Morgan State began its first day of remote instructional learning on Monday and while the campus has been shut down since March 10 due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the university remains open with limited building access to non-essential employees.
In a statement released by President David Wilson on Sunday, the protocol, which came from the direction of Gov. Larry Hogan, includes a preliminary screening for all visitors prior to entry. Refusal to cooperate will result in a denial of entry.
“While I understand that you may find these measures to be extreme and inconvenient, we are facing a health crisis unlike any that we have faced before and we must do all that we can to stop the potential spread of COVID- 19,” Wilson said in a statement addressed to the community.
The university also announced a Limited Operations Plan that includes closing campus facilities and requiring a screening process before entry for others. Some other changes ensure all university employees who can work remotely must telework, while those who cannot will be placed on administrative leave.
While the university will remain open to students and faculty, adjustments have been made to a few buildings on campus.
The Earl S. Richardson Library limited its access to Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. and the Rawlings Dining Hall will exercise “grab and go” food options for students who remain on campus.
According to Wilson, the goal is to help the university “decrease the number of employees on campus” to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
This news followed the administration’s decision to close all on-campus housing facilities, and postpone the spring commencement originally scheduled for May, according to an announcement.
Students and faculty received the public announcement on Tuesday, two days into spring break. The message came shortly after the administration cancelled in-class instruction, originally until April 6.
Although, many students are left disappointed with the university’s final decision, Larry Jones, assistant vice president of the university’s public relations office, reminded students that the choice was not just a “tough one, but it was a necessary one.”
“It became imperative for the president to make a decisive decision now to help alleviate some of the uncertainty. It would be negligent on the part of the University to not place the health and safety of our students above all else,” Jones said.
Graduating senior and psychology major Alexis Knight refuses to accept the new plans for graduation and argued that the decision was made “too prematurely.”
“My sister and I would be the first in our immediate family to graduate from college,” Knight said. “Our parents are not able to see us walk across the stage. All of the hard work we have put in to showcase is now cut short.”
“I do think they should have given a time frame to see what decisions can be made after these two weeks,” she added. “It went from having a two-week time to regroup, to cancelling all events … to the whole semester and graduation in a matter of four days.”
The announcement also urged students who traveled during spring break not to return to campus. Students currently living on-campus have been given till the end of the semester to move out. Additionally, the university is issuing prorated refunds for housing and meal plan costs and added support for students who cannot relocate back home.
“No deadline to vacate the on-campus housing has been set at this point,” Jones said. “But given the current circumstances that we find ourselves facing, with the spread of coronavirus cases in Maryland, this would need to happen sooner rather than later, so that students can begin adapting to this new reality we are experiencing.”
Off-campus residences like Morgan View Apartments and Marble Hall Gardens have committed to remaining open for students for the remainder of the semester. But, the apartment complexes have encouraged their tenants to practice social distancing and, according to a statement, Morgan View Apartments has suspended non-residential visitors from entering the property.