Photo by Aidan D'Anna

What you need to know about LC’s response to COVID-19

On March 12, Lewis & Clark announced that it will transition to an online education model in order to promote social distancing and slow the spread of COVID-19. All classes must be online by March 18 and will be taught online for the remainder of the Spring 2020 semester. There are still no known cases of COVID-19 at LC. 

LC decided to make classes online after Oregon Governor Kate Brown banned all public events with over 250 people and ordered all Oregon public schools to cancel classes until March 31. Other Oregon colleges, like the University of Oregon and Oregon State University, are also transitioning to an online education model.

Vice President of Student Life and Dean of Students Robin Holmes-Sullivan provided more information at the Associated Students of Lewis & Clark (ASLC) Senate meeting on March 12. 

“We were waiting to have some type of triggering event as to why (we move classes online) because it’s disruptive and it’s not the type of education we want to offer to our students,” Holmes-Sullivan said. “…and then the government office, the Governor of Oregon, put out an advisory that suggested that school should be online. So that seemed like a triggering event. And then the other Oregon schools started to put that forward so that’s the reason why we made the decision that we did.”

The college is trying to ensure that all students still get credit for their spring semester classes. Many classes will be held via Zoom or Google Hangouts. LC’s Information Technology (IT) department has been approved for emergency funding for an additional 300 Zoom Pro licences, which will bring the total to 500, enough for each of the 400 faculty. They may also use basic Zoom accounts, which are free but have more limited features, or Google Hangouts.

The administration is working with faculty to figure out how classes like physical education will adapt to the online format.

“So one of our operating principles is trying to do everything we can to not disrupt your academic progress,” Holmes-Sullivan said. “We’re not just going to say, here’s the credits, right? Because that’s not fair to you, and that’s not fair to the integrity of the college or people who have gone through before. We’re trying to do everything we can to address those classes that just are not going to scale to be online.”

According to Margeret Upton, the director of the Health Service, LC has a few coronavirus tests, although supplies are limited. Some students have already requested tests and received negative results. The college has encouraged students to take everyday actions like washing hands and avoiding touching your mouth, nose or eyes. 

On March 13, LC officially canceled all events expected to include more than 50 people during the Spring 2020 semester. For the most part, no such events can be scheduled moving forward.

According to an email sent by Vice President for Operations and Chief Financial Officer Andrea Dooley, “Exceptions will be granted only when an event is essential to the College and if adequate social distancing and health measures can be implemented.”

The Admissions Office will be closed to visitors between March 19 and April 19, and all admissions related events, including Admitted Student Programs, have been postponed. The Admissions Office has also extended the reply deadline to June 1st for students admitted to LC for the fall. 

“Currently our deposits for 2020 are looking good,” Eric Staab, vice president of admissions and financial aid, said via email. “We are trending higher/stronger than last year at this time.”

In an email sent to some LC parents, Holmes-Sullivan announced that the commencement at Memorial Coliseum will not take place. She said that the administration is thinking about a smaller on-campus gathering for those that can make it. These plans are forthcoming. 

“We definitely want to do something, but because we don’t know if the Governor will reissue another order after four weeks, we can’t promise anything,” Holmes-Sullivan said.

Although many students assumed that commencement would be cancelled given the ban on large groups, no information about commencement was directly announced to students. 

The administration’s goal is to “de-densify.” Students — the largest population on campus — were at first given the option to leave and continue online classes at home.

As the impacts of COVID-19 continue to worsen in Oregon, the administration has remained committed to providing food and housing for those who need it. However, they have begun urging all who can return home to do so. Wiewel sent an email on March 16 to the student body increasing the urgency of leaving campus.

“In response to the changing nature of the federal and state approaches to COVID-19, we are now strongly recommending that all students who are able to leave campus for the remainder of the semester do so as soon as possible,” Wiewel said. “But know that if you cannot leave, we will continue to support you and provide food and housing, although you may need to relocate to another room and food service options on campus will be limited and carry-out only.”

A 20% refund will be provided to students who notify Campus Living (living@lclark.edu) by the night of Friday, March 20, and vacate their rooms by Sunday, March 22. Wiewel also cautioned students that they would not be permitted to travel over Spring Break and return to campus. 

For the students who stay on campus, there is a chance that they will be moved to a new living space. Campus Living is currently weighing the demands of social distancing and consolidation, as there will likely be fewer Resident Advisors (RAs) on campus.

The administration expects that many of the students who stay on campus for the remainder of the semester will be international students. They have been working with these students to ensure that their visas still apply to online learning. 

The administration is waiting to know how many students stay on campus to coordinate with the Pioneer Express and Bon Appétit. They anticipate that the shuttle will continue running. Bon Appétit has already taken precautionary measures, making sure all food is served by employees and offering food for carry-out only.

Maggie’s and the Dovecote will be closed for the remainder of the semester. 

The administration is also working to ensure that students still have work study opportunities, even if they have to be done remotely. Students whose work demands that they remain on campus may still be paid for the hours they are scheduled for. 

“The federal government has given institutions of higher education the ability to continue paying students who are on federal work study, and we have a percentage of our students who have that arrangement,” Holmes-Sullivan said. “The federal government recognized that they shouldn’t take away that agreement since it was already made at the beginning of the year and these are students who perhaps have the most financial concerns, so we will abide by that as well.”

The administration is hoping to extend the same opportunities to those with LC work study.

All spring athletic competitions have been canceled by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) and the Northwest Conference. College Outdoors and Student and Leadership Service (SLS) trips have also been cancelled, including the upcoming spring break trips.

All LC overseas trips were officially cancelled. Students in Morocco and Ecuador were trapped behind closed borders and unable to fly home. As of March 19, most of the students in Morocco have made it back to the U.S., while the students and professor in Ecuador are still awaiting repatriation.

The Pioneer Log’s reporting on LC’s response to COVID-19 and its impact on students is ongoing. Extensive coverage will be released on Friday, March 20.

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