Update, Friday, March 13:
After initially announcing on Wednesday night that students at the University of New Hampshire (UNH) would return to campus after spring break with several exceptions that would result in students needing to self-quarantine for 14 days, President James Dean sent an email to the UNH community on Thursday afternoon with an updated plan. All classes will be entirely online or conducted through other “non-face-to-face” manners of course delivery for two weeks after spring break, until Friday, April 3. Students will be able to return to residence halls on Sunday, April 5 starting at 9 a.m., but housing will be available for those who need it during spring break and the following two-week transition period.
“UNH spring break housing will function as normal beginning Friday, March 13. Those residential students who are unable to go home or travel due to concern for their safety or to avoid the need to self-quarantine can access spring break housing by calling Housing at 862-2120,” the email states.
Additionally, the email states that “[t]hose students that are self-quarantined may not return to campus until the end of the self-quarantine period.”
All student meetings and events, as well as external events held on campus such as admitted student visit days, will also be cancelled until Sunday, April 5. Collegiate and interscholastic athletic events will continue without spectators, in accordance with guidance from the NCAA. Students studying abroad will also be returning to the United States.
Updates from UNH, including information for employees, can be found at https://www.unh.edu/health/health-alerts/coronavirus-covid-19
Late Wednesday night, University of New Hampshire (UNH) President James Dean announced via email to the student body that the university would continue classes as scheduled after spring break, despite discussion about potentially curtailing operations or moving classes online due to the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.
Over 100,000 cases have been confirmed globally by the World Health Organization (WHO). At the time of this writing, WHO stated that five people have tested positive for the illness in the state of New Hampshire with no deaths.
However, even though the university decided to continue classes as scheduled, students who are travelling to COVID-19 hotspots will be required to self-quarantine off-campus for 14 days, according to the email from President Dean.
According to the email, “If you traveled to the following areas over spring break, please remain off campus for 14 days of self-quarantine:
- Anyone who has traveled outside North America including Europe and Asia
- Anyone who has traveled on a cruise ship
- Anyone who has traveled to, visited or spent time in the New York City metro area, Seattle metro area and San Francisco
- Anyone who has travelled to a municipality that has announced active measures to limit community exposure such as closing schools and limiting large gatherings (for example, Westchester and New Rochelle, NY)
- Any student that travels to a U.S. state with more than 100 individuals diagnosed with COVID-19
- Any other location identified by federal and state health officials that is added during spring break.”
Also according to Dean’s email, “Students and other members of our community who are traveling should take with them any devices, textbooks and other critical materials to be able to continue their coursework remotely as well as any personal effects, valuables, medications or other items they may need in the event they need to self-quarantine.”
Amid the announcement, parents and students have taken to social media to discuss the decision. On the UNH Facebook page, many commenters underneath the official announcement expressed their thoughts.
“Having classes resume yet telling half the students they can’t come back after spring break? Setting us up to fail if you ask me,” Julianna Santangelo wrote.
“This is such a long list of possibilities to self-quarantine,” Mackenzie Kalp wrote. “It seems like it would be easier to extend spring break so that everyone stays away from campus after their original spring break plans or immediately switch to online courses once spring break ends. I can also see healthy students, who do not travel, taking advantage of this and not showing up to classes. Obviously as adults they can make that decision, and I’m sure it’s not easy to make these mid-semester schedule change decisions. But with so many restrictions for the self-quarantine it just seems like it’d be easier to have everyone off campus for more than a week’s time.”
With the outbreak, which the WHO confirmed to be a pandemic on Wednesday, numerous states like California and recently Massachusetts declared a state of emergency, and some, such as New York, California and Massachusetts, have closed some public schools and colleges.
Closer to the University of New Hampshire (UNH), Newmarket, NH closed its schools on Monday as a precaution after a middle school staff member was alerted by the CDC to have traveled amongst someone that tested positive for COVID-19. In an interview with WMUR, Susan Givens, the superintendent, gave a statement.
“The staffer had traveled on a bus with a ‘person who was just diagnosed with the coronavirus’ and emphasized that this employee has not been diagnosed with the virus and this is a precautionary measure,” Givens said.
Numerous colleges in New England have already shut their doors for the semester including Harvard University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Emerson College and Suffolk University, have closed their doors for the remainder of the semester, continuing their education online.
Despite the higher risk in the Greater Boston area, numerous colleges in western Massachusetts have shut their doors. Amherst College was the first to shut down and will remain closed for the remainder of the spring semester.
Nic Malecha, a sophomore business administration major, believes that UNH should take extreme precaution after spring break.
“Honestly, I would rather be safe and home than in danger of spreading the virus,” Malecha said. “I’d be disappointed that my education would be so heavily impacted through online classes seeing as I’m a very hands-on person.”
This sentiment is echoed among the student body. Madysen Delosh, an animal science major, is concerned with how the university will handle hands-on land and lab practicals.
“It makes me concerned with having labs and graduating on time next year,” Delosh said.
Senior finance major Nick Stuart expressed numerous concerns and called for the university to curtail in-person classes and events.
“At this point, it makes sense for the UNH administration to cancel in-person classes,” Stuart said before the announcement was made. “Several major universities in New England have already done so to curb the potential exponential growth of COVID-19. With one case being a short bike ride away from campus, it’s not unrealistic to imagine that patient may have had contact with one of UNH’s 12,000 students or hundreds of faculty members that live throughout New England.”
Sophomore exercise science major Mikayla Matos has her qualms about moving classes online as well.
“There are some things that just can’t be learned outside of the classroom,” she said.
Mato’s sentiment is echoed from faculty as well, with Pam Ikegami, a senior lecturer of Japanese language particularly concerned with the possibility of moving online.
“Right now the uncertainty of the situation at UNH is impacting me and the students in my classes,” Ikegami said before Dean’s announcement on Wednesday. “I have received some official emails about how we should all ‘begin planning for how (we) would continue to teach (our) classes after break in the event there is a disruption in classes’ and some notices from the college level about workshops being held about using Zoom, Kaltura and discussion groups in Canvas.’”
At Sunday’s Student Senate meeting, Dean of Students John T. Kirkpatrick included a statement about the outbreak. While the dean stated that the New Hampshire Seacoast area, or Durham specifically, has experienced a single case of coronavirus yet, he said there have been cases in areas like Hanover and Dartmouth, and that older citizens – especially those with pre-existing conditions – are most at risk to suffer from the disease.
The CDC and New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services request that individuals maintain personal hygiene by washing their hands frequently and staying home when sick.
Additional TNH staff writers and editors contributed to the reporting of this story.