The following message was sent March 20 to all UW-Eau Claire and UW-Eau Claire – Barron County students, faculty and staff:
Dear faculty, staff and students at UW-Eau Claire, UWEC-Barron County and Marshfield,
Just eight days ago I announced that we would extend our spring break and move classes online through April 17. At the time it was my hope that early action to reduce face-to-face contact would make it possible to minimize the COVID-19 risk to our students, faculty and staff, and allow us to resume on-campus classes next month.
In little more than a week it has become obvious that will not be possible. With Wisconsin’s confirmed cases now at more than 150—and growing—and our first case in Eau Claire County just confirmed, we know that the pandemic will take longer to run its course and that it is affecting young people as well as the elderly. Our first commitment is to the health of our students and campus community.
Online classes through the end of the semester
So today I am announcing that all classes will be taught online for the remainder of the semester. There will be no face-to-face classes through May. We are also looking to transition all summer courses to online format in the spirit of continued caution.
Our faculty have been working hard to transition all classes online. For students unsure about what that will mean for their learning, we are also setting up resources to help students needing to adjust to distance learning. The Center for Writing Excellence, Math Lab and Academic Skills Center are developing plans to move their resources to an online environment. Also, the LTS Helpdesk provides one-on-one assistance for students who may need extra support in using Canvas for online courses. We are also identifying additional resources for students to help them prepare for distance learning. You’ll be hearing more about those resources by the end of March. A reminder: online classes begin April 6. Faculty will be contacting students in advance with more information about what you can expect.
We are also postponing our May 23 commencement ceremonies. Graduating seniors WILL be able to complete the semester and graduate. We will, however, reschedule the graduation ceremonies for a time when we can all safely be together. I know how important it is to have loved ones see our graduates walk across the stage—and I want to be able to personally welcome our newest Blugold alumni. I look forward to seeing pictures of you in your cap and gown on the footbridge and being part of your selfies on the stage. When we know more about an appropriate time for commencement, we will share further information. In the meantime, check the commencement website for details.
I have such mixed emotions about these decisions, which we did not make lightly. While I know both faculty and students hoped to be able to continue the semester together, we must do all we can to “flatten the curve” and stay healthy by staying home.
Residence Halls will close April 4
I know many students—both in the residence halls and in the community—have had questions about whether to stay in Eau Claire or to head home. Because we will now complete the semester online, we are encouraging students currently in the residence halls to head home no later than Saturday, April 4. This will help us keep everyone safer.
We know that some students don’t have that option, however. Students who have need for an extended stay, may register by following instructions provided by Housing and Residence Life. We will not be closing our doors or asking anyone to leave who cannot. Students who stay may be asked to move to different rooms, as we will be closing some of the halls in order to reduce maintenance. Those students who need to remain in the residence halls will have meals delivered to the lobby of their building. We are here for you.
Students will receive an email from Housing and Residence Life with instructions on how to check out. They will be asked to sign up for a move-out time so we can maintain social distance and protect the health of our students and their loved ones.
UW-Eau Claire will also make sure students who leave the residence hall receive pro-rated refunds for lodging, food service and parking. I know that many students and families are facing financial hardships and this is the right thing to do. You can read the announcement by UW System about the refunds; we will be reaching out to students with more details, including how the credits will be applied to any outstanding balances. We are also in talks with Barnes & Noble to make it easier for students to return rented books. Stay tuned.
Parking for all permit holders—including all students, faculty and staff—will also be refunded on a pro-rated basis. “G” parking permit holders will be contacted with the choice of retaining their parking space through August or receiving a pro-rated refund. Parking in “G” stalls will continue to be enforced.
When 2020 began we couldn’t have imagined a semester that would unfold as this one has. But I have been inspired by the countless acts of kindness and notes of support that I’ve seen and received over the past week. I know that we will come back together in April—online—and finish our semester Blugold strong!
In the meantime, do all you can to stay healthy and be sure to take care of each other. Blugolds fly together – although for now it’s six feet apart! Be safe.
James C. Schmidt
Chancellor, UW-Eau Claire