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UC Santa Barbara announced changes starting tomorrow, March 11, to shift its campus for the remainder of the winter quarter through at least April of the spring quarter to remote instruction in anticipation of a potential coronavirus outbreak in Santa Barbara County. Student travel during spring break could bring more restrictions and keep undergraduates away from campus, the announcement stated.
Chancellor Henry Yang sent a campus-wide message that instructors are strongly encouraged to arrange for alternatives to in-person final exams, which are next week, and to set up their class formats for next quarter as online-only through April or longer.
“Our COVID-19 Response Working Group will continue to consult and evaluate the evolving situation in the coming days and weeks to make additional recommendations for the spring quarter,” Yang said. “We know that this transition is not going to be easy, and we all need to be flexible.”
In addition to the remote classes, the message recommended that undergraduate students traveling for spring break be prepared for the possibility of staying away from campus through the month of April — similar to what Harvard also told its students after it switched instruction to virtual-only in the wake of the global outbreak. UCSB joins other UC schools — UC Santa Cruz, UC San Diego, and UC Berkeley — in the switch to remote instruction.
UCSB sports has elected to continue holding scheduled match-ups but without fans in the stands. UC Santa Barbara’s Arts & Lectures series, however, will hold all scheduled events complete with audience.
Governor Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency last Wednesday, and as of today, there are at least 157 cases across the state and two deaths. The second death was announced March 9 by Santa Clara County officials; the woman in her sixties had been hospitalized for several weeks and had no known COVID-19 contacts. Santa Barbara County currently has no confirmed cases, and the nearest is one in Ventura County.
“The well-being of our community is our highest priority,” Yang said. “We are working to adapt our robust response and continuity plans to this current threat, and to maintain a healthy and safe living, learning, and working environment for all of us.”
The campus shutdown comes at the same time as a graduate student cost-of-living strike that has been in motion since January of this year. With the end of winter quarter approaching, the graduate students are gearing up to withhold grades — further complicating the timing of the campus shutdown.