March 12th, 2020: University of Alaska President Jim Johnsen today announced plans to extend spring break, move classes to distance delivery, move students out of campus residence halls and cancel large campus events due to concerns about the worldwide spread of COVID-19.
“While there are still no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Alaska, prevention is critical,” Johnsen wrote in a message to the university communities today. “Please know that this decision was made after much deliberation, relying on expert advice from public health agencies and the experiences of other universities nationwide. Our primary concern is and will continue to be the safety of our students and employees.”
The university system will suspend face-to-face delivery of most courses in favor of distance delivery for the rest of the spring semester. In order to give faculty members time to develop alternative ways to deliver courses, spring break is being extended a week. Classes will restart via distance delivery on March 23. University offices will remain open throughout the rest of the semester, unless the situation warrants changing that.
UA is also asking students to leave on-campus residence halls for the rest of the semester as a preventative measure. Students can either move completely out of the residence halls now, or gather anything they need for the rest of the semester and return later to move out of their rooms. There will be a mechanism for students to request exceptions if they are unable to leave the residence halls until later in the spring.
Finally, in order to help in efforts to slow the spread of the coronavirus in our communities, the universities will cancel or postpone all events and gatherings of 25 people or more through March 31. University leaders will revisit events guidance later this month and make a determination regarding whether to cancel events for the rest of the semester. That discussion will include a decision on commencement ceremonies.
Leadership teams at each of the universities are already working on plans to support students and employees during this transition and throughout the rest of the semester.
“The chancellors and I recognize that these changes will present significant challenges to our students and their families, and our employees,” Johnsen wrote. “Thank you for your patience, perseverance and teamwork as we work through the incredible challenges posed by this situation.”