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Westminster postpones in-person classes until end of month

Westminster postpones in-person classes until end of month
Westminster College announced Thursday it would be postponing classes until the end of the month, just one day after it announced it would cancel all May Term domestic and international travel that is sponsored by the school. (Lewis Figun Westbrook)

Westminster College administration announced it will be postponing in-person classes until Friday, March 27. The school will reassess conditions after that date to make further decisions.

“Although our small classes and compact campus give us flexibility in responding to the outbreak, recent reports suggest that the coronavirus is likely to spread widely and rapidly,” said President Beth Dobkin in an email sent to the school. “We are increasingly concerned about the ways that our families, friends and loved ones may be affected.”

Students are being asked to not return to campus after Spring break.

The administration acknowledged this is not possible for all students, so it will be making accommodations for residential students. However, on-campus services will be limited throughout the month.

“We will make campus accommodations available to these students, as well as assist students who need access to their belongings,” President Dobkin said.

Online instruction will proceed remotely as of Monday, March 23 — giving students and faculty an extended week of break.

“We realize the anxiety and disruption caused by these changes,” President Dobkin said. “[We] appreciate your patience, flexibility, and diligence in responding to this pandemic, as well as your creativity and collaboration in meeting the needs of our students.”

This comes one day after administration announced Wednesday it will be cancelling non-essential domestic and international May Term  Study Experiences  and  spring  graduate trips that is sponsored by the school.

The reason behind the suspension is concern surrounding the outbreak of COVID-19, or the coronavirus.

Any exceptions to business-related college travel — whether it’s domestic or international — must be approved by a student’s supervisor with approval at the cabinet level.  

May Term trips cancelled

The cancellation of the May Term Experience trips has raised concerns among some students, especially those who are depending on the credits to graduate by the summer.

“The college knows the significant effect these cancelations have on our students and professors and is working through those impacts,” the college said in an email. “Such as arranging for alternative ways to fulfill course requirements.”

Students and professors planning to go on these May Term trips were notified hours ahead of the campus-wide announcement. In terms of refunding, recoverable expenses can be reimbursed to students and professors.

However, for expenses that were paid on their behalf that were non-refundable may not be reimbursed. Those cases will be determined and can be further discussed with the provost and dean of students, according to an email by the Department of Global Learning.

Students returning from international Spring break trips

Westminster released guidelines for students who traveled internationally during Spring break.

Students who traveled to places such as Japan, Italy, South Korea, Iran or China should report their trips to Student Health Services before returning to campus.

If students think they are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, they are instructed to not come to campus and to seek medical care immediately.

Other coronavirus concerns on campus

Events on campus will be cancelled through March 27. After that, events at Westminster will be closely monitored, with crowds being capped at 50 people.

Travel related to athletic events will be considered on a case-by-case basis by the athletic director and college president. However, attendance to these events is restricted by NCAA recommendations.

In case of an outbreak on campus, students who live in residence halls can participate in the school’s quarantine plan that includes on-campus housing spaces and food services.

As of Wednesday, the campus confirmed there are no COVID-19 cases on campus. Administration said campus is open and classes will continue as scheduled.

Students respond

Several students responded to the news, with some disappointed they’d be missing out on exciting opportunities.

Diana Khosrovi, a senior public health major, said she was planning to travel to the University of Oxford in England and Johns Hopkins University in Maryland for two different conferences. However, they were both postponed or cancelled.

Other students say they are worried about completing requirements for their degrees, like fulfilling clinical hours for nursing majors.

Tabitha Edson, a sophomore studying public health, said she was planning on attending the May Term trip to India, where she would engage in service learning. She said while she was looking forward to the trip and she’s disappointed it’s postponed, she understands the reasoning behind it.

“Overall, I think there is a lot of panic about COVID-19, which I understand,” Edson said in an email. “It is a new virus, and there are a lot of things that are unknown about it. I have heard that a lot of people think that school closures and travel bans are an overreaction, but I understand where these policies are coming from.”

Edson said missing the trip won’t affect her graduation, but she hopes the money she spent will be mostly refundable. She also said the news happened suddenly, with students planning to travel being notified Wednesday.

“I wish that there would have been more communication from trip leaders about possible cancellations due to COVID-19,” she said. “But I understand that things are changing very fast every day with the virus.”

The World Health Organization officially defined the virus as a pandemic, making it the first to be caused by a coronavirus. WHO also stated it was the first pandemic that “can be controlled,” according to its Twitter page.

Coronavirus in Utah

As of Wednesday, Utah has three confirmed cases of the virus in the state.

Additionally, two Utah Jazz players tested positive for the virus, causing the NBA to cancel its season until further notice.

This caused state officials to warn Utahns against the spread of the virus. Governor Gary Herbert declared a state of emergency in Utah March 6, with Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall declaring a local state of emergency Tuesday.

Following those announcements, the University of Utah announced it would cancel classes for the rest of the semester to be completed remotely. It is currently unknown whether Westminster will make the same decision.

As of March 6, McConnell-Black said in an email that if students are exposed to the virus they are encouraged to seek medical care and report the exposure to Student Health Services.

“In case there is an outbreak on-campus or in Utah, we encourage you take home course materials in order to complete the semester remotely,” he said.

Other Utah schools

Westminster isn’t the first school in Utah to take precautions in regards to the coronavirus. Other schools are cancelling classes and suspending student trips in response to the outbreak.

University of Utah

The University announced Thursday morning all classes would be cancelled and moved to an online format.

The news was announced to some students individually through emails from professors a day before the official announcement. Online classes are slated to begin March 16, when students return from Spring break, until the end of the semester.

Advising appointments will also take place over the phone rather than in person.

The school said the decision was made to stop the spread of the virus.

Southern Utah University

*Update 1:10 p.m.: Southern Utah University announced all classes will be temporarily moved to online instruction starting March 23 until April 23.

SUU previously announced March 2 it would end its study abroad program to Italy, according to the Deseret News.

With the end of that program, SUU arranged for the 33 students and three faculty members to return to the U.S. Administrators said they made the decision to avoid potential exposure and travel restrictions, according to a statement from the university.

Utah State University

*Update 1:10 p.m.: Utah State University announced it would move its academic courses online beginning Wednesday, March 18. The move will cause the school to cancel classes for a week to give professors time to move their courses online.

USU is also taking precautions, canceling or postponing campus events through April 8, 2020. As of now, this does not include graduation ceremonies which are scheduled for April 30 and May .

Administration also cancelled all domestic and international travel through the university through the same date.

Brigham Young University

Brigham Young University also suspended travel to China, Italy, Mongolia and South Korea for all its students and employees until further notice, according to the school’s website. All current education programs in these areas have either been cancelled or relocated.

The Utah County Health Department confirmed someone diagnosed with COVID-19 attended a BYU basketball game Feb. 22. The person had a mild case and the risk of infection was low, according to the health department.

The health department reached out to the spectators they believe were put at risk, saying the spread of infection was a low possibility.

Utah Valley University

*Update 1:10 p.m.: Utah Valley University announced the school is a Code Yellow, moving “most courses” online effective March 23.

As of March 10, UVU sent out emails to students and faculty encouraging them to not travel internationally over Spring break. The university has a five-level alert system in place with descriptions of how serious the outbreak is and how the school is handling it.

Weber State University

Update 1:10 p.m.: Weber State University announced it would be moving its classes online “in an effort to slow or prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus” beginning March 13, according to the school Twitter page.

WSU cancelled all university-related student trips to countries with a CDC Level Three health notice based on COVID-19.

The university also echoes the CDC in asking those who have traveled to countries with this Level Three risk to stay at home for 14 days and to “practice social distancing upon their return,” according to a statement from the school.

Salt Lake Community College

Salt Lake Community College announced it would be move its classes online at the direction of Gov. Gary Herbert. Classes will be held online for the rest of the semester, until May 7 to “allow for increased social distancing in light of #COVID19,” according to the school’s Twitter page.

Snow College

Update 1:10 p.m.: Snow College announced its response to the COVID-19 Community Task Force Recommendations.

The college said it will hold regular classes through March 20. After spring break, the school will cancel classes March 30 and 31 — moving classes online effective April 1.

Classes will then be conducted online for the rest of the semester.

The school also announced it will cancel or reschedule all college-sponsored large gatherings though April 30. It will also restrict international and domestic travel, as well as in-state travel to large gatherings.

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Cami Mondeaux
Cami Mondeaux is a junior communication major with a minor in sociology. Cami got her start as a reporter for the City Journals and spent two separate semesters interning at KSL NewsRadio and KUER 90.1 NPR Utah. She now works as a digital content producer for KSL NewsRadio and hopes to one day report on national politics. Cami is excited to bring her skills to The Forum for a second year on staff.

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