OU leadership is considering moving classes online for the two weeks following spring break due to concerns regarding the coronavirus, according to a screenshot obtained by The Daily of an email from the dean of the College of Architecture.
In the email screenshot, which does not include the entirety of the email, College of Architecture Dean Hans Butzer said the decision will be made within the next 48 hours, and moving classes online would act “as a means to ensure everyone has the opportunity to self-isolate after the resumption of classes after spring break.”
Butzer said in the email screenshot that OU leadership has been in regular meetings since Thursday, March 5 discussing the impact of the coronavirus, or COVID-19, on the university.
“Precautionary concern is now focused on the prospect of students campus-wide traveling elsewhere for spring break and then returning to campus the following week without an understanding of whether a self-isolation period is required or not,” Butzer said in the email screenshot.
Kesha Keith, OU director of media relations, said in an email that the university is closely monitoring the situation.
“At this time, the university is closely monitoring the situation and continues to work closely with health experts,” Keith said in the email. “We will inform our faculty, staff and students once a decision is made.”
In an updated statement, Keith said the university will make extensive preparations "should those measures be necessary," and that a "decision has not yet been made."
"Leadership groups are consulting multiple times a day with health experts at OUHSC," Keith said. "Faculty, staff and students will be informed once a decision is made."
On March 2, OU announced that it was closing all of its study abroad programs in Italy due to the spread of the virus. On March 6, the first Oklahoma case of the coronavirus was confirmed in Tulsa County.
According to the Faculty Senate agenda, Vice Provost for Instruction and Student Success Mark Morvant and Associate Provost for Faculty and Student Affairs Chris Walker will discuss coronavirus planning at its meeting this afternoon.
During the Dean’s Council on March 4, Associate Provost for Faculty and Student Affairs Chris Walker discussed “plans underway to respond to potentially worsening situations with the coronavirus outbreak,” according to the agenda.
Two groups consisting of individuals from the Legal Counsel’s Office, Health Sciences Center, Public Health, Student Affairs, Goddard Health Center, International Studies, Human Resources, Public Relations, Student Affairs and Housing have been meeting regularly, according to the agenda.
“Walker emphasized that meetings are ongoing, and the committees are very active,” the agenda read. “He urged the deans to filter questions and pass them on to him. He would like to identify and prepare for major obstacles should moving classes to an online environment be required.”
So far, seven universities across the country have either moved classes online or canceled classes due to the coronavirus, according to an Axios article.
On March 6, the University of Washington announced that it would be moving classes online, according to the article, along with Stanford University due to members of the community who were exposed to the virus.
On March 8, Columbia University and an affiliate, Barnard College, canceled classes for Monday and Tuesday and will have remote lessons for the remainder of the week because of a faculty member who tested positive for the virus and two students who were exposed and are in self-isolation, according to the article.
Rice University also announced Sunday that it would cancel in-person classes for the week because an employee tested positive for the virus, according to the article.
This story was updated at 2:10 p.m. to include an updated statement from the university.