Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Coronavirus

Coronavirus has many universities turning to online instruction, sending students away from campus

March 10, 2020
Harvard, Princeton are among the colleges urging students not to return to campus after spring break.

A growing number of colleges and universities have announced temporary shifts to virtual classes in recent days in response to the uncertainty and rapid pace of changes with the covid-19 outbreak.

The Washington Post reports that many universities have upended academic traditions in an effort to protect health on campus in the face of an uncertain threat.

Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass., has advised its students not to return to campus after spring break and to expect to complete classwork remotely until further notice in an effort to avoid the spread of covid-19.

“Harvard College students will be required to move out of their houses and first-year dorms as soon as possible and no later than Sunday, March 15,” at 5 p.m., Rakesh Khurana, the dean of Harvard College told students Tuesday.

“We realize that leaving campus at short notice will be challenging for some of you,” he wrote.

Students at Amherst College in Amherst, Mass., are being told to leave campus by next Monday as the school switches to online instruction in an attempt to slow the spread of coronavirus.

“We know that many people will travel widely during spring break, no matter how hard we try to discourage it,” says the school’s president, Biddy Martin. “The risk of having hundreds of people return from their travels to the campus is too great. The best time to act in ways that slow the spread of the virus is now. Let me make our decisions clear.”

Classes will be canceled Thursday and Friday, and remote learning will begin after spring break March 23 so students can complete coursework off campus. The campus will remain open and faculty and staff will continue with normal schedules, but students are expected to leave within days.

Classes at Princeton University in Princeton, N.J., will be held online, and students are being encouraged to consider staying home after spring break, the school’s president announced.

“While much remains unknown about COVID-19’s epidemiology and impact, our medical advisers tell us that we should proceed on the assumption that the virus will spread more broadly and eventually reach our campus,” says the university’s president, Christopher L. Eisgruber. “They also tell us that the best time to put in place policies to slow the spread of the virus is now, before we begin to see cases on our campus, rather than later.”

Some colleges have closed temporarily to disinfect buildings and some moved rapidly to virtual instruction. Columbia University in New York City canceled classes Monday and Tuesday in preparation for a shift to online classes.

Stanford University in Stanford, Calif., and the University of Washington in Seattle announced a switch to virtual classes for the remainder of the winter quarter, and Rice University in Houston plans online-only classes this week.

Vanderbilt University in Nashville canceled classes for the rest of this week and plans to begin online instruction next Monday, continuing through the end of the month. But that might extend for the remainder of the spring semester if necessary, school officials say.

New York University announced that online classes for its New York City campus would begin Wednesday and continue after spring break at least through March 27, along with other restrictions on travel and gatherings on campus.

Fordham University has announced that all face-to-face instruction is being suspended on its New York campuses, and students were encouraged to return home. Beginning Wednesday, classes will be taught online.

Students who cannot return home can stay in their residence halls, the university’s president wrote in a message, and one dining hall will remain open on each campus.


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