This article has been updated.
Texas Woman’s University confirmed Monday most classes will move online through the remainder of the semester, though many questions remain unanswered in the face of the evolving COVID-19 pandemic.
Chancellor Carine Feyten sent out an email confirming the decision to move classes online beginning March 23, with instructors using extended spring break to transition face-to-face classes to the web. Classes effected include those at the Denton, Dallas and Houston campuses, as well as those at the Collin Higher Education Center. Clinicals, practicums and student-teaching placements will remain in-person unless stated otherwise. The email also promised more information would be made available to students via updates from Student Life concerning housing and dining, and from Provost Carolyn Kapinus about classes, award ceremonies and commencement.
The announcement comes just one day after the first presumptive-positive case of COVID-19 was identified in Denton County. The City of Denton and Denton County declared states of disaster Saturday in response to the growing number of cases in North Texas. Universities across the country have moved classes online and restaurants, retail outlets and other businesses have closed amid recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to practice social distancing.
Various campus departments also released updates via social media Monday. Here’s what we know – and don’t know — so far:
Pioneer Kitchen is now offering only full-service dining, with self-service options being served by a dining team member. Dining shared on Twitter the move is to help prevent the spread of novel coronavirus. Dining hours are 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. March 16-19. Pioneer Kitchen also announced Starbucks will offer only to-go service until further notice.
Parking will no longer be enforced on the Denton and Dallas campuses this semester, Chancellor Feyten announced in an email Tuesday. Shuttles will stop running Thursday, and those remaining on campus are not restricted to their permit zones.
“We probably don’t want people sitting in an enclosed thing like a shuttle, riding together,” Jason Tomlinson, vice president of Finance and Administration, said regarding the changes.
The changes will not affect students on the Houston campus, as parking is enforced by parking garage owners, not the university.
A petition to refund part of tuition and the cost of parking decals had received over 650 signatures as of Tuesday morning, but administrators said they have not yet decided whether students can expect refunds for parking passes with classes moving online.
“As our policy stands today, we don’t do refunds once you get past Add/Drop, but this is a unique situation, so I don’t want to just say we’re only adhering to that policy,” Tomlinson said. “This is obviously a different situation than what that policy was created under.”
Tomlinson said the decision of whether to refund students for passes may rely partly on directives from the governor’s office, since TWU is a public university. Students can expect a statement concerning parking to be released soon.
Though the university confirmed in a statement last week departments and facilities would be open during extended spring break, which ends March 23, whether these facilities will remain open in the coming weeks is uncertain.
“Because of the social distancing, we’re going to push more people to work from home, but then it becomes how do you get the mail around, checks come in, applications still come in, etc.,” Tomlinson said. “You may have a skeleton crew [but] you’ll always have essentials. DPS will be there and we’ll have people in the dorms [because] you’ve got to clean them, you’ve got to make them safe, you’ve got to have the food services.
“It’s going to be by unit — by what’s deemed essential.”
Academic advising has been moved online and is altering already-scheduled appointments for different delivery methods.
Tomlinson said decisions about certain departments are still being made.
“There’s still conversations happening about Hubbard, Fit and Rec and the library,” Tomlinson said. “How we’re going to still provide services and what those services are, we’re still working through.”
The university also has not worked out details concerning what student workers can expect, though Tomlinson indicated it would likely be department-based.
Tours and travel
All campus tours – including individual and group tours, Pioneer Preview Day and the Grad Showcase — have been suspended until further notice. The cancellations come after last week’s suspension of nonessential university travel and the cancellation of the Lone Star Conference for the rest of the spring season.
Feyten also announced last week that, per CDC recommendations, students and employees who have traveled abroad since Feb. 29 must self-isolate for 14 days and report to TWU Risk Management before resuming campus activities.
Tomlinson said administrators are meeting daily to determine plans for the rest of the semester, but the rapidly evolving situation has created complications in determining the best path forward.
“It changes every day,” Tomlinson said. “Trump’s press conference he just had, he just restricted or said the instruction he was going to give to the states was no public gatherings over 10 people. We started at 250 and went down to 50 and now we’re down to 10, so I mean, everything keeps changing on a daily basis.”
The university is assembling a response team to address what Tomlinson said are hundreds of questions the university is receiving from students and have created a “frequently asked questions” section on the soon-to-be updated coronavirus webpage. A TWU Instagram post Monday stated the university is compiling a full list of services that will be available following the break extension.
The Lasso is continuing to reach out to campus officials to answer questions and keep the TWU community updated with the latest information. Questions and tips can be submitted here.