University of Hawaii President David Lassner confirmed this morning that the University of Hawaii system will switch to online classes later this month because of concerns about the coronavirus pandemic.
At this point, I want to let you know that, out of concern for the safety of our students, faculty and staff, the University of Hawaii will be moving our classes online after spring break, effective Monday, March 23,” Lassner wrote in an email early this morning to faculty. He said he will be putting out a statement with more details and further announcements later today.
Spring break for the UH system begins Monday.
The University of Hawaii is preparing to switch to all online courses if needed due to the coronavirus outbreak.
“The health and safety of our students, faculty and staff is our primary concern,” said UH officials in a post on Tuesday. “The university is taking steps to prepare for the move to an all online delivery of courses should that be deemed necessary. However, we have not made a decision to do so at this time.”
Major mainland universities — including the University of California at Berkeley, Harvard University and the University of Washington — have opted to move classes online this month. Several universities have also closed student dorms.
The closure of student housing on the Manoa and Hilo campuses of UH is not being considered at this time, said University of Hawaii spokesman Dan Meisenzahl.
“UH administrators from all ten campuses are working closely together and with government officials on responding to the COVID-19 health crisis,” he said.
The UH system, which has a total enrollment of about 46,700, is encouraging its faculty, staff and students to observe guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention if planning to travel during spring break next week.
Travel to high risk, or Level 3, countries designated by the CDC should be postponed or canceled, said the UH administration, and the same should be considered for areas with active community transmission, including within the United States.
Those with underlying health conditions should consider postponing or canceling any travel as well, the administration said.
A number of previously planned trips to the mainland and abroad have been postponed or canceled, according to Meisenzahl, and several events have been as well, including a Polynesian studies conference at UH-Manoa and a student event in Seattle.
Hawaii Pacific University, which just resumed after its spring break last week, had made no announcements regarding a transition to online courses or any closures as of Wednesday afternoon.
HPU, however, did implement new travel requirements prior to its spring break last week from its Campus Emergency Response Team, which is monitoring government directives regarding COVID-19.
Anyone who has visited a Level 2 or higher country, including China, South Korea, Japan, Italy or Iran, must advise the director of the Office of International Students and Scholars of the trip, and may not return to campus without approval.
All university-sponsored travel, including study abroad, exchange and visiting programs with partner universities, has been suspended, HPU said.
To date, HPU, which has about 4,100 students, said there have been no confirmed cases of COVID-19 on any of its campuses, and no students, faculty or staff are under quarantine.
“Our students’ health and safety is our highest priority at Hawaii Pacific University,” said John Gotanda, HPU president, in a statement. “At this time, in-person classroom instruction continues, and at this time our student housing remains open. We have developed a number of contingency plans to our standard delivery of education and student support services, including alternatives to in-person classroom instruction and how we provide meal service to our on-campus student residents.”
HPU student Michelle Peters, who is from Canada, said she was not worried about the coronavirus outbreak, nor did she feel there is a need to move classes online.
“I personally don’t think we need to do it,” she said.