President Sabah Randhawa announced that classes at Western will be conducted online for the entirety of spring quarter in an email sent to faculty and staff on Thursday afternoon.
Faculty have received daily messages about instruction since classes were suspended on March 10, and the Center for Teaching and Learning has provided a series of workshops on converting to remote learning. Randhawa’s message did not go into detail about the logistics of online courses.
In a subsequent email distributed by the deans of Western's colleges, Provost Brent Carbajal, faculty union President Rich Brown and Faculty Senate President Jeff Young distributed a list of resources for remote learning, including the university's approved online technologies for remote teaching, noting, "What is needed in this scenario is a viable approach to the remote delivery of courses that will achieve the desired essential learning outcomes and that will get the students to where they need to be."
Administrators asked faculty and students to be flexible and patient.
“There simply is no map for how to navigate this territory, and we are all learning how to make it work, doing our best under difficult circumstances,” Randhawa said. In earlier messages, the university indicated that the spring quarter would have a delayed start and would convert from online-only to campus-based classes midway through the quarter.
Randhawa said the school is still committed to maintaining essential operations. Employees will return to campus on April 27, though the exact date is subject to change as the situation evolves, Randhawa said.
The Campus Life coronavirus FAQ notes that “University Residences plans to remain open, even during a closure, unless the university determines everyone must leave campus. Because this is a rapidly changing situation we learn more about COVID-19 and how it transmits, we need to prepare for a range of possibilities. However, some students live in campus apartments full-time, and we plan with that in mind.”
The campuswide coronavirus site had not been updated as of 5:20 p.m., but Randhawa’s message promised detailed information will be posted there.
Randhawa also thanked staff for their patience and hard work.
“I also want to acknowledge that the personal stresses imposed by social distancing and the closures of so many of the services, amenities, and social opportunities that make our personal lives functional and enjoyable adds enormously to the strain,” Randhawa said.
Western’s decision to suspend in-person classes comes one day after the University of Washington announced that it would be moving spring quarter classes online.
Randhawa said protecting the well-being and employment security of Western’s faculty and staff will be a top priority during the closure.
“At the institutional level we are exploring strategies to reduce and contain costs, recognizing that protecting jobs is important to sustain our community,” he said.
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Nate Sanford is the editor-in-chief of The Western Front and a fourth year news/editorial journalism major. His reporting focuses on the environment, local politics, culture and anything else that matters. His writing has appeared in Crosscut, The Planet magazine, Whatcom Watch and at least one desk in Haggard Hall. You can find him on Twitter @sanford_nate and at email@example.com.