The Chancellor's office took questions on Thursday, March 12th, regarding the changes to SIU Carbondale in an effort to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
The campus is extending spring break until March 22nd and will be converting classes to online or alternative formats. The campus is still open, however, and dormitories and dining halls will re-open on Sunday for students who decide to return.
Students that elect to return home will be able to move out of their dorms, though the university says refunds will not be offered in those cases.
Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs Meera Komarraju said the extended spring break will allow faculty members to convert in-person classes to other formats. She said there is flexibility and some disciplines that rely on hands-on learning may continue to offer one-on-one or small group instruction.
"Aviation is usually a one on one instruction instruction, you have one flight instructor and the student," Komarraju said, as an example. "And in that situation, that that is a possibility for a student, if they chose, to stay in the program and go through that experience."
Komarraju said as of now there is no timeline on how long in-person classes will be suspended.
Other university business will continue as usual, and student workers will continue to be able to work if they wish to do so. Athletic practices will also continue, though non-championship games have been suspended.
"That does allow the student athletes to be on campus that allows them to continue to practice, that allows them to use weight rooms and and be active with their their sports," said Matt Boughman, Chief of Staff for the Chancellor's office.
The university is also cancelling all events with more than 25 people and is encouraging smaller gatherings to practice social distancing.
The student health center is also preparing to handle any cases of Covid-19. Medical Chief of Staff Paul Bennett said the center is not currently able to test for coronavirus, but is hoping to be able to do so soon. The delay is due to a required screening test mandated by the Illinois Department of Public Health.
Bennett said students who are concerned should call student health rather than heading to local emergency rooms. He emphasized that anyone with respiratory illness should call first, so student health can screen them and prepare if coronavirus is suspected.
"We're happy to bring them in and care for them and evaluate what else is going on. But we're hoping that people who have respiratory complaints give us a call first, rather than just kind of wandering in," Bennett said.
The Chancellor's office is meeting daily and said there are a number of contingency plans in place as the situation evolves.