Michael Mattox via shutterstock
From UConn’s main campus in Storrs (Michael Mattox via shutterstock)

HARTFORD, CT – Higher education officials are shutting down campuses all over Connecticut and moving their classrooms online to help slow the spread of COVID-19.

Universities are concerned that their students and staff may have already come in contact with individuals infected with coronavirus in their travels, and they are further concerned about where students may be heading on spring break, including the possibility that they’ll return as carriers.

The University of Connecticut will transition to online-only courses on March 23. The online-only courses will last through at least April 6.

“The provost and deans will work with their faculty to develop individualized accommodation plans for courses such as labs, law clinics, internships and clinical placements that are not amenable to online delivery,” UConn President Thomas Katsouleas said.

Katsouleas stressed that students who are able to remain home after spring break are encouraged to do that. For those who don’t have that option and must return to campus, Student Affairs & Residential Life is available to assist them.

A dining facility along with other essential services will open, according to Katsouleas.

At a virtual town hall hosted on Thursday, school officials informed students and staff that they were closing the UConn-Stamford campus and the School of Law. The decision was also made to recall all UConn students participating in programs abroad.

Officials at Trinity College in Hartford said it plans to transition to remote online learning from March 23 to April 5, the two weeks following the school’s spring break.

Students are expected to leave campus by March 16. Trinity College President Joanne Berger-Sweeney said she understands that some, like international students, are unable to do so and asked they fill out a permission form to stay on campus before Friday.

Berger-Sweeney said they will also prohibit any gathering on campus with more than 50 individuals through April 5.

The college’s 2020 spring athletics season was also cancelled.

Fairfield University employed a similar approach Wednesday, migrating all programs and courses to online instruction beginning on March 16 and lasting until March 29.

“By acting now, before our students return from spring break, we are seeking to do our part to contribute to the preventative measures necessary for public health and wellness,” President Mark R. Nemec said.

Sacred Heart University in Fairfield followed similar precautions, announcing Monday plans to move all courses online for, at minimum, a period stretching from March 11 to March 29.

An exception was made for clinical placements and laboratories so long as proper safety measures continue to be met.

“While we are doing our best to limit clinical labs, we also want to ensure that students are able to effectively finish their programs of study in a timely manner. In-person clinicals are necessary for graduation and licensing, and we don’t want to put those in jeopardy if we can avoid it,” Sacred Heart President John J. Petillo said in his announcement.

While recommending that students return home, Petillo said all academic support services, residences and dining halls, recreational services will remain open for those who choose to stay.
Campus tours and athletic events will continue as planned for the time being, according to Petillo.

Connecticut State Colleges and Universities President Mark Ojakian directed the state’s four universities and twelve community colleges to move all classes to an online-only format from March 23 to at least April 5.

All university residence halls will be closed as well until April 5, but Ojakian said he is working on contingency plans for students who were planning to stay on-campus.

“The universities will help find new accommodations for students who were planning to remain in the residence halls during spring break,” Ojakian promised.

On Monday, University of New Haven President Stephen Kaplan suspended all in-person classes, exams, and athletic events from March 14 through March 24. Residence halls will also be closed during this time with contingency plans for students to follow.

Kaplan said the decision was made “after learning that individuals on our campus may have been exposed to a confirmed case of the virus after attending an out-of-state conference.”

School officials at the University of Hartford canceled classes Friday, March 13, and will resume classes March 30 in an online format.

A memo clarified that a final decision about maintaining classes online beyond April 5 will be announced by March 27.

All students are expected to leave campus by 5 p.m. Friday, March 13. The university’s residential life team will remain on-hand to assist any students who are unable to leave by helping with forms and accomodations. 

Some universities in the state appear to have taken more drastic, and long-lasting, measures to combat the growing threat of coronavirus.

Wesleyan University in Middletown made the decision on Wednesday to suspend in-person classes for the remainder of the spring semester and transition all classes to distance learning models.

Wesleyan also suspended all athletics and on-campus events such as student plays or productions.

“I know it’s painful. Because students come here not just for the books, not just for the games or lectures, they come to Wesleyan for the experience of being together on campus. But being together right now is what makes it dangerous to be on campus,” President Michael S. Roth said in his announcement.

Roth stressed his sympathy for all Wesleyan students, but particularly those from international countries or low-income families who rely on the campus as their primary residence.

“We will make arrangements for those students who need to stay on campus for non-academic reasons,” Roth promised.

Quinnipiac University in Hamden also made the decision Tuesday to move all spring semester classes online, starting on March 18.

“Eliminating in-person classroom instruction is an important step to minimize potential pathways for community spread of COVID-19 within our QU community,” the school’s website said.

Quinnipiac students will be able to return to campus starting on March 22, but the announcement stressed that this is a voluntary decision to be made by students and their families.

Yale University President Peter Salovey announced Tuesday that it also planned to move all undergraduate and graduate classes online following the school’s return from spring recess on April 5.

Salovey asked that students make every effort possible to return home and set a provisional date for ideal departure from Yale’s New Haven campus as Sunday, March 15.