A growing list of colleges and universities have announced plans, which may include campus closures and academic transitions from classrooms to online instruction in light of the growing concerns surrounding the coronavirus. These closures include dormitories, which primarily affects low-income students, as well as international students who are studying on student visas and financially unable to return home.
Harvard University announced to their staff and student body via their website that effective March 10 and until further notice, “We will begin transitioning to online instruction for all graduate and undergraduate classes. The goal is to complete this transition by March 23. Students are asked not to return to campus after Spring Recess and to meet academic requirements remotely.”
The school’s site continued, “Students who need to remain on campus for extenuating circumstances will also receive instruction remotely and must prepare for severely limited on-campus activities and interactions.”
Students, however, were still concerned, especially after receiving “an eviction notice” on their dorm room doors, according to a report from the New York Times. “Low-income students wondered whether they could afford to go home. International students had questions about their visas, which usually did not permit online learning,” the report said.
“Harvard expects us to go home,” said one student. “But home for a lot of us is this campus.”
A Harvard student even tweeted on Tuesday, “Harvard wants its entire student body out of campus by March 15th. There are international students. Homeless students. Poor students. Students who can’t go home for a number of reasons. Time & again this campus shows that they only care about their white wealthy students.”
And while she was met with responses pointing to the university stating that students who need to stay at the school “for extenuating circumstances will also receive instruction remotely,” other students noted that they have not yet received instructions with the campus closure date swiftly approaching.
One student replied on Twitter, “The f**king problem is the deadline to move out is Sunday at 5pm at which point they will deactivate entry swipe, and we’ve gotten 0 info on who will be allowed to stay.”
On the contrary, Howard University shared their plan of action, revealing that, they too, will transition to online classes as of March 23. However, the university will not be forcing students to return home at this time.
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.”
“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.
According to the Homeland Security website, international students can “only one online or distance learning class can count toward a full course of study for an F-1 student during each term or semester. No online or distance learning classes may count toward an M-1 or ESL student’s full course of study requirement.”
However, it appears that these rules may be amended in the wake of the unprecedented COVID-19, which is rapidly spreading.