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UNH suspends in-person classes

Photo courtesy of Emily Duggan

At 7:05 p.m. on March 18, President James W. Dean Jr. informed the University of New Hampshire (UNH) student body that all in-person classes will be cancelled for the remainder of the spring semester due to COVID-19.  

In a lengthy email, Dean outlined how the decision was guided for the UNH administration, citing “the safety and well-being of our faculty” as the principal cause for the cancellation.  

For the vast majority of students, faculty and staff, this means continuing to work remotely in order to provide a successful completion of the spring semester for UNH students.  

President Dean and administration made this decision to significantly reduce the population density of the campus, as well as the town of Durham in order to better slow the spread of COVID-19. At the time of writing, New Hampshire has 39 confirmed cases of coronavirus, according to New Hampshire Public Radio.  

President Dean outlined answers to numerous frequently asked questions regarding the closing. Outlined are the University of New Hampshire’s current official responses.  

Is the university closing? 

“UNH is not closing,” the email read. “UNH has suspended all in-person classes for the remainder of the spring semester, extending the previously announced two-week transition to non-face-to-face, remote learning. To the extent possible, faculty and staff are working remotely in order to reduce the density of people on campus and enhance social distancing. Offices will continue to provide student services via web and phone. A number of on-campus facilities are closing, including student housing, with approved exceptions for exceptional circumstances only.” 

University faculty have continued to work on a limited basis. UNH Dining has continued to operate Stillings Dining Hall with limited hours for students remaining on campus. Though subject to change, the dining hall is open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Sunday.  

Numerous faculty advisors have cancelled in-person advising, opting for over-the-phone meetings.  

Will I receive a refund for room and board for the rest of the semester? 

“Please know that we recognize the financial impact on students and families and we are working on refunding room and board costs on a pro-rata basis for the remainder of the year for all students leaving campus and completely vacating housing at the request of the university. Adjustments will be posted to the student’s existing account and will reduce the amount owed. If the adjustment results in a credit balance, students will be informed on how to receive refunds. Additional information on account adjustments will be made available by April 15,” the email said.  

Adjustments will be made on a case by case basis to UNH students based on their lost time in housing. President Dean did not specify if meal plans will be included, and how that will be handled should the university reimburse for swipes.  

How and when can I come back to my campus housing? 

“Undergraduate and graduate students should not return to Durham or Manchester campus housing after Spring Break. All students residing in housing on the Manchester or Durham campuses will be contacted to make arrangements to move their belongings out of their residence hall or campus-owned apartment,” Dean wrote. 

Michael Adams, a sophomore from the University of Massachusetts Lowell outlined the move-out process he experienced for UMass Lowell.  

“They staggered everybody for separate move out times for the next two weeks to minimize the number of students on campus at once,” Adams said. “Every building has the same time slots, so the university limits the number of students in each building during certain time slots.”  

It is unclear how the UNH will handle move-out for its students, however, it is highly likely they will follow universities of similar size in staggering move-outs in order to limit students on campus, a stark contrast from their standard move-in and move-out processes.  

How long will remote work for faculty and staff continue? 

“It is expected to continue to the end of the semester. Regular communications will be sent to your UNH email address to update the timeline. Please watch for updates. All UNH campuses will identify personnel who need to report to work and ask all others to work remotely until further notice,” the email said. 

Will there be commencement ceremonies? 

“UNH is reviewing contingency plans for university events and activities with health and safety as the top priority. No decision has been made yet,” Dean wrote.  

UNH will continue to provide updates to its students, staff and faculty as information develops. Given the fluid nature of the situation, this information is subject to change.  

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