Everything you need to know about campus’ response to COVID-19—so far
Within a few short weeks, the COVID-19 pandemic has exploded with an exponential number of confirmed cases daily, affecting nearly every aspect of everyone’s lives. College life—and Portland State itself—is no exception.
After a short spring break, the PSU community will return to a dramatically different term amid an unprecedented pandemic. The majority will not return to campus at all now that society is urged to stay at home as the best method of stopping the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Since PSU first announced that spring term classes would be held remotely, a wave of further responses to the pandemic have followed.
The same day the novel coronavirus outbreak was named a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO), PSU made the decision that no classes would be held in person at the start of spring term and would either have to be taught remotely or not at all. This would be the case for the first four week, until the decision would be reevaluated with the latest recommendations from health officials.
However, on March 18, a little over a week from the initial decision, PSU sent out a second announcement that remote learning would remain for the entire term.
“The coronavirus has prompted a new day-to-day reality for all of us,” PSU Interim President Stephen Percy stated in the announcement. “We have heard increasing concerns from students, faculty and staff about the uncertainty clouding the spring quarter that begins March 30…Rather than start the term with lingering questions, we are committed to devoting all of PSU’s resources and tools to sustain high-quality academic learning in this time of challenge.”
Following the move to online only classes for spring term, much of the rest of campus has followed suit.
Some of PSU’s most important and widely used departments, such as financial services and the registrar, have closed their in person operations but will continue to work with students remotely wherever possible. The office of financial services has also made changes for students, choosing not to charge students a late fee for a late payment in April, as well as extending the deadline to drop a class with a full refund by one week.
Some departments, such as Campus Rec, have chosen to close entirely. Others, such as the Millar Library, continue to have limited in person services available—the first floor lab is still open and the library is offering home delivery services for students who need books or laptops.
The Center for Student Health and Counseling (SHAC) remains open but has also changed to keep the student population safe. SHAC is offering phone consultations for health and mental health services, appointments for in person care and will soon implement telehealth services.
Student Activities and Leadership Programs (SALP) has canceled all in person events and meetings for spring term, which include those for all student groups and clubs. All campus events will be canceled until at least April 8, and on March 26, PSU announced that an in-person commencent for the class of 2020 would also be canceled and held virtually.
For students who live in student housing, remote learning for spring term only means taking classes in a different building on campus.
While University Housing and Residence Life (UHRL), like many departments, is limiting its in person operations, student housing remains open and students are still allowed to live on campus for the duration of the term, but not without changes.
Once the announcement was made that spring classes would be held entirely remotely, UHRL gave students the option to cancel their housing for the spring term and receive a full refund. All residents who chose to remain would be required to live in a single dorm to meet the demands of social distancing, but would not be charged extra for transitioning to a single dorm.
For students leaving for either all of spring term or only spring break, Oregon Governor Kate Brown’s “Stay at Home” executive order complicated things, now that everyone is ordered to stay where they are to stem the spread of COVID-19. UHRL assured students with canceled contracts that their materials would be safe in their old dorms until they could retrieve it. Students who planned to return after spring break, however, were met with a warning email: Don’t.
“Due to the Oregon Governor’s Stay at Home order, if you have already left campus for spring break, you are ordered to stay where you are until the Executive Order is lifted,” UHRL stated in their email to residents, “We are looking out for your own health and the health of those who are on campus now. Please do everything you can to comply with the Oregon Governor’s Stay at Home Executive Order.“
PSU will undoubtedly be different in spring term—but what about the amount that students pay for it?
Any changes to student charges will have to be approved by the Board of Trustees at their April 16 meeting. PSU announced on March 27 that the university would recommend a number of changes to students fees for spring, including eliminating the Campus Rec Fee and reducing the student incidental and building fees. Tuition changes for the remainder of the 2020 academic year have not been proposed—however, changes to the 2021 year will be delayed.
On March 26, with 81,321 confirmed cases of COVID-19, the United States officially surpassed Italy and China with the largest number of cases in the world. The majority of the U.S.’s cases are in New York state, with 59,513 confirmed cases as of March 29. As of Sunday, Oregon has at least 548 cases in the state, with 13 deaths.
While the situation changes daily and organizations continue to make new decisions for the safety of their community, the advice for individuals remains the same: Wash your hands, avoid touching your face, practice social distancing and stay at home as much as you can.