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Chancellor Gillman, It’s Time To Cancel Class

Editor’s Note: Today, March 10, UCI Chancellor Howard Gillman released an email stating that UCI will be transitioning to a remote learning mode for spring quarter and having remote finals for winter among other special accommodations in response to the possibility of a coronavirus case on campus.

Late Monday night, March 9, UCSD Chancellor Pradeep K. Khosla announced that the campus would be switching spring quarter classes to an online format in direct response to the coronavirus, or COVID-19, during a press conference. Khosla laid out guidelines for spring quarter as well as how university employees should carry out the remainder of the winter quarter, specifically calling for instructors to forgo using attendance in their grading. This swift response to San Diego County’s first coronavirus case — which was confirmed only hours beforehand — lays out a template that UCI could and should follow.

In an email to UCI staff and students, Chancellor Howard Gillman said, “It is also reasonable to assume that, at some point, there will be a confirmed case within our region, and perhaps within our campus community.” While Gillman may be alluding to a lack of community-transmitted cases in Orange County, there have been two confirmed travel-related cases of coronavirus in Orange County. San Diego’s confirmed case was also travel-related, making Gillman’s distinction of “a confirmed case within our region” questionable.

Gillman continued to say, “We are aware that a small number of other universities, with different local circumstances, have suspended normal in-person classroom meetings. Rest assured: we are prepared to do the same should our local situation change. We are consulting on a daily basis with the State Department of Public Health, Orange County officials, university health officials, and UC Office of the President.”

The local circumstances for universities that have suspended or altered courses are different, but the broader circumstances are largely the same. In the Seattle area, University of Washington cancelled suspended classes after one of their employees tested positive — on a non-federally approved test kit. Despite a lack of a clearly confirmed case, Seattle University, Seattle Pacific University and a satellite campus Northeastern University also altered their courses, without having any confirmed cases themselves.

Universities are taking an actionary, not reactionary, approach to handling the coronavirus. This proactive approach is a responsible way to not only assuage unwarranted fear of the coronavirus, but ensure that community-transmission does not occur. According to NBC News, health experts have told Congress that the U.S. capacity for coronavirus testing is “not currently adequate.”

With a lack of proper testing abilities, the case of coronavirus that Gillman is waiting for may not be found in time; a reactionary approach is not good enough for our current situation. Other universities have altered courses when the coronavirus was detected in their area, and UCSD has laid the groundwork for a plan that UCI could easily adopt for our campus. Chancellor Gillman: it’s been time to cancel classes, it is time to cancel classes.

Nicolas Perez is the 2019-2020 Opinion Co-Editor. He can be reached at opinion@newuniversity.org.