By Matthew Muir | Staff Writer
Baylor has made the unprecedented decision to cancel in-person classes for the remainder of the spring semester Monday as the university tries to stay ahead of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The announcement from Baylor president Dr. Linda Livingstone came less than a week after the university extended spring break and moved classes online through April 3. While there are no known cases of COVID-19 in McLennan County as of Monday, Livingstone said the quickly evolving situation required more drastic actions.
“Following the latest guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and our federal, state & local health officials, Baylor University will extend online instruction for the remainder of the spring semester,” Livingstone said.
The announcement included procedures for on campus activities and housing. Livingstone said students are advised to not return to campus.
“Make the best decision based on your health [and] safety; however, we strongly encourage students not to return to campus or Waco,” Livingstone said. “Starting today, we will be restricting access to residence halls to only students who have no other option than to be here.”
Additionally, students should not return to retrieve their belongings from on-campus housing “until [Baylor establishes] a safe, orderly process later in the semester.” Plans for “unused portions of on-campus housing [and] dining plans” have yet to be determined, but Baylor will “communicate more in the near future.”
A statement provided by Lori Fogleman, assistant vice president of media and public relations for Baylor, listed conditions under which students would be allowed to remain on campus. These include students with permanent residences outside the United States who are unable to travel home, and students with an “internship, clinical or practicum will continue and requires their on-site presence,” as well as various safety-related circumstances.
Livingstone’s statement also announced the postponement of May commencement ceremonies in accordance with CDC recommendations against gatherings of 50 or more people for the next eight weeks. At a news conference Monday, President Donald Trump said gatherings of more than 10 people should be avoided.
In preparation for the switch to online classes, a statement issued earlier Monday from Baylor provost Dr. Nancy Brickhouse addressed key areas of concern, including how coursework should be handled.
“[No] academic assignments are due for students this week during extended spring break, and we also request that faculty please refrain from additional assignments this week (excluding those students enrolled in online professional graduate programs),” Brickhouse said.
Brickhouse also said professors should contact students via email no later than Wednesday to outline their academic plans for the modified semester.
“It is critical that we express empathy and instill confidence among our students during this challenging time, as we work to eliminate as much uncertainty as possible,” Brickhouse said.
Baylor’s COVID-19 Task Force will continue to monitor the situation.