UPDATE: 2:39 p.m. ET, March 11 –
Howard University has revealed the in-depth actions they plan to take in response to the outbreak of the coronavirus, which as of Wednesday was declared a global pandemic by the World Health Organization, according to The New York Times.
The Howard University Student Association shared a press release devised by the HBCU’s Executive President Taylor Ellison and the university’s president Dr. Wayne Frederick. “As of March 23 Howard will transition to online classes,” the release stated. “The university is not forcing students to return home at this time.”
Students were also discouraged from international travel.
“Above all else, our main priority is ensuring the University has a plan in place to support students facing financial and geographical obstacles that inhibit their ability to make safe decisions,” the release added.
As the coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to spread, many schools in heavily hit areas are already shutting down in-person classes and events. In New York state alone, schools like New York University, Syracuse University and Columbia University have suspended in-person classes in favor of classes held remotely, according to Business Insider. According to the Center for Disease Control, New York is one of the hardest states hit so far with over 100 coronavirus cases as of Tuesday. With predominately white institutions taking such precautions, it brings to question how historically Black colleges and institutions (HBCUs) are managing the fast growing disease.
As of now, the states hit hardest by the coronavirus — New York, California and Washington state — don’t have a huge concentration of HBCUs. However, the HBCUs that are present in those states are continuing to track the situation. For example, Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science in Willowbrook, California hasn’t canceled classes, but they continue to keep students informed about safety precautions and future events. In a Friday letter, President David M. Carlisle told students, “One decision we have already made, in order to take a responsible leadership position on this issue, is to cancel this year’s Spring Gala. We feel this is a small sacrifice for the greater public health good. There will be additional communications on this topic as the situation proceeds.”
Certain cities across the country have witnessed various cases of the coronavirus including Houston, Texas which has reported at least 12 cases, according to the Houston Chronicle. While places like Rice University have canceled in-person classes, the HBCU Texas Southern University continues to hold classes and is tracking the situation.
“You may be aware that Rice University, which does have a faculty member who contracted COVID-19, cancelled classes for this week,” TSU said in a Monday announcement on their site. “At this time, we do not feel this action is necessary at TSU. Please rest assured that we are prepared to take whatever action(s) necessary to keep our community safe.” They then provided the usual CDC suggestions of washing your hands, staying home if you’re sick and more.
In Wake County, North Carolina, at least five people tested positive for the coronavirus, according to ABC 11. Neither Shaw University nor Saint Augustine’s University in Raleigh, North Carolina have canceled classes. They have posted the CDC’s precautions on their site and said their closely tracking the situation. Saint Augustine’s added:
“SAU has extensive plans in place for handling communicable diseases of concern. Since coronavirus is acting similar to contagious respiratory illnesses, the plans call for increased communications, making sure supplies are stocked if they are needed, and coordination between the university and local and state authorities.”
Coronavirus cases have also risen in Virginia to nine, including two residents in Virginia Beach. Neither Hampton University nor Norfolk State University have announced plans to cancel in-person classes, although both institutions gave the CDC precautions on their site and Norfolk even created a fun video on how to stay healthy during this season.
Along with listing precautionary measures, some universities — such as Howard University in Washington, D.C. — have also suspended all international travel for school. In a statement on their site, Howard explained, “On March 8, Howard University announced the suspension of all University-supported, non-essential international travel for students, faculty, and staff. This includes future group trips, spring break programs and individual travel. It also includes requests for approval of future international travel and remains in place until further notice.”
Clearly, universities across the country are handling the coronavirus in their own way, although most have kept correspondence with their students and listed important information on their site. As the virus continues to spread across the globe, institutions of higher learning will hopefully continue to keep their students and staff updated and safe.