Georgetown University President John J. DeGioia (CAS ’79, GRD ’95) announced in a universitywide email that all in-person classes will transition indefinitely to online only coursework beginning March 16 amid growing concerns about the COVID-19 outbreak.
Georgetown additionally recommends all students complete the online coursework at their permanent addresses. Campus buildings and some services, however, will remain open for students who decide to stay on campus. The decision comes after the suspension of several abroad programs, the cancellation of the graduate gathering John Carroll Weekend and a conversion to online classes at Georgetown’s Qatar campus, among other developments.
The university did not make the decision to convert to online classes lightly and will work to provide students resources to ease the transition, according to DeGioia’s email.
“This decision to move to virtual learning is taken after the most careful consideration. Our colleagues are working to ensure we can sustain educational continuity and faculty and students will be receiving guidance on managing this transition to virtual learning from the leadership of each school,” DeGioia wrote. “We recognize that this transition to virtual instruction will introduce new challenges and we are putting in place the resources to be of support to all members of our community during this process.”
Students who choose to remain on campus must fill out a form with the Office of Residential Living before March 17 at 12 p.m. to receive permission from the university to remain on campus, according to an FAQ page on the university’s website. The form does not list criteria to receive permission but asks for name, email, international status, residence hall, room number and duration of stay.
The Department of Planning and Facilities Management has also increased cleaning around campus, deploying additional staff to clean frequently touched points on campus, and added an additional 23 hand sanitizer dispensers around campus, according to the FAQs. Office of Transportation Management drivers are also required to use disinfectant on high-touch points on all vehicles both before and after each ride.
The university’s decision seeks to reduce face-to-face encounters, which are proven to limit the spread of the virus, according to DeGioia’s email.
“Two actions that limit the spread of the virus are: first, reducing the density of social encounters—by limiting the number of members of our community on campus, especially in the residence halls, and reducing the size of gatherings; second, by practicing ‘social distancing’—ensuring that, in our public interactions with one another, we provide sufficient distance between ourselves and our colleagues,” DeGioia wrote.
MedStar Georgetown University Hospital is treating a patient with COVID-19, according to a March 5 email from Chief Public Health Officer Vince WinklerPrins. Patient Timothy Cole, the reverend at Christ Church on 3116 O St. NW, was the first reported COVID-19 case in Washington, D.C.
Though there have been no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the Georgetown community, some members may have come into contact with the virus in recent days, according to DeGioia’s email.
In a separate universitywide email, Provost Robert Groves outlined policies for faculty, staff and both graduate and undergraduate students as a result of the announcement. A more comprehensive explanation of the policies will be sent at a later time, according to the email.
The March 11 decision comes one day after students were able to withdraw from the university and receive a refund on tuition, according to the university registrar website.
The university will continue to post updates on a webpage specifically devoted to Georgetown’s response to the COVID-19 outbreak. The university will also work to ensure the safety of all students as the outbreak continues, according to DeGioia’s email.
“We are a global community and the impacts of COVID-19 have affected many aspects of the life of our University community,” DeGioia wrote. “We have confronted challenging moments before, and I am confident that, guided by our mission and ethos and the strength of our community, we will work our way through this moment with the care for one another and for the common good that has defined us throughout our history.”
The university could not respond to all of The Hoya’s questions by the time of publication.
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.