Seton Hall suspends in-person classes, orders faculty to go virtual in response to COVID-19 outbreak

On Tuesday, Seton Hall University has suspended all in-person classes between Wednesday March 11 until March 13. The University also said that all in-person classes and lectures will now be online classes beginning on Monday, March 16 through at least March 22 as the coronavirus continues to spread nationwide.

According to an email sent to the University community from Seton Hall President Joseph Nyre, the University will remain open and residence halls and dining services will continue to operate.

“We are taking this action to provide faculty with dedicated resources to assist them with moving course work online; continue cleaning and disinfecting of classrooms, residence halls and other common areas; and provide students the option to relocate if desired,” the email read, “Faculty should take their laptops home with them and prepare to begin offering online instruction beginning Monday, March 16.”

The email noted that non-faculty university employees are continued to expect to report to work as normal and daily masses on campus are planned to continue as scheduled but noted that employees who cannot report to work as a result of illness or self-quarantine “will not be charged sick leave during the 14-calendar day period and will receive regular pay.”

All non-essential University travel has also been suspended.

Additionally, Nyre said that as of Tuesday, the Big East Conference Tournament is continuing as planned. 

On Wednesday,  NCAA President Mark Emmert announced that all Division I men’s and women’s tournaments would be played without spectators after consulting with public health officials.

As of Wednesday evening, the Big East tournament is set to proceed as planned with spectators according to Big East Basketball Commissioner Val Ackerman who noted that he took cues from New York City health officials.

Seton Hall’s announcement comes just a day after Governor Phil Murphy declared a State of Emergency in New Jersey. “We are taking this step out an abundance of caution and prudence to ensure that we are proactive in our response,” Murphy said in a video posted to Twitter. So far, 15 people in New Jersey have tested as presumptive positives awaiting CDC confirmation as state and federal labs rush to test people who present symptoms of the virus. One person in the state, a Bergen County male in his 60s, died earlier today. 

According to the New Jersey Department of Health, 20 tests are currently in progress and 31 people are under investigation as potential infection cases. 

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo declared a State of Emergency on March 7 as cases rose into the hundreds in the state. On Tuesday, Cuomo took the State of Emergency a step further, creating a one-mile containment zone around New Rochelle, N.Y., the location of Iona College where Nyre was formerly president prior to coming to Seton Hall. Cuomo also dispatched the national guard to assist with food distribution and sanitization.  

Dozens of other colleges and universities around the country have also made the decision to shutter their doors and move classes online as a precaution to stop the spread of COVID-19, including Princeton University, Fordham University, Yeshiva University, Columbia University, and Barnard College. Rowan University in Southern New Jersey opted to instead extended their spring break by one week. Earlier today, Harvard University suspended all in person classes following spring break and told students not to return to campus. 

Previously, Seton Hall canceled all University-affiliated spring break study abroad programs, citing a growing fear of coronavirus spread overseas. 

“We are taking this action because the health and safety of our students, faculty, employees and their families are of paramount importance,” the email from the Provost’s office read. “We are asking our faculty trip leaders to contact the travel providers to see what refunds are possible. For credit bearing courses, we are asking faculty members to design alternative course requirements.”

In response to the outbreak, Dr. Nyre announced the formation of the Health Intervention and Communication Team (HICT) which has been tasked with formulating Seton Hall’s response to the COVID-19 outbreak. 

In an email from March 6, the HICT requested that all Seton Hall students refrain from international travel and travel to areas of the United States where cases of coronavirus had been widely reported but noted “the odds of being infected in the United States are still low.”

“Together, let this experience renew in us our commitment and care for each other and all those who call Seton Hall home,” Nyre said today of the worldwide epidemic. “Please keep all impacted nations, people and students in your prayers throughout the coming days.”

This is a breaking news story and will be updated.

Last update: 6:36 pm, March 11.

Author: Nicholas Kerr

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