UF Public Affairs sent an email Monday notifying students that UF Provost Joe Glover instructed faculty to start moving their in-person classes online to combat the spread of the coronavirus.
Though it is not currently a requirement, there is a “strong probability” that classes will be online by the end of Spring semester, according to the email. UF’s Chief Information Officer concluded after several evaluations that UF has the technical capacity to move fully online, said Steve Orlando, a UF spokesperson.
“I wouldn’t say there was any particular tipping point,” Orlando said. “It’s just a decision that was made out of an abundance of caution.”
A group of “senior leadership” from Emergency Management and the Student Health Care Center is meeting multiple times a week to discuss next steps, Orlando said. One of these steps may be to allow UF faculty to work exclusively from home.
“The situation is changing so rapidly, you know, all options are being discussed,” Orlando said. “We have to look into the future at what could happen.”
Florida has reported 18 confirmed cases of the coronavirus and two deaths as of Monday morning, according to the Florida Health Department. Though Monday’s email was the first campus-wide announcement, some professors began making the change over Spring Break.
“In the interest of reducing infection among the campus community over the next weeks, I urge you to go online only,” wrote Eric Triplett, the UF microbiology and cell science department chair and professor, in an email to his colleagues Wednesday. “Please comply in the interest of public safety.”
In additional announcements, some professors have said they will use Zoom, an online conferencing software, to connect and conference with students. All microbiology advising will be conducted over email, phone or Zoom, Triplett wrote.
“I am hopeful that we will find all of these precautions to be unnecessary,” he wrote.
Though it is not yet a requirement to move online, Orlando said all faculty should consider it a transitioning period before it does become required.
“It’s basically a preparation for what appears to be ultimately going to happen,” he said.
Princeton, Columbia and Stanford University have all made similar announcements, according to the Washington Post. Florida State University has also begun to consider transitioning to online classes, according to the The Tallahassee Democrat.
Kalie Januszkiewicz, a 20-year-old UF microbiology sophomore, said she was disappointed to learn over Spring Break that two of her classes, astrobiology and molecular genetics, were moving entirely online.
Her astrobiology professor works for NASA, Januszkiewicz said, and her genetics professor is eccentric. They’re her favorite professors, and she’ll miss seeing them in person.
She said she isn’t looking forward to using online classes, where the amount of reading and lecture material can quickly pile up. Still, she understands the need to move online, she said.
“It’s the microbiology department, so I guess they have to lead by example,” she said.
UF sent an announcement March 2 requesting that all students and employees returning from China, South Korea, Italy or Iran self-quarantine, or isolate themselves, for 14 days before returning to campus.
Aside from 41 students and two faculty who were asked to self-quarantine after traveling to Italy for a study abroad program, Orlando said there is no way to know how many people have traveled to “high-risk” countries.
It is almost certain that there are faculty and students who have traveled internationally that the university does not know about, he said.
“Here’s the challenge we’re facing: We know who’s traveled overseas if they are on official university business and have registered with the International Center,” he said. “But that’s not everybody.”
This is a breaking news story. Check back for updates.
Contact Hannah Phillips at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @haphillips96.
Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)