UW Oshkosh to close campuses; will move to ‘alternative’ teaching methods

Joseph Schulz, Managing Editor

UW Oshkosh announced this morning that it’s canceling all campus events effective immediately and is canceling classes on the Fond du Lac, Fox Cities and Oshkosh campuses for the week of March 16 in response to the coronavirus.

The announcement came in a university-wide email from Chancellor Leavitt on March 12. The email adds that courses will be delivered through “alternative methods” beginning on March 30.

Leavitt added that more information regarding how classes will be delivered will be available in the coming weeks, and that students are encouraged to regularly check their email for updates.

“In the event that we can restart on-campus classes, we will communicate with you at least five calendar days in advance of the start date,” he wrote.

The email asked students to leave their residence halls and return to their permanent residences after classes end Friday.

Leavitt encouraged students to take as many of their personal belongings as they can, especially medications, coursework and computers.

Some students will be unable to return home, specifically international students and students who cannot access online classes at their permanent residences, the email noted.

“Residence halls will remain available to these students,” Leavitt wrote. “However, we ask and expect the majority of residence hall students to return home, helping our remaining students maintain social distance.”

The total number of confirmed cases around the world surpassed 100,000 as of March 7, according to the World Health Organization, which on Wednesday declared the crisis a pandemic. Worldwide, over 4,000 people have died from the disease, according to USA Today.

In the United States there have been 800 confirmed cases and 27 deaths as of Tuesday, according to The New York Times.

On Wednesday, the state Department of Health Services announced that a sixth case of coronavirus has been confirmed in Wisconsin. Two of those cases were reported in Fond du Lac County, according to a press release.

The number of cases in Wisconsin is likely to increase. On Tuesday, UW-Milwaukee Chancellor Mark A. Mone announced that the school is extending its spring break and preparing to move the majority of its classes online because an employee was tested Monday for COVID-19.

On Wednesday, UW Madison announced that it would suspend face-to-face instruction starting March 23.

UW-La Crosse, UW-Green Bay, UW-Stout, UW-Stevens Point and UW-Superior also announced that they will be suspending face-to-face instruction after spring break as well.

In an email Wednesday, Chancellor Andrew Leavitt said UWO is monitoring the situation and will make a decision on instruction soon, as UWO’s spring break falls one week later than other campuses.

As students prepare for spring break, Leavitt warned against non-essential international and domestic travel over break.

“With the number of COVID-19 cases rising rapidly both in the United States and internationally, you may face a higher risk of infection, significant delays in returning to campus and/or the expectation to self-isolate upon your return,” Leavitt wrote in an email Tuesday. “Should you decide to travel to a level 3 area, you will be expected to self-isolate for 14 days, even if you do not exhibit symptoms. All people returning from spring break outside of our communities are required to self-monitor (for fever, cough and difficulty breathing) for 14 days.”

UWO recently developed a webpage where students can find links to information, local resources, travel advisories and internal messages related to the coronavirus outbreak.

COVID-19 causes cold or flu-like symptoms in humans and animals and is spread through close personal contact, coughing and sneezing or by touching surfaces with the virus on them and then touching the mouth, nose or eyes, the website said.

It adds that “there have been no confirmed cases of COVID-19 on any UWO campus.” The university has also activated a committee to monitor and address the situation.

“We are continuously monitoring the situation and taking steps as directed by the CDC and local, state and regional public health officials,” the webpage reads.

University Police Lt. Trent Martin and Student Health Center Director Karen Sanchez are representing UWO on the UW System Emergency Operations Committee, according to a March 3 email to all university personnel from Leavitt.

The team relays information to UWO leadership covering response recommendations for educational institutions, travel advisories, reported cases and how to stay safe to stop the spread of the virus, the email added.

“Our main concern is your safety,” Leavitt wrote. “We are monitoring information and recommendations from health agencies at the local, state and national level and we will continue to keep you informed.”

On Sunday, Provost John Koker emailed faculty members a “Continuity of Instruction Plan” that said instructors should develop contingency plans for dealing with class disruption due to a potential COVID-19 outbreak.

The email encouraged faculty to read a statement to their classes that said: “In the event of disruption of normal classroom activities due to a coronavirus outbreak, information pertaining to the completion of this course will be emailed to all students. It is possible that the format for this course may be modified to enable completion of the course. In that event, you will be provided an addendum to the course syllabus.”

Koker added that he is working with faculty and staff to develop resources to help instructors finish classes online “in the event of a major disruption, including a closure of campus for several weeks.”

For updates as they happen visit uwosh.edu/studenthealth/coronavirus.
Editor’s Note: This story was updated to include information from other UW System schools and the closing of UW Oshkosh campuses the week of March  16.


Courtesy of the CDC
In the United States, there have been 800 confirmed cases of and 27 deaths as of Tuesday, according to The New York Times.