(Originally posted March 10, 2020)
Your health and safety are our highest priories, and we continue to monitor the coronavirus outbreak around the globe and in the region. While there are no known cases on our campus, we are aware of a number of confirmed cases in Virginia and the Washington, D.C. region. With this in mind, we are taking a number of precautionary measures to limit exposure and minimize risk.
Mason to extend spring break, then move to virtual instruction
To limit exposure on our campus, Mason is extending spring break by an additional week through March 20. This will allow students and faculty to prepare for virtual alternative instruction and reduce close contact on campus.
The Antonin Scalia Law School will move immediately to virtual alternative instruction and will not go on an extended spring break. Additionally, classes in other colleges and schools that are already online will not be delayed by the extended spring break and will continue as scheduled.
When spring break ends, most classes will be conducted through virtual alternative instruction, from Monday, March 23 through Friday, April 3. Students will be contacted by their faculty with additional details about virtual learning. The university will continue to monitor and reevaluate the situation prior to April 3. If an extension of virtual learning is needed, we will adjust as determined and communicate that with you.
We are also committed to ensuring that our students will successfully complete their coursework this semester, and will work to create tailored plans for those instances where virtual instruction is not a sufficient solution.
Students encouraged to stay off campus, but residence halls remain open
We know that one of the most powerful ways to minimize the spread of coronavirus is limiting interaction in close spaces. For that reason, we encourage students who are home to stay home during this time. We will continue to keep residence and dining halls open for students who cannot return home. Specific details will be sent to all residential students on Thursday. More information about student services, student centers, and the library will be forthcoming.
Mason to remain operational during this time
The university will remain open, and faculty and staff are expected to continue working during this period. In fact, for some, constraints on their time will increase, particularly as we work to shift classes to virtual instruction. I appreciate everyone’s patience as we move through this uncharted territory.
Of course, if you feel unwell, please stay home. And some faculty and staff may need to telework, particularly those who have medical vulnerabilities that put them at high risk. I encourage supervisors to work with faculty and staff who request flexible work options due to medical susceptibility to coronavirus.
If you are returning from a level 3 travel restriction country, or have been instructed by the health department, please follow guidance from the CDC about self-quarantine, whether on or off-campus.
The Stearns Center for Teaching and Learning and ITS have resources for faculty to migrate to virtual alternative instruction and for staff to be telework-ready as necessary. Instructional continuity plans can be found on the Stearns Center website, and VPN information is available from ITS. Guidance on telework is available from Employee Relations. Deans, directors and department heads have been in contact with their teams to ensure continuity of operations during this time.
As a reminder, the university also has suspended university-related domestic and international travel through April 10 for students, faculty and staff, and has cancelled study abroad-related travel for the semester. In addition, we strongly encourage our campus community to postpone or forgo nonessential personal travel during this time.
We are currently evaluating additional options, including cancelling events. We anticipate sending more information about events and other university business this week, and we encourage you to reach out to organizers to check the status of those events.
As you know, this situation is changing rapidly and we will continue to send information often. I want to urge everyone to monitor their email. Students, if your family members want to receive these emails, please make sure they sign up for the Mason Family Flash newsletter. In addition, please utilize other university information channels, including the university’s coronavirus website and the university’s switchboard, which can assist in directing calls about Mason’s response to the coronavirus. The number is 703-993-1000.
All of these decisions are being made with the health and safety of our campus community in mind. Remember to take time to practice good self-care and focus on what you can do to remain healthy: frequent hand washing for at least 20 seconds, getting enough rest, eating healthy and drinking plenty of water.
We appreciate your patience and flexibility during this time as we navigate this evolving situation, and we will continue to provide regular updates through email and through the website.