UPDATE, 8:25 p.m.:
URBANA — The University of Illinois has announced that it will shift to online classes after spring break.
Courses will continue as usual Thursday and Friday, but beginning March 23, "face-to-face courses will be cancelled," an announcement from Chancellor Robert Jones and Vice Chancellor Andreas Cangellaris said.
Residence and dining halls will remain open. Students will have the option of studying remotely from home or from their campus residence after spring break.
The transition to online classes "will continue until further notice," a separate announcement from the UI System said, "but our expectation is that it will be temporary."
The UI also announced that beginning Friday, it is suspending events that are university-sponsored or hosted by registered student organizations with more than 50 attendees.
The Engineering and ACES Open Houses, Siblings Weekend and Moms Weekend have already been cancelled, and Commencement could be.
“The University has not yet made this decision,” the UI said about Commencement.
CHAMPAIGN — While it’s business as usual for now, the University of Illinois is exploring the possibility of having to shift to holding classes online due to the coronavirus pandemic.
In a massmail to the UI community, McKinley Health Center Director Robert Parker wrote: “As you know, other universities have announced alternatives to in-person classes for their students. We are continuing to look at a variety of options for delivering classroom instruction, in the event that face-to-face instruction needs to be suspended.”
Indiana University, Harvard, Ohio State, Columbia, Princeton and colleges in hard-hit California and Washington state have already announced shifts to online classes.
The UI’s College of Liberal Arts and Science sent a message to its instructors this week, encouraging them to start thinking about how they’d teach remotely.
“We’re just asking people to start preparing for that possibility,” said Brad Petersen, the college’s spokesman. “And start thinking about basic things like, do you have the equipment you need to do this remotely? The campus does have a license with (video conferencing company) Zoom, so that is one option folks could use.”
On the athletics side, the NCAA is still “planning to conduct our championships as planned,” COO Donald Remy said, including next week’s college basketball tournaments. “However, we are evaluating the COVID-19 situation daily and will make decisions accordingly.”
In Parker’s message, he advised those traveling for spring break to check with the CDC and State Department for travel advisories, noting that students returning from CDC Level 2 or 3 countries will be required to self-quarantine for 14 days before they can return to campus.
“The safety level of any given destination could change before or during your trip, making it difficult to return to campus by the March 23 resumption of classes,” Parker wrote.
For students leaving over spring break, Parker said, “we strongly advise that you take with you everything that you would need to continue your studies if the decision was made to suspend in-person classes.”
The UI also urged students studying abroad in Europe to leave the continent. It had already required students in Italy to leave.
“The incidences of coronavirus across Europe continue to increase. Given these circumstances, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign strongly advises that students reconsider studying abroad in Europe and return to the United States,” the UI’s international safety and security office wrote.
“However, the University is not suspending programs at this time and is not requiring students to depart their program.”
The UI’s Facilities and Services department said Tuesday that it is taking proactive steps to keep classrooms and campus buildings clean.
Its workers will transition from routine cleaning to disinfecting twice daily.
“The cleaning of any visibly dirty surfaces will remain emphasized as part of the continued response to this emerging public health concern, followed by disinfection as a best-practice measure for the prevention of COVID-19 and other viral respiratory illnesses,” F&S Executive Director Mohamed Attalla said.
And while there aren’t yet any confirmed cases in Champaign-Urbana, its threat has led to the postponement of at least one event on campus.
The Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology postponed a symposium scheduled for late March celebrating the 50th anniversary of the discovery of the enzyme Rubisco.
“The symposium organizing committee, in consultation with university administration, have decided that it is prudent and necessary to postpone the Rubisco Oxygenase Symposium due to the COVID-19 situation,” the symposium’s website stated. “We are currently looking into new dates for the symposium for Fall 2020.”