Michigan State scraps in-person undergraduate classes for fall, Notre Dame suspends for 2 weeks
Two more major research universities are walking back plans to resume in-person undergraduate instruction, continuing a rocky rollout for fall reopening plans across higher education.
The University of Notre Dame announced Tuesday afternoon it will suspend in-person classes for almost 12,000 students, moving undergraduate classes online for two weeks while keeping students on campus and giving it a chance to reassess its plans and a rising coronavirus infection rate before classes resume. The announcement came at virtually the same time Michigan State asked undergraduates who had planned to live in residence halls to stay home and that it will transition classes planned for in-person instruction to remote formats.
The changes at Notre Dame come after the university started classes early this year, Aug. 10. Most returning students moved in Aug. 6-9, with first-year students moving in a few days earlier. Since then, the university’s COVID-19 dashboard has shown a rising number of cases, with 147 confirmed cases since Aug. 3 out of a total of 927 tests performed.
“Upon receiving recent results, we began to make plans to send you home and continue instruction online, as we did last spring,” said Notre Dame’s president, Rev. John I. Jenkins, in an announcement streamed online. “We have decided to take steps short of sending students home, at least for the time being, while protecting the health and safety of the campus community.”
Public spaces on campus will be closed, residence halls will be restricted to residents only, and off-campus students will be asked to not come to campus for the two-week period.
The goal is to tame the spread of the virus so that the university can resume in-person instruction. But if the steps aren’t successful, Notre Dame will send students home, Jenkins said.
Michigan State is in a different situation, as it had yet to hold move-in days for undergraduates. Its decision comes less than 10 days before students were slated to move back onto campus by appointment between Aug. 27 and Aug. 31. Both in-person and online instruction was scheduled to begin Sept. 2.
But Michigan State’s president, Samuel L. Stanley, had already started backing away from fall reopening plans. He sent an email to students and parents Aug. 3 saying “if you can live safely and study successfully at home, we encourage you to consider that option for the fall semester" because most first year students would have course schedules that are completely online.
Michigan State's Tuesday announcement came with some exceptions — for graduate programs and those in certain other colleges. Research initiatives will also continue.
"Given the current status of the virus in our country — particularly what we are seeing at other institutions as they re-populate their campus communities — it has become evident to me that, despite our best efforts and strong planning, it is unlikely we can prevent widespread transmission of COVID-19 between students if our undergraduates return to campus," wrote Stanley, who is a physician.
The moves come the day after the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill pulled the plug on in-person classes after just one week. Chapel Hill told students to return home and be ready to complete classes online after a large number of students tested positive for COVID-19 infections last week and the campus’s testing positivity rate spiked to 13.6 percent.
Check back for more developments on this breaking story.
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