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Coronavirus Response: Count of Campus Closures Continues to Rise

woman flipping over closed sign

Futurist and Georgetown University faculty member Bryan Alexander has already compiled a Google sheet of more than a hundred colleges, universities and institutes that have chosen to close in the face of coronavirus (COVID-19). According to his continually updated list, institutions large and small, public and private, two-year and four-year are canceling classes for the foreseeable future to reduce the likelihood of face-to-face interactions as much as possible.

The ever-expanding list currently runs from A (the Academy of Art University in San Francisco) to Y (New York City's Yeshiva University). Among the names included are these:

  • In California, the Universities of California in Berkeley, Santa Cruz and Los Angeles, as well as the California State Universities in San Jose and San Francisco;
  • Indiana University;
  • Kentucky's Berea College;
  • Maryland's Johns Hopkins University, Loyola University, McDaniel College, the Notre Dame of Maryland University, Hood College, St. John's College, Stevenson University;
  • Massachusetts's Harvard University, Amherst College and Wheaton College;
  • Montana State University;
  • New Jersey's Princeton, Rowan, Rutgers Monmouth and Montclair State Universities and the Stevens Institute of Technology;
  • New York's Barnard College and Columbia, Fordham and New York Universities;
  • North Carolina's Duke University;
  • Ohio State University;
  • Pennsylvania's Chestnut Hill College;
  • Tennessee's Vanderbilt University;
  • Vermont's Middlebury College;
  • Washington's University of Washington and South Seattle College, along with Green River College, Everett Community College, Seattle Pacific University, Cascadia College and DigiPen Institute of Technology; and
  • Washington, D.C.'s Georgetown University.

In some cases, the institutions are simply taking advantage of spring break; in others they're extending spring breaks, to encourage students to stay away from campus. In a few places, schools are requesting that students stay on campus to prevent them from having to travel. Many, though not all, are moving courses as quickly as possible to online formats and encouraging faculty and students to continue their studies that way. Where courses can't be easily moved online, such as performing arts, some universities are allowing a subset of classes to continue meeting.

According to Alexander's coverage, only one institution — Amherst College — had committed to teaching online at least until May. Fifteen are planning to continue virtual courses into April. The others have shifted to online-only during March. One school, Vanderbilt, has canceled classes until the end of March and then will move to online instruction.

The pace of closures and the near-instant embrace of all-things-virtual have spurred a group of U.S. Senate Democrats to express their concerns to the U.S. Department of Education. Yesterday, 33 senators signed a letter addressed to Secretary Betsy DeVos, asking her for "timely response" to 14 questions regarding education's response to coronavirus. Among the issues they asked her to address were figuring out how to help families that lack home computers and/or access to high-speed internet so they could "take advantage of online educational options"; ensuring that courses were accessible to students with disabilities; and making sure that the level of instruction being delivered included "regular and substantive interaction" with instructors.

"Online education is not the best or preferred method of learning for many students, including students who may be the first in their families to go to college or come from low-income families," the senators wrote. "If the [institutions of higher education] move to providing education online, we urge the Department to prioritize and ensure students continue to receive a high-quality education, including live, face-to-face, synchronous instruction between students and faculty as much as possible."

COVID-19 Resources for Higher Ed

A slew of resources has been made available to guide colleges and universities in their response to the virus.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.

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