IUP to Postpone Face-to-Face Classes and Return to Campus Due to Coronavirus Concerns

Posted on 3/12/2020 1:19:52 PM

Colleagues,

Thank you for your patience and understanding of the time we have taken to make decisions for our university community in light of mounting concerns of the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19). We know this is a frightening and uncertain time.

As of this writing, Pennsylvania has 21 confirmed or presumptive cases of coronavirus, all in counties on the eastern side of the state. Indiana County and IUP do not have any reported or confirmed cases of the virus.

The many unknowns surrounding this situation make planning very challenging. I had hoped to start all classes, both face-to-face and online, on Monday, March 16, but after assessing our resources and capacity and the guidelines of local, state, national, and international health agencies and experts, we have made the decision that there will be no face-to-face classes until Monday, March 23, to allow time for faculty to restructure those courses to minimize the risk of disease transmission while still meeting educational objectives. 

I am also asking students not to return to campus or return to the residence halls until March 21 or 22. Those classes already delivered on-line will resume as scheduled on Monday, March 16.  Students completing study at off-campus sites should follow the guidance of the host business or organization. In the meantime, we are working with faculty to restructure face-to-face courses and find ways to catch students up on any missed academic work. Some clock-hour programs will resume on March 16 as scheduled; specific communication will be sent to students in these programs.

As I have told students, above all, if you feel ill, please do not return to campus. I have advised students in this situation to reach out to their advisor or class instructor for guidance.

To be clear, the university is not closing. Faculty and staff members will report to work as scheduled to continue efforts to restructure classes and events to follow recommended health guidelines. Business offices continue to be open as scheduled. 

Some students are currently in university housing, and they will be permitted to remain. Staff are taking increased precautions for cleaning and operations in the residence halls and dining facilities. The IUP library will be open, with social distancing measures in place to the fullest extent possible; information about hours and resources will be posted on the website. More information about options for university housing for students will be provided by the Office of the Vice President for Student Affairs.

You may have seen the NCAA announcement that basketball playoffs have been restricted to limit the number in attendance to participants, essential staff, and some family members. Following guidance from state and national officials regarding mass gatherings, we have chosen to cancel, restructure, or reschedule all on-campus events through April 19 that are expected to draw more than 75 people. Specific details will be posted on IUP’s website. 

In making these decisions, we fully acknowledge that there is no perfect solution or any resolution to this issue that will guarantee good health. We have focused on these principles during our discussions: your health and safety and the health and safety of our university community, especially reducing the opportunity for transmission of the virus, and how we continue to provide you with the best possible educational experience.  We respect the decisions made by other colleges and universities in response to this health concern. Those decisions may be best for them. However, our priority is what is best for you and for this university. 

The status of COVID-19 continues to shift rapidly. It is almost impossible to follow and digest the thousands of news reports and updates, which can magnify the concerns that you may feel about your health and safety. Please visit the IUP website and official sources like the Centers for Disease Control or the Pennsylvania Department of Health.

It is our intent to continue operations as scheduled to the best of our ability and within the guidelines offered by national health authorities. This means that we will modify some of our operations and business practices in order to reduce the possibility of transmission of the virus. These steps include:

  • Providing all students and employees with a self-assessment tool to determine your risk for the virus, along with information on symptoms and what to do should you become ill and information on resources we have in place for you. Please watch for this email.

  • Continuing to collaborate with our local health department and local regional medical center for updates and recommendations about the virus. 

  • Working to reduce the size of large face-to-face classes. More information will be provided to you as we finalize these measures.

  • Continuing increased cleaning efforts throughout campus, including in common spaces like classroom buildings, the library and residence halls.

  • Our dining partners are continuing to follow national procedures in all facilities to help to maintain a healthy environment.

  • Following Governor Tom Wolf’s directive prohibiting university-sponsored international travel and out-of-state travel for university business unless determined to be mission critical by the university.

If students return to campus and become ill, we are prepared to keep them isolated and offer food and medical care.

In efforts to contain the spread of the virus, we continue to urge everyone to follow the recommended precautions from the Pennsylvania Department of Health. If you have any questions regarding your health, contact the Health Service office at 724-357-2550 or via email at health-inquiry@iup.edu. After traditional business hours, you can contact the Pennsylvania Department of Health at 1-877-724-3258. 

We will continue to assess the situation on our campus in order to make decisions and take actions that will continue to keep our university community safe. Any updates and new information will be posted on our website. More communications will be coming from Provost Moerland, Vice President for Student Affairs Segar, and others. Information on which offices to contact for specific questions will be posted to our website today.

This is a challenging and unsettling situation. It will continue to test our patience, but I am confident that the strength and caring of our community will carry us through. Please continue to protect yourself and those around you.  

Michael A. Driscoll
President