Christian Colleges Respond to Coronavirus
Editor’s Note: As we get information about Christian colleges, we will add that information as an “Update” at the end of the story or, as appropriate, in the story itself.
As the number of confirmed coronavirus cases continues to climb across the country, Christian colleges and universities are formulating responses to limit the spread of what has become a worldwide disease.
Faced with the threat of on-campus outbreaks, many colleges are shutting their physical doors and opening virtual ones. Campus events and athletics are being canceled while classes and meetings are moved online. Other schools, hoping to weather the storm, have formed coronavirus response teams to prepare for or prevent an outbreak, but are maintaining a “business as usual” approach to classes and campus events.
In New York City, where at least 52 cases of the virus have been confirmed, The King’s College announced Tuesday it would be closing its campus through the end of March.
(March 13 Update: The King’s College will close its campus through the end of the semester.)
“At this time, while a few in our community have reported flu-like symptoms and are self-isolating, there are no confirmed cases of the virus within the King’s community,” King’s College President Tim Gibson wrote in a letter to students and faculty. “Please refrain from speculation as it is not helpful to moving forward together.”
Classes will resume remotely after spring break with staff and faculty working from home. Campus housing will remain open, although the school is asking that anyone who travels internationally self-quarantine off campus for 14 days after returning.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said on Wednesday that 216 cases of the coronavirus have been confirmed state-wide. That same day, the World Health Organization officially declared the coronavirus a pandemic, meaning it has spread worldwide.
At least 45 nations have confirmed cases of the virus, which has sickened more than 120,000 people and killed about 4,400, according to WORLD. In the United States, the virus has spread to more than 1,000 people across more than 30 states and killed at least 30, per WORLD.
Despite that, two of the largest Christian colleges in the country have chosen to keep their campuses open. Grand Canyon University in Arizona hasn’t made any changes to its schedule, though the school has an “Emergency Preparedness Task Force” assessing the situation. Liberty University in Virginia has canceled all school-sponsored international travel, including study abroad, until the fall 2020 semester, but its on-campus classes and events are moving forward as planned. This, despite many neighboring schools switching to remote classes, including the University of Virginia, Virginia Tech, and College of William and Mary.
Biola University in California, also, is not shutting down, but leadership is enacting “social distancing” measures, including canceling chapels, limiting campus events to 150 attendees, and canceling school-related air travel—except for the school’s NCAA athletic teams, who will continue to compete. There are at least 191 confirmed cases in California, according to The New York Times, and at least nine of the state’s universities are moving their classes online, according to Newsweek.
Lancaster Bible College in Pennsylvania is taking similar measures by extending spring break through March 22 and restricting college-affiliated, but not personal, travel during break. The school has also created a task force in the potential case of a coronavirus outbreak on campus, which could include remote classes.
Wheaton College in Illinois is also extending spring break an extra week but has announced it will cancel in-person classes and events. School President Philip Ryken asked that students return home for the rest of the semester, although on-campus room and board will still be available for those who need it.
“You may be wondering why we are making this decision now, given that there are no known cases on our campus and relatively few cases in Illinois,” Ryken wrote in an update on the school’s website. “Global experience is showing that social distancing is one of the best protections against the virus, which has the potential to spread rapidly in communities. We also believe that spring break travel presents a potential threat to Wheaton and the surrounding community.”
Wheaton will continue to provide classes to its students virtually through its online platforms. “By being proactive—taking a thoughtful, faithful approach—we have an opportunity to care well for people,” Ryken said.
March 13 Update: Palm Beach Atlantic University said Spring 2020 semester will continue as scheduled. However, beginning Monday March 16, classes will be provided in online/remote/distance learning environments, through March 31.