activities are set to continue as planned. But all international travel sponsored or endorsed by the university has been indefinitely suspended. Any travelers arriving from Europe and Japan will be required to “self-isolate” for 14 days before being allowed on campus.
Further, the University of Kentucky is strongly discouraging university-sponsored or -endorsed domestic travel.
— Rick Seltzer
No Fans for March Madness Tournaments
March 11, 4:51 p.m. The National Collegiate Athletic Association will move forward with its men’s and women’s championship basketball tournaments without public spectators, Mark Emmert, the NCAA’s president, said in a statement Wednesday.
This means only essential staff and some family members will be permitted to be in the audience of the upcoming weeks of March Madness tournament games, which begin March 17. The precautions will help to protect the fans from transmitting COVID-19, as “behavioral risk mitigation strategies are the best option for slowing the spread of the disease,” the NCAA’s coronavirus advisory panel said in a statement.
A number of individual institutions, athletic conferences and governments have already canceled or issued limitations or bans on spectators at NCAA events across the country.
“While I understand how disappointing this is for all fans of our sports, my decision is based on the current understanding of how COVID-19 is progressing in the United States,” Emmert said. “This decision is in the best interest of public health, including that of coaches, administrators, fans and, most importantly, our student-athletes. We recognize the opportunity to compete in an NCAA national championship is an experience of a lifetime for the students and their families.”
— Greta Anderson
Striking Grad Students Criticize UC Santa Cruz’s Move Online
March 11, 4:45 p.m. Striking graduate students at the University of California, Santa Cruz, have put out a statement regarding the university’s move to suspend face-to-face classes and begin instruction online in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak. The university, the students said, has weaponized the public health crisis to break the wildcat strike.
“We see the university’s turn to emergency measures as a rehearsal for a permanent shift to large scale online instruction, accelerating the creep of online teaching with little oversight, with no bargaining, and with little to no transparency,” the statement said. “As UCSC looks for ways to operate in the spring after losing around 80 graduate student employees, the turn to online learning would set an alarming precedent for how a university can function without its workers.”
The university dismissed or declined to appoint around 80 graduate student teaching assistants who were withholding grades. The graduate student strike began in December. It is a labor action in demand of a cost-of-living adjustment by the university.
“For undergraduates, this is not the education that they paid for,” the statement said. “Online teaching is a poor substitute for learning in a classroom, and has been shown to diminish the value of a university education.”
The grads will continue with a digital picket, which involves continuing to withhold grades, keeping any grade updates off Canvas, not teaching classes online and having undergraduates submit assignments directly to TAs.
The university responded, “As local, national and global public health recommendations increasingly shift to efforts to mitigate transmission by social distancing, UC Santa Cruz is proactively taking steps to protect our campus community. In our assessment of the current situation, we believe that this is the best action for our campus and the broader Santa Cruz community.”
— Lilah Burke
SUNY and CUNY Move to Distance Learning
March 11, 3:55 p.m. The State University of New York and City University of New York systems will move to distance learning for the rest of the semester, the state’s governor, Andrew Cuomo, has announced.
“This will help us reduce density and reduce the spread of this virus,” the governor said in a statement on Twitter.
A statement from the governor’s office later clarified that the two public university systems will “implement plans to maximize distance learning and reduce in-person classes, beginning March 19, for the remainder of the spring semester in light of the evolving novel coronavirus situation in New York. All campuses will develop plans catered to the campus and curriculum-specific needs while reducing density in the campus environment to help slow possibility for exposures to novel coronavirus. Distance learning and other options will be developed by campuses.”
Hundreds of thousands of students will be affected by the move, making it one of the most significant yet seen across the country. SUNY reported fall head-count enrollment of more than 415,000 across its campuses. CUNY reported nearly 275,000 in 2018.
The SUNY Student Assembly issued a response voicing appreciation for the move while also acknowledging the fact that students will require assistance.
“Continuing SUNY’s tradition of inclusive and accessible academic excellence is as important as ever,” the assembly’s statement said. “The SUNY Student Assembly looks forward to working with Chancellor [Kristina M.] Johnson and her team to ensure that students have all the resources and support that they need as we make this transition.”
— Rick Seltzer
AAC&U Conference Cancellation
March 11, 3:32 p.m. Another association has called off a conference, as the Association of American Colleges & Universities canceled its 2020 Conference on Diversity, Equity and Student Success, which had been slated to be held in New Orleans March 19-21.
AAC&U is planning to present some keynote sessions and workshops virtually. Materials from presentations for concurrent sessions will go up online. The association plans to reach out to those registered soon with information about participating virtually or options for refunds.
“The health and safety of conference participants and AAC&U staff members are our highest priorities and were the determining factors in this difficult decision,” AAC&U said in a statement.
— Rick Seltzer
Big Ten Says Hoops Tournaments Still On
March 11, 3:15 p.m. The Big Ten Conference said Wednesday afternoon that its men’s basketball tournament will continue as scheduled. The games are set to tip off this evening.
“The Big Ten Conference’s main priority is to ensure the safety of our students, coaches, administrators, event staff, fans and media as we continue to monitor all relevant information on the COVID-19 virus,” the Big Ten said in a statement.
The Ivy League on Tuesday canceled its men’s and women’s basketball tournaments over coronavirus concerns. Some conference basketball players criticized the move, creating an online petition calling for the tournaments to be reinstated.
“The hypocrisy of our Ivy League presidents is baffling and alarming,” said the petition. “We are disappointed and disheartened that they would discriminate against one sport and allow the others to continue to compete.”
On Wednesday the conference dropped all athletics practice and competition through the remainder of the spring.
Local authorities have banned large gatherings in San Francisco and the Seattle area, according to news reports.
— Paul Fain
University Closures Continue
March 11, 1:30 p.m. The University of Massachusetts system, the University System of Maryland, the University of Virginia, Georgetown University, George Washington University and Johns Hopkins University are among the latest institutions to move classes online and to urge students to leave campus.
UMass’s five campuses will “shift to a virtual mode of instruction” beginning on March 16 and through at least April 3, the system said in a statement. Most of the system’s 75,000 students will not be on campus during that time, said UMass.
The University System of Maryland on Tuesday urged all of its universities across the 12-institution system to prepare for students to remain off campus for at least two weeks after the system’s spring break, which begins Saturday and ends on March 22.
UVA’s shift to online instruction will begin on March 19, James E. Ryan, the university’s president, said in a statement.
“Students who are away on spring break are strongly encouraged to return home or to remain home if they are already there,” Ryan said. “Students on grounds and in Charlottesville are strongly encouraged to return home by this weekend.”
Georgetown’s move to online will begin on March 19. The university strongly encouraged undergraduate students to move to their permanent addresses.
“We understand that for some number of students there will be a compelling reason to remain on campus,” the university said in a statement. “Campus will remain open and key services will be available.”
— Paul Fain
More Campus and Conference Suspensions
March 11, 12:30 p.m. Michigan State University was one of the latest and largest universities to announce the suspension of all in-person classes, effective at noon Wednesday. The university said in a statement that health authorities were investigating and monitoring someone linked to the campus for coronavirus-related concerns.
Notre Dame University also announced Wednesday that it is moving to online instruction and canceling in-person classes, beginning March 23 though at least April 13.
By Wednesday morning, roughly 90 colleges and universities had shut down their campuses or suspended in-person instruction and moved it online or to distance delivery, according to a crowdsourced Google sheet created by Bryan Alexander, a futurist, researcher and senior scholar at Georgetown University.
Several others are helping Alexander maintain the database, which is being populated by contributors throughout higher education. It has crashed several times due to heavy traffic.
ASU+GSV, a meeting focused on education technology, postsecondary education and workforce development that had been scheduled for April in San Diego, has been postponed until the fall.
Organizers of the conference, which hosted 5,500 attendees last year, said postponing was “the best option to protect our community and to have a truly productive convening.”
The American Association of Geographers also announced the cancelation of its April meeting in Denver. The group said Wednesday morning that it would shift to an online version, free of charge.
— Paul Fain
Low-Income Students and Campus Shutdowns
March 11, noon. Harvard University is giving students less than a week to pack up, leave campus and not return after spring break is over.
Primus, a student organization at Harvard that advocates for the university’s low-income and first-generation students, put out a statement highlighting several ways this expectation will be close to impossible for students who are not privileged.
Many can’t afford unexpected travel costs to get home. They’re expected to pay for storage units for on-campus belongings. Students won’t be able to rely on their on-campus jobs. And they’re being asked to make all these changes while still attending classes this week.
On top of that, students will have to take courses online, which requires internet access and computers.
“These closures disproportionately affect the most vulnerable groups of students on campus,” said Anthony Abraham Jack, assistant professor of education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, later adding, “I know what it means to be affected by something that money can’t stop, but money helps you through. So when you don’t come from money, you feel the full brunt of it.”
Beyond financial constraints, some students may not have safe homes to return to, he said. Jack said he knows of one student who lives an hour from home but never visits, because the student is queer and doesn’t get a bed at home. Other students never had three square meals a day and a consistent roof over their heads until coming to college, Jack added.
“Even if college is hell, it can still be a sanctuary for some students,” he said.
Primus has organized a document of resources and answers for students on financial assistance and help from alumni. But Jack said it’s unfair to expect students to take on the job of the university.
“We must be better, as college officials, at outlining processes so students can just be students,” he said. “Right now, colleges are addressing this pandemic almost solely as a public health issue, when it’s actually one affecting inequalities on campuses.”
— Madeline St. Amour
Unrest at the University of Dayton
March 11, 11:30 a.m. A large crowd including students from the University of Dayton gathered on the Ohio campus yesterday after the university on Tuesday suspended in-person classes due to coronavirus concerns. The university called on all residential students to leave campus by 6 p.m. Wednesday.
Students began gathering in large numbers after the announcement. The Dayton Daily News reported that police officers from multiple departments, some wearing riot gear, cleared the crowd, which dispersed by 2:15 a.m. One person was injured in the disturbance, according to the university.
Students were not reacting to the coronavirus measures, the university said, but instead “wanted one last large gathering” before Dayton’s spring break, which begins Friday.
“A large disorderly crowd that grew to more than 1,000 people gathered on Lowes Street starting around 11 p.m., throwing objects and bottles in the street and at police, and jumping on cars,” the university said in a written statement. “Police gave verbal orders to disperse which were ignored. Police initially launched pepper balls, which contain powder with an irritant that disperses quickly, that were unsuccessful in reducing the crowd size.”
— Paul Fain