Troy University will move to online-only classes due to the outbreak of the coronavirus COVID-19, but residence halls and dining halls will remain open to accommodate students who cannot go home.
Classes will be online only from March 16 to April 5. On April 6, the university will announce how it plans to proceed.
All events within this period will also be postponed or cancelled.
The decision to suspend in-person classes comes after a week of deliberations from administration, according to Lance Tatum, the senior vice chancellor for academic affairs, but he said he is confident the transition will go smoothly.
“There’s certain content that we’re offering in class that doesn’t transition very well to online, so we’re going to make sure to offer that by email if we have to, (or) by video conferencing if we have to,” he said. “We anticipate that the transition of in-class to online will go well.”
He said the university is also taking into consideration students who may not have access to a reliable computer or resources, but alternate coursework delivery methods are still in development.
Tatum said the virus will not impact students’ tracks toward graduation — even those who may rely on study abroad credits to complete coursework.
“The university is taking into consideration the fact that we have graduating seniors who are relying on that study abroad credit to satisfy their graduation requirements,” he said. “The university has arranged academic work that will allow those students to receive the credit which they registered for, so no one will be harmed academically because they could not take a study abroad trip.”
There are still two students on long-term study abroad trips who have not yet returned home — one in South Korea, and one in Austria — but the university is in “constant email communications with them.”
The Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will stay in contact with the university for updates on safety information and possible positive cases.
Troy University is also maintaining communication with other university leaders across the state to monitor the situation.
“We are going to follow the ADPH and CDC’s guidelines,” Tatum said. “They (students) should be aware of their surroundings, they should not congregate in large numbers, if they’re starting to feel ill, they need to isolate themselves and call their primary care physician.
“We’re going to make sure that we’re very aware of what’s happening in dorms and facilities throughout the campus.”
Troy has also instructed Sodexo to clean and disinfect campus areas “more frequently,” Tatum said.
He said Sodexo has assured the university they will be able to keep supplying cleaning products amidst the shortages of supplies nationwide.
Hand sanitizer dispensers will also be refilled throughout campus, but everyone should exercise good handwashing, as sanitizer is not the most effective method of preventing sickness.
If anyone feels concerned about possible symptoms, the ADPH has to conduct testing.
“If a student isn’t feeling well, they can call their primary care physician or local urgent care facilities,” Tatum said. “If they meet certain protocols for the illness, they’ll be instructed to actually go in and visit their primary care physician or urgent care facility.
“A physician is the only person who can actually make a request for testing. At that point in time, the ADPH will be notified and they will come in and do testing.”
Those exhibiting symptoms can also directly contact the ADPH to know if they need bloodwork done.
“Hospitals cannot test, and Troy University will not be able to test,” Tatum said. “It’s a blood test, not a swab test, which means it’s more involved than just testing for the flu.”
Faculty and staff are instructed to “remain on station” and continue work, but anyone feeling ill should “address that appropriately and don’t come to work.”
In the case of a student possibly needing to be quarantined, the university owns properties off-campus with individual rooms where students can stay.
Throughout all the concerns, Tatum said the most important thing is to avoid panic.
“We need to be calm in this type of situation,” he said. “We shouldn’t segregate people out of a group just because we’re fearful of the fact they may bring something into our environment because they’re from outside of the state or outside of the country.
“I think there’s some tolerance that has to be developed here.”
He assured the university is staying on top of the situation to the best of its ability.
“We have to be cautious, we have to be proactive, and we have to be vigilant in making sure we are every day watching the situation. “