SIU extending break, arranging for online and alternate format classes due to coronavirus

By Staff Report, News Desk

Chloe Schobert | @chloscho_art2020

SIU announced Wednesday evening that it will be extending spring break and offering classes online or in alternate formats due to the coronavirus.

System president Daniel Mahony sent out an email notifying the system of the changes, and SIU students were alerted by text message. A release was also posted on SIU’s coronavirus information page and can be viewed here.

“Due to ongoing efforts to contain the spread of the coronavirus in Illinois and beyond, SIU Carbondale will be extending spring break for students through March 22,” the release said. “Effective Monday, March 23, classes will be offered in online or other alternative formats until further notice.”

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No cases of COVID-19 have been identified on campus.

“Our primary concern is the health and safety of our community,” interim chancellor John Dunn said in the release. “We are joining other Illinois public institutions in taking precautionary measures.”

According to Mahony’s email, both the Carbondale and Edwardsville campuses and the SIU School of Medicine will be extending the break and working to find alternate means of conducting classes. 

University spokesperson Rae Goldsmith said operations will continue on campus. 

“We’re not closing,” Goldsmith said. “The university will remain open; teaching will go on, research will go on, we’re just going to be delivering our courses in a different fashion after we get through this extended spring break.”

Goldsmith said the purpose of extending the break is to give everyone the chance to adapt to the new instruction, which could be online or in other formats beyond face-to-face.

“During this period, students are encouraged to remain engaged in learning activities and should consult class syllabi for guidance on readings and other assignments,” Mahony said in the email. “Students in programs with required clinical, [practical], student teaching or other field experiences should consult with their program director or department chair for guidance during this period of time. Students in online programs or enrolled in online courses should continue with their work, per the syllabus and course schedule.”

SIU will be posting more information about its response on its coronavirus response website within the next 48 hours.

Students will have options for returning to campus either to study or retrieve materials and the university will share additional information regarding campus services, including housing and dining, in the next 48 hours, the release said.

“We will be letting students come back on campus and we’re still kind of working on the details of that,” Goldsmith said. 

Teaching and research operations will continue and staff will report to work as usual, the release said. 

Goldsmith says the university intends to allow student workers to continue working.

“The intent is that students will still be able to work if they stay here,” Goldsmith said. “We’ll be giving departments more information about that as well.”

Goldsmith said operations will not cease, so departments such as the payroll department will continue as usual.

International business travel is restricted. Domestic business travel will require approval of the appropriate vice chancellor, according to the release.

On- and off-campus events will be evaluated based on the risk they present for the spread of the virus and many, if not all, may be cancelled, the release said. Cancellations will be posted on the coronavirus website.

“It’s a changing situation […] and we learn something different pretty much every hour and we are adapting as we go,” Goldsmith said.

Goldsmith said the university will be releasing updated information on residence halls and other changes due to coronavirus within the next 48 hours.

“We ask people to ask us questions, they are coming in, and we’ll get them answered as fast as we can,” Goldsmith said. “We want to hear the questions so that we can make sure we’re answering them.”

Questions about the coronavirus and SIU’s response to it can be emailed to [email protected]

“There are many unknowns related to the virus and its spread,” Dunn said. “We will continue to monitor recommendations from state and national health agencies and adjust course as needed. We appreciate your patience and collaboration as we work through these challenges together.”

Update, 3/11/2020, 9:30 p.m.: Story has been updated to reflect new information from the university and from Rae Goldsmith.

Update, 3/11/2020, 8:20 p.m.: The university has sent out an official announcement regarding the extension and class changes. SIUE is also extending its spring break and offering classes in modified formats. 

Update, 3/11/2020, 7:15  p.m.: The release is available on the Student Health Services website again. 

Update, 3/11/2020, 7:05  p.m.: SIU has removed the release from their website. University spokesperson Rae Goldsmith was unavailable for comment.

This story is developing and will be updated as more information becomes available.

The Daily Egyptian’s News Desk can be reached at 1-618-536-3329, by email at [email protected] or on Twitter at @dailyegyptian.

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