Dear WVU Faculty:
In recent days, we have received a number of calls from concerned faculty asking how the University is preparing for the COVID-19 coronavirus, and more specifically, what preparations are being made on the academic side should the virus spread to our campus.
First, be assured that there is a significant planning effort underway to address every aspect of a University response should the virus spread to West Virginia and our campus. To provide the latest information on the evolving situation, the University has launched a website (http://coronavirus.wvu.edu) that will be continuously updated as new information becomes available.
On the academic side, here are a few guidelines to help you prepare for a variety of contingencies.
Student and Faculty Absences
The University has an attendance policy listed in both the undergraduate and graduate catalogs, which may be further clarified by your department or college. However, we urge you to use common sense and give students the benefit of the doubt if they say they can’t come to class because of illness. A little leniency may go a long way in keeping students who could be infected from coming to class and spreading the virus.
At the same time, we urge your department chairs and deans to be lenient if you have to miss work because of illness. While you have an obligation to teach your classes, if you are sick, you should stay at home. Depending on the policy of your academic unit, that may mean having other faculty cover for you, canceling class, or providing students with assignments that can be handled from a distance.
Preparing to “Teach Out” the Semester
As a worst-case scenario, should the University need to close the campus because of a Coronavirus outbreak, faculty should be thinking about how they might “teach out” the semester from a distance.
The WVU Teaching and Learning Commons has created a webpage with information on how to provide instruction and engage in discussion with students who are unable to be on campus for any reason. Sessions are being offered to assist instructors in using these online tools and are being listed on the TLC website as they are finalized. HSC ITS has created a similar website for HSC faculty. Both of these sites are cross-referenced to ensure instructors receive the most appropriate support given their situation.
We are not expecting that we will have to close campus. This has not yet happened at any American university. However, having a contingency plan in place gives everyone peace of mind, knowing that our students could finish out the semester in the event that the worst happens.
Travel and Research
To reduce student risk, University-sponsored international student travel during spring break has been canceled. The students will be reimbursed for their expenditures, and faculty assigned to teach these study aboard courses will be compensated by the University as appropriate.
Faculty travel has not been curtailed; however, it is essential to register your travel with the WVU Office of Global Affairs by visiting https://international.wvu.edu/travel/registration. If you are traveling to a high-risk area, Global Affairs will provide you with the necessary information and schedule a consultation with International SOS, the University’s global risk management agency. Those returning from an infected area should inform the Monongalia County Health Department and self-monitor.
The WVU Research Office also has added information specific to all principal investigators and research group leads to the University’s Coronavirus website.
The bottom line is that the University is working collaboratively to ensure that the campus community is staying safe and preparing for events as they evolve. The most important thing we can all do is remain calm and not panic.
As our healthcare providers keep assuring us, COVID-19 is spreading fast, but it is not life-threatening for the large majority of people who are infected. This is not to minimize your concern. It is simply to say that each of us should prepare as best we can, make an effort not to overreact, and stay on top of updates as they are being provided.