WVU not to hold in-person classes rest of semester, shuts down campus

WVU President E. Gordon Gee sent a letter to the university community assuring them campus is...
WVU President E. Gordon Gee sent a letter to the university community assuring them campus is still safe after two shootings in as many days. (Photo: WDTV)(WDTV)
Published: Mar. 18, 2020 at 6:11 PM EDT
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West Virginia University and its divisional campuses in Keyser and Beckley will not hold in person classes through the rest of the semester in response to the threat of COVID-19.

According to a news release from WVU, all employees- except for those needed to keep online operations running and a select few others- have to work from home. Residence halls will remain shuttered.

“It is clear the pace of this pandemic will only continue to grow across the United States,” President Gordon Gee said. “Our medical experts share that there is little chance of it slowing down – unless we quickly and accurately implement measures that can impede the community spread and ‘flatten the curve.’”

The University previously extended spring break a week,and, effective March 30, ordered almost all classes to move to alternative delivery, primarily online, along with closing residence halls and University apartments, prohibiting students from returning to campus until notified, the news release states.

However, as the coronavirus has spread, public health officials suggested the pandemic may last well past the scheduled end of the semester, WVU officials say.

WVU Board of Governors unanimously approved the recommendation at a special emergency meeting Wednesday.

“This was a carefully considered decision, but in the end is the only responsible one in the face of this worldwide pandemic,” Board Chair David Alvarez said. “Our state looks to WVU for leadership, and faced with the facts, there was no other choice. Our community’s safety and well-being come before everything.”

Gee announced the decision and changes in a letter to the WVU community.

The plan for students, faculty and staff includes:

- For the remainder of the semester, all classes, except some clinical rotations and related programming for certain programs at the Health Sciences Center, will be delivered in an alternative format beginning March 30.

- Courses that were fully online at the beginning of the semester should continue to follow the original syllabus.

- Students should not return to campus, however if they lack a safe housing alternative, a limited number of rooms will be available.

- Students with dining plans, or who currently live in the residence hall or apartment system, will receive a credit as a result of our moving to the period of no in-class instruction. Details will be provided in the coming days.

- A coordinated move-out will be scheduled and announced later.

With limited exceptions, all campus buildings will be locked and closed to the public at the close of business Friday.

- All libraries, with the exception of the Health Sciences Library, will be closed, as will the Student Recreation Center and the PRT. (Mountain Line buses will continue to run.) The Mountainlair will have limited hours for those who need to access The Rack food pantry.

- All supervisors were directed to maximize the number of employees who are to work from home effective no later than Friday, March 20. Only employees deemed critical to the alternative method of class instruction, or the safety and maintenance of the University whose responsibilities require them to be on campus will be permitted.

- A special emergency leave plan was adopted for instances where an alternative work arrangement is not possible.

- All international and domestic travel continues to be banned. Personal travel will require adhering to current guidelines regarding self-monitoring and self-quarantining.

WVU is still considering whether commencement will be held. The University expects to announce the decision by March 25.

Dean of Students Corey Farris emphasized in a letter the need for students to remain away from campus.

“I am asking for your help,” Farris said. “If you are in Morgantown, we ask that you return home, and if you are at home, please remain there and be ready to begin online classes on Monday, March 30.

Gee noted that a wide variety of resources for faculty, staff and students can be found online, including information about tutoring, mental health counseling, library access, as well as online teaching and learning tips.

Gee also reminded all to follow the advice of health professionals, including frequent washing of hands and social distancing to help stem the spread of the disease.

“Finally, I know in the coming days, many of you will experience a myriad of emotions, including being frustrated and even a little sad that you are not able to complete the semester as planned,” Gee said. “I can assure you, that I, along with the entire campus community, share that sentiment.

“However, I am reassured by the fact that the world’s best scientific minds and public health authorities are hard at work trying to understand COVID-19 and how to address its life-threatening symptoms. And as a University, we are doing everything possible to respond aggressively and thoughtfully in the best interest of our West Virginia University family.”