On Wednesday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued an order for all SUNY and CUNY schools to transition to distance learning by March 19.
Although there are no confirmed coronavirus cases in Broome County, Binghamton University has been proactive in its response to the virus should a case appear in the county or on campus. Classes will continue until March 19, although most events scheduled after that date will be canceled, and the status of commencement will be determined by April 17.
College campuses across the country have been moving classes online or, in the case of Harvard University, decided to evict students from their campuses, giving them only a few days to gather their belongings and arrange their means of traveling home. This decision has been especially hard on low-income and international students, who may not have the luxury of moving out upon such short notice. BU’s campus will thankfully remain open should students wish to stay, which may prove safer than sending students home.
The University will not be reimbursing room and board fees for those who decide to leave, however, because the residential halls and dining halls will continue to operate regardless of how many students choose to go home. Similarly, although labs have the option of continuing in person with an exemption from a dean, students are still expected to contribute lab fees even if they are not using lab facilities. It’s a complicated and unexpected situation, but it’s also a clear case of students paying for a service they’re simply not going to receive, which can be just as hard on low-income students as it would be if BU closed its campus.
The uncertainty surrounding commencement is just as troubling, since many students have financial considerations that could very well be jeopardized until a final decision is made. Many soon-to-be graduates are currently purchasing their cap and gowns, while their families have already made reservations at hotels. For as long as commencement’s cancellation remains a possibility, the burden of paying for one of the most special days in an undergraduate’s life hangs in the balance.
The Editorial Board applauds the University for its transparency thus far, and encourages the administration to continue being honest with its students. Many are understandably panicked, but this panic can easily erode the community that thrives at BU. The potential arrival of the coronavirus has caused rumors to rapidly spread across campus, and these rumors have fast evolved into misinformation. Students should be careful to evaluate where information regarding the coronavirus is coming from and avoid spreading rumors that haven’t been confirmed by official sources.
Additionally, students should remain united against hate. Some have used coronavirus fears as an excuse to spit racist slurs at Asian students and groups, both on campus and off campus. There is no excuse for this behavior, especially when cooperation and care for those around us is essential to surpassing the pandemic.
This is a difficult time for everyone, but this is a moment for the University community to come together, even if not in the most literal sense. The University appears to be informing the public as fast as it can. Professors have largely been very understanding of their students’ well-being and have loosened their attendance policies. Students should also do their part by washing their hands and using hand sanitizer often, avoiding large gatherings, staying home when sick, limiting social interactions and remaining calm.
Our community has faced many different struggles in the past, and we’ve made it through together time and time again. Although the coronavirus presents us with a new set of challenges, it too will come to pass.