A growing number of private colleges and universities in Wisconsin are canceling in-person classes and moving to online teaching as preventative steps to keep the new coronavirus from spreading in the state.
The move comes the day after several University of Wisconsin System schools made changes to how they operate to slow the spread of COVID-19, and the same day Gov. Tony Evers declared a public health emergency in response to the virus.
- Marquette University in Milwaukee will extend spring break from Monday, March 16, through Friday, March 20. During this time in-person classes will be canceled. Beginning Monday, March 23 classes will be moved online until Friday, April 10. Students who live on campus have been directed not to return to campus before April 10. All university sponsored events with more than 50 people are suspended according to a message sent to campus by President Mike Lovell.
- Alverno College in Milwaukee will extend spring break from Monday, March 16, through Friday, March 20. A decision about graduate classes for the evening of March 20 and beyond has yet to be made. During the extended break, faculty will prepare classes to be offered online in the event that in-person courses don’t resume by Tuesday, March 24. College-sponsored travel is being determined on a case-by-case basis according to a campus announcement by Alverno College President Sister Andrea Lee.
- Carthage College in Kenosha will extend spring break from Monday, March 16, through Friday, March 20. During this time no classes will be taught so that faculty can move curriculum online. Beginning Monday, March 23 all undergraduate and graduate classes will be conducted via virtual teaching through at least Thursday, April 9. Students are advised not to return to campus until further notice according to a campus message from Carthage College President John Swallow.
- Cardinal Stritch University in Milwaukee will suspend face-to-face classes from Monday March 16, through Tuesday, March 31. During that time all classes will be offered online. The campus is asking students from Wisconsin, Illinios, Michigan, Indiana and Iowa to return home by Monday, March 16 at the latest according to a message from Cardinal Stritch University President Kathleen Rinehart.
- Lawrence University in Appleton has advised students who have traveled to countries with outbreaks of the novel coronavirus to self isolate off-campus for 14 days upon returning. Students have the option to remain on campus free of charge during spring break running from Thursday, March 19 through Sunday, March 29. Faculty have been advised to prepare for the potential that classes will be moved online according to an announcement by Vice President for Student Life Christopher Card.
- Viterbo University in La Crosse announced Thursday that face to face classes would be suspended starting March 16–20. Classes will begin Monday, March 23 in an online format through April 8.
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On Tuesday, March 10, it was reported that three students from Cardinal Stritch University were placed in isolation after coming into contact with someone who tested positive for the new coronavirus while on spring break. Thursday Rinehart told WPR that all three students tested negative for the virus.
Rinehart said she wished she would have told students to stay put for spring break, but because their break was earlier than most campuses in the state — March 2-7 — no advisories had yet been made.
“If I could have canceled spring break and kept everybody here I would have done so,” she said. “There wasn’t, at that particular point in time, an advisory that would have made that easier to do.”
As Cardinal Stritch moves to online teaching, Rinehard noted that the transforming nature of higher education has prepared campuses to move online, and fast.
“When you hear all of these schools just easily say that they’re all transitioning to online you probably wonder how did they do that so fast. But we’ve been, on all of our campuses, using different types of platforms for quite a while now for that kind of delivery,” she said.
Marquette’s Lovell told students and employees that administrators are evaluating the evolving developments related to the disease despite there being no known cases on campus.
“Nevertheless, the highly contagious character of the virus and the danger it can pose to vulnerable populations demand that, as far as possible, we take precautions to protect all members of our Marquette community and those with whom we come in contact from possible infection,” said Lovell.
Wisconsin’s Public Universities Continue To Update Plans
While several UW System schools announced plans Wednesday to extend campus spring breaks and move instruction online, the state’s public universities continued to update their plans or announce new plans for those who hadn’t acted yet.
- UW-Parkside Chancellor Debbie Ford said Thursday that spring break will begin a week sooner than planned. UW-Parkside’s spring break will now begin Monday, March 16, and conclude Friday, March 27. As of Thursday, UW-Parkside planned to resume instruction Monday, March 30, with all classes being offered online or through alternative means.
- UW-Oshkosh Chancellor Andy Leavitt announced Thursday that all in-person classes at its main campus and branch campuses in Fond du Lac and the Fox Cities will be canceled for the week of March 16. Classes will resume online beginning Monday, March 30. Students are being asked to return to their permanent residences after Friday, March 13.
- UW-Eau Claire Chancellor James Schmidt held a press conference Thursd telling all students and employees that in-person classes would be canceled after the end of the day Friday, March 13 through Friday, March 20. Spring break will then be extended to run from Monday, March 23 Through Friday, April 3. All cultural events with more than 25 attendees will be canceled as will all university travel and study abroad programs in the European Union.
- UW-Milwaukee Chancellor Mark Mone announced Thursday that a UW-Milwaukee Foundation employee who was tested earlier in the week for COVID-19 was not infected. He also told campus all study abroad programs during the spring semester have been canceled. All students living in residence halls have been encouraged to take essential items like laptops, coursework and medications with them during the extended break to avoid trips back and forth to campus.
In-person classes at UW-Madison have been canceled from March 23 until at least April 10, and the university is asking students to stay home, if possible, Chancellor Rebecca Blank announced Wednesday.
On Thursday, students wondered about the fate of their classes and grades as instruction moves online.
Ana Tinder is a sophomore music performance major who is staying on campus, partly because she doesn’t have reliable internet access at home to take her online courses. She said regardless of internet access, she doesn’t see how some music coursework can move online.
“We really depend on meeting with our professors in person, because not only do we take private lessons every week, but we also have chamber rehearsals, we have ensemble rehearsals. We had a huge orchestra concert planned, and that ended up being canceled as well,” she said.
Ava Butler-Piper, a freshman, is going home to Milwaukee, but she said she’s concerned her grades are going to suffer if she’s not in the classroom.
“Personally, I do not learn well through online. I like the person-to-person interaction, the actually learning, hearing what they say, taking down the notes,” she said. “And just doing it on my own, I don’t think I’ll have the motivation or even just the understanding to do it as well.”
Editor’s note: WPR’s Miranda Suarez contributed reporting to this story. This story will be updated.
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