More than 75,000 University of Massachusetts students on the system's five campuses will take all their classes online beginning today at least through April 3.
A day after Governor Charlie Baker declared a state of emergency, UMass announced it's canceling in-person classes. UMass President Marty Meehan told WGBH News Wednesday the university made the decision after meeting with state and federal health officials.
"It is clear that moving our students from face-to-face learning to a more remote model must be part of our contribution at UMass in the mitigation effort in fighting this disease,” Meehan said.
The UMass system joined Harvard, MIT, Boston University, Boston College and Northeastern, among others in the state, in going online. Bunker Hill Community College announced that it is closing both its campuses after the discovery "a presumptive case of Covid-19" on its Chelsea campus, according to the college's website. It said that individual's test results were expected in 72 hours and the closure of the Chelsea and main Charlestown campuses would last at least until Monday.
Meanwhile, UMass and other schools are encouraging students to stay home while faculty shift to online courses. Last month, a UMass Boston student was the first person quarantined in the state after he returned from China. Since then, that student has been isolated.
Meehan said UMass is prepared to go online.
"We've been meeting for weeks with the chancellors,” he sad. “We have the capacity and the ability to teach remotely, using web, video, teleconferencing tools."
Meehan said the vast majority of UMass students have wi-fi access:"Anybody coming to a public research university like UMass has a computer and has the ability to have us -- through our faculty -- teach remotely."
Meehan said one advantage will be that students can learn on their own time.
Some low-income and international students have criticized Harvard and other colleges for sending them home for the semester to prevent the spread of coronavirus, even as schools say they will make some exceptions.
On social media, students have been hammering Harvard for giving them five days to pack up their stuff and move out of their dorms. Some students say they won't be able to go home because of costs or travel restrictions.
Former homeland security official Juliette Kayyem recognizes the outrage, but said institutions like Harvard have to set a standard approach.
"Otherwise, if we're waiting for the plans to be perfect and to take into account every variable we're going to wait too long and move the capacity to flatten the curve," Kayyem said.
Harvard says students who need help should reach out to their resident deans and the college will review applications and make decisions as soon as possible.
On Wednesday, Harvard announced the college will give students on financial aid up to $200 to assist them with shipping or storing their belongings.