Amid the rapid spread of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19), the University will be switching to remote coursework for the rest of the spring semester and is asking all students to move out by March 23 if they are able, University President Michael Roth ’78 confirmed in an all-campus email. Students can petition to remain on campus for the remainder of the semester or to extend their move-out deadline to March 30. Petitions must be submitted by March 18th. The University has also cancelled all on-campus events until further notice.
This decision comes after several peer institutions, including six other NESCAC schools, have moved to remote classes and begun asking students to move off campus.
Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont declared a public health emergency and a civil preparedness emergency for the state on Tuesday, March 10. At the time of this article’s publication, there are three confirmed cases of Connecticut residents who have tested positive for COVID-19. The third case, confirmed on Wednesday, March 11, is the first for which state officials do not know how the patient was infected, as announced at a press conference by the Connecticut Department of Public Health on March 11.
Vice President for Student Affairs Mike Whaley met with students on Wednesday afternoon before the final decision had been made to switch to remote learning. Whaley explained that students who are housing insecure, require access to campus resources to complete their coursework, or for another reason cannot go to their permanent residence will be able to petition to stay on campus. Whaley said that it was likely that students who left campus would be compensated 25% of the year’s payment for housing and dining costs, or half of the semester’s costs. Whaley also said that an emergency fund will likely be used for students who are not able to afford last-minute flights and that these situations will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.
Whaley also said that just under 400 students on campus either have chronic respiratory problems or are immunocompromised. The substantial proportion of students who may be at greater risk due to the spread of COVID-19 contributed to the University’s decisions to move to remote classes and distance learning, Whaley said.
Students have raised concerns about the impact of a sudden move-out date on low-income or housing-insecure students, who may be unable to return home due to cost of travel or other insecurities. A widely circulated petition, which had received over 2,000 signatures at the time of publication, requested that the University not close campus due to concerns about students’ ability to quickly leave campus. Students who met with Whaley also raised concerns regarding the effect of this decision on international students, who have student visas that may be affected.
How coursework will be administered has not been officially determined, Whaley noted, explaining that professors are currently developing methods through which remote classes may operate. Professors will notify their students how their classes will be conducted by March 20, according to Wesleyan’s Health Services COVID-19 website.
The announcement follows escalating measures from University administration over the past several days, including instructions for students from CDC-designated Level 3 countries to self-quarantine upon return to the United States and an announcement that all conference competition for the Spring 2020 athletic season would be cancelled.
“I have always known Wesleyan to be an inventive place that rises to new challenges, and I have every confidence that the remainder of the semester, while taking a much different form than in the past, will be successful,” Roth wrote in the all-campus email. “While it may not diminish any sadness and frustration, it’s important to note that my colleagues and I have searched far and wide for ways to avoid this suspension of in-person classes and campus activities. Realizing that the closeness of our richly interactive community is what makes us more vulnerable to this disease has led us to this unhappy decision. And now, we are determined to find ways to empower student learning while most are away from campus.”
Correction: The petition deadline is still March 18—students will receive responses on a rolling basis, before March 20 at 5pm.
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