UPDATE: WVU President Gee releases letter to campus community in wake of in-person undergraduate classes moving online through Sept. 25

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UPDATE (9/7/20 6:50 p.m.):

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – West Virginia University President E. Gordon Gee has released a letter to the campus community, and the university has provided more guidance into the rules governing activities on campus through Sept. 25.

The letter from Gee is as follows:

September 7, 2020

Dear West Virginia University Faculty, Staff, Students and Families,

We have been transparent throughout our Return to Campus planning that if we determined the local public health situation was deteriorating, the University would take swift and immediate action. The time has come to do so on the Morgantown campus.

All in-person undergraduate classes will be canceled on Tuesday, Sept. 8 to prepare for the transition to online learning. Online classes and in-person graduate and professional courses will continue as scheduled.

Beginning Wednesday, Sept. 9, all undergraduate courses in Morgantown, with the exception of those Health Sciences courses with students already engaged in clinical rotation, will move to online instruction through Friday, Sept. 25. Graduate and professional courses will continue to be offered in person. Courses already offered online will continue as scheduled.

Research activities remain unchanged unless deemed necessary by a supervisor.

Campus operations in Morgantown will continue as normal. Those who are working on campus should report per usual, unless notified by their supervisor. Those already working remotely should continue to do so.

These actions apply only to the Morgantown campus. Our divisional campuses in Beckley ( WVU Tech) and Keyser ( WVU Potomac State College), as well as our Health Sciences campuses in Charleston and the Eastern panhandle, will operate on the normal schedule. WVU Extension Service offices throughout the state will also operate on a normal schedule.

We are moving to online instruction, as well as implementing other measures outlined below, in direct response to a recent increase in positive COVID-19 cases in students on the Morgantown campus, as well as concern for the probability of increased cases that may arise following several reports of parties held this holiday weekend where groups should have been in quarantine.

Our data shows that the majority of those students either in quarantine or in isolation are undergraduates with at least one on-campus course. There is not sufficient evidence to disrupt graduate and professional education. If the trend reverses, we will not hesitate to move those programs online, as well.

I know many will have questions regarding the WVU football game on Saturday, Sept. 12. The game will be played as long as WVU Intercollegiate Athletics and Eastern Kentucky University, in conjunction with the Big 12 and Ohio Valley Conference, deem it safe to do so. We are not seeing the same community spread occurring in our athletic programs. The department is following a strict set of testing protocols mandated by the Big 12 that reveals a different set of realities for Intercollegiate Athletics. As a reminder, there will be no fans or tailgating at this game. The only fan presence will be family members of our players and staff.

I am also aware there is much community frustration. I understand your perspective, and am frustrated, too. While some may argue that community spread was inevitable with students returning to Morgantown, I do not believe that to be true. If the safety protocols had been followed and large gatherings had not been held by students with reckless disregard of their fellow students and community members, we may not be in this situation.

Between July 27 and Aug. 23, the University completed 19,629 COVID-19 tests for students with 148 positive results. That equates to a .75% positivity rate, considerably lower than the 5 to 7 percent anticipated. The last few days we have been seeing a disturbing upward trend, due in part, to large, off-campus indoor gatherings where selfish decisions were made which have adversely affected the entire campus community. The University is resolved that those individuals who are identified in such cases will be charged and dealt with in the appropriate manner. We have already placed 29 students on interim suspension this weekend. We will not hesitate to follow through on every student who continues to disregard the guidelines.

And to that point, let me be very clear with our students: Regardless of what you may believe concerning COVID-19, you are a resident of Morgantown and a student at West Virginia University. The expectation is that you will abide by the guidelines and protocols set forth by the University, city and state. We have made that abundantly clear from the beginning. It is your responsibility as someone who lives in this community and is enrolled at this University. If you do not feel you can meet those expectations, you should not be in this community or at our University.

I know the vast majority of our students, faculty and staff have been following the safety protocols and guidelines. And I deeply appreciate you doing so. This unfortunate but necessary step is unfair to each of you. And you have every right to be disappointed and frustrated. But we are taking this step to protect each of you. As I have said from the beginning, your health and safety are always our highest priority.

I also want to emphasize this move to online learning is temporary. If we can reverse the trends and see our numbers improve, we will return to on-campus learning on Monday, Sept. 28. I know how valuable the in-classroom experience is to our students, and we will continue to share information with you as we move forward.

In the meantime, please follow the guidelines below. Limit your travel in Morgantown and stay in town unless it is an emergency. Wear your masks around anyone and everyone outside of those with whom you live. Physical distance at least 6 feet and wash your hands properly and frequently. If you feel ill, you should call your doctor or WVU Medicine Student Health at 304-285-7200.

Let’s work together to protect each other, our campus and our community.

signature of E. Gordon Gee

E. Gordon Gee
President, West Virginia University

Additionally, the following is a breakdown of changes coming to campus:

Academics

  • All in-person undergraduate classes will be canceled on Tuesday, Sept. 8 to prepare for the transition to online learning on the Morgantown campus.
  • Online classes and in-person graduate and professional courses will continue as planned on Tuesday, Sept. 8 on the Morgantown campus.
  • Beginning Wednesday, Sept. 9, all undergraduate courses in Morgantown, with the exception of those Health Sciences courses with students already engaged in clinical rotation, will move online through Friday, Sept. 25.
  • Graduate and professional courses will continue to be offered in person.
  • Courses already offered online will continue as scheduled.
  • Cross listed on-campus undergraduate and graduate courses should be moved online.
  • Courses that are canceled on Tuesday, Sept. 8 will be made up at the faculty’s discretion.
  • Fully online programs are not affected by this decision.
  • Divisional campuses located in Beckley (WVU Tech) and Keyser (WVU Potomac State), and the Health Sciences campuses located in Charleston and the Eastern panhandle will continue with classes as originally scheduled.

Research

  • All other research activities will continue as planned.
  • Undergraduate research will continue unless directed otherwise by the supervising faculty member.

Student Employment

  • Work Study students should contact your supervisor for instructions.
  • Other student employees should report for work unless directed otherwise by your supervisor.

Residence Halls

  • Residence Halls will remain open. Safety protocols remain the same.
  • Dining locations will remain open. Safety protocols remain the same.
  • Students living off-campus who have a dining plan may come to campus to use their dining plan.
  • Residence Halls will provide extra snacks and food during evening hours.
  • If you are living in the residence hall, it is advised that you stay close to your hall and not travel unnecessarily around campus.

Campus Operations

  • Campus will remain open. Please verify hours of operation of a particular venue.
  • Campus libraries will also remain open. However, you will need to present your green pass from the daily Wellness Survey to enter the library. The daily green pass will be required for entry.
  • Clinical faculty and residents who require access to University buildings outside of the Health Sciences campus are permitted entry as long as they are wearing a face mask and following health and safety protocol.
  • In addition, the libraries are no longer allowing food in the buildings. Masks must be worn at all times and no eating will be allowed.
  • WVU Extension offices will remain open across the state.
  • Staff who are working on campus should report per usual, unless notified by your supervisor. Those already working remotely should continue to do so.

Activities and Events

  • Gatherings will be reduced to 10 people or less.
  • Up All Night is canceled until further notice.
  • The majority of activities and events will move to a virtual experience.
  • All Student Organizations must meet virtually through Sept. 27.
  • Intramural and Club Sports were not being held and will continue to be canceled.
  • Appropriate activity and physical distancing on the Rec Fields will be enforced, including those community groups who have used the fields in the past.
  • Outdoor activities that can be continued safely via physical distancing and reduced numbers will continue.
  • Visit refresh.wvu.edu for a complete list of activities and programs.

Testing

  • Testing will continue for anyone who exhibits any symptoms.
  • Frequent, ongoing testing for groups that may be at higher risk, such as those living in residence halls, those participating in athletics and those in the performing arts or similar programs, will continue.

Movement on campus

  • Until further notice, on-campus students should avoid leaving the Morgantown campus area except under emergency circumstances.
  • Off-campus students should not visit campus and are asked to stay in your Morgantown area residence except when necessary.
  • Limit travel in the Morgantown community.
  • Avoid large gatherings.
  • If you do leave West Virginia, you must quarantine for 5 days upon return. This does not include commuting for work.

Refunds

  • There will be no refunds as instruction is being delivered, and residence halls and dining will function as normal.

Safety and Health Protocols

  • Continue to wear a mask when you’re on campus and in public spaces. 
  • Practice day-to-day hygiene measures, like physical distancing and frequent hand-washing. 
  • Clean and disinfect frequently-touched surfaces, such as tables, door knobs, desks and light switches. 
  • Take your Wellness Survey every day, even on weekends. 
  • Know the symptoms of coronavirus — and stay home if you’re experiencing any of them.

UPDATE (9/7/20 5:20 p.m.):

In-person classes will be canceled on West Virginia University’s Morgantown campus Tuesday, Sept. 8.

According to a press release, online classes will continue as usual, as will university operations. Staff members and faculty will continue to report to work as usual. Dean of Students Corey Farris said the reason for the temporary suspension is because WVU has had some issues with fraternities and the wider student population not following COVID-19 guidelines, leading to an uptick in cases.

And so what we had to do is we had to press the pause button for a couple of weeks to settle that backdown and so in effect, we’re further de-densifying our campus by pushing nearly all of those undergraduate classes to the remote environment where students are not gathering together in the classroom.

Corey Farris – Dean of Students

Beginning Wednesday, Sept. 9, all undergraduate courses in Morgantown, with the exception of those Health Sciences courses with students already engaged in a clinical rotation, will move online through Friday, Sept. 25. Graduate and professional courses will continue to be offered in person, the school said. Additional details regarding this temporary transition will be shared later Monday afternoon.

Research activities and courses already offered online will remain unchanged, according to WVU. Campus operations in Morgantown will continue as planned, unless supervisors indicate otherwise.

This action is being undertaken only on the Morgantown campus, the release states. All activities on other WVU campuses and in counties other than Monongalia County will continue as planned.

WVU said the change in course delivery, as mentioned earlier, is in direct response to a recent increase in positive cases in students on the Morgantown campus, as well as concern for the probability of increased cases following several reports of parties held this holiday weekend where groups should have been in quarantine.

“This pause in face-to-face undergraduate instruction will give us time to monitor the steadily climbing cases of COVID-19,” Dr. Jeffrey Coben, associate vice president of health affairs and dean of the School of Public Health, said. “There is increasing evidence that crowded indoor gatherings, such as those that occurred over the weekend, can serve as super-spreader events.”

On Sept. 6, WVU placed 29 students on immediate interim suspension amid ongoing COVID-19 investigations. The school said additional sanctions are pending. These actions followed similar announcements Sept. 2 and 3 and Aug. 20 and 26.

The university continues to work aggressively to identify others attending these large off-campus gatherings and will respond swiftly to bring charges against those found violating the Student Code of Conduct. WVU is also working with local officials to see what other measures can be implemented for those not following the rules.

Farris said there has been a mixed reaction from the WVU community to the decision to temporarily suspend classes but it was not an action the university takes lightly.

“I’ve heard feedback all over the place, some students and families are absolutely thrilled because they’re concerned and others would like us to continue on with the handful — the 30 percent of freshman-level classes that we had,” Farris said. “It’s mixed, it’s a tough situation, it’s a no-win situation in some respects because the virus is still out there raging on. We don’t have effective treatment of pills we can give to someone, to help someone quickly get over the symptoms, we don’t have a vaccine. This is going on not here in Morgantown, Monongalia County, this is going on around the country.”

Though most undergraduate classes will be delivered remotely through Friday, Sept. 25, the university said it intends to return to on-campus course delivery on Monday, Sept. 28 if conditions allow. WVU will re-evaluate the public health situation on Wednesday, Sept. 23 and advise whether on-campus learning will resume. If it is deemed safe to return, on-campus learning will begin again on Monday, Sept. 28.

“If any students traveled home for the holiday weekend and have their materials to learn remotely, we ask those students to remain where they are right now,” Farris said. “However, we are strongly advising students who did not travel over the weekend to remain in Morgantown during this time. We have every intention of bringing our students back to campus to resume in-person classes, but that all depends on how our campus community responds in the coming days.”

The university also will temporarily suspend and reduce the number of in-person recreational activities and further limit capacity at events planned on campus, the release explains. Additionally, more activities will be offered virtually. More information will be shared Monday afternoon regarding events and activities.

Until further notice, on-campus students should avoid leaving the Morgantown campus area except under emergency circumstances, WVU said. Off-campus students should not visit campus and are asked to stay in their Morgantown area residences except when necessary.

Meanwhile, WVU reminds students, faculty and staff members to complete the daily wellness survey.

WVU’s COVID-19 testing dashboard will be updated Monday at 2 p.m. As announced last week, the dashboard now includes data about self-reported positive test results from outside WVU’s testing system, as well as isolation and quarantine information (on-campus, off-campus, Greek housing and students who have gone home) for the Morgantown campus.

Additional information and COVID-19 updates are available at WVU’s Return to Campus website.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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