Colleges Respond to Latest Coronavirus News

Middlebury moves all classes and final exams online; Cornell cancels all student gatherings; Penn calls off indoor social events; Tulane reinstates mask mandate; Rochester bans holiday parties; more colleges require booster shots.

December 13, 2021

Colleges continue to respond to increases in the number of students getting coronavirus. Responses range from moving all classes and final exams online to banning social events for students. In addition, more colleges are announcing booster shot requirements.

Middlebury Moves Online

Middlebury College is moving all classes and final exams online for the rest of the semester.

The announcement Thursday came after 34 new cases of COVID-19 were diagnosed on campus, bringing the total to 49 active student cases and one active employee case.

“While many of the new cases we have identified appear to be connected, occurring in clusters among people who socialize together, an increase in the prevalence of COVID-19 increases the likelihood of broader community transmission. Given the timing of this increase, coinciding with the end of the fall semester and imminent student departures, we have decided to move immediately to remote instruction and postpone in-person events. This includes classes that meet on Friday, December 10, final exams, and all formal and informal events, including athletics competitions and performing arts,” the announcement said.

“With more than 99 percent of students fully vaccinated and many already receiving booster doses, the risk of adverse health outcomes from the Delta variant is low. Rising student cases that require isolation, ongoing transmission, and the few days remaining in the semester warrant the change to remote instruction,” the announcement added.

The college encouraged students to leave Middlebury immediately but is making arrangements for those who cannot.

Late Friday, Middlebury sent a message to students saying that two more cases had been confirmed.

The message said, however, “We have every expectation that winter term will be in-person, utilizing arrival testing protocols and other measures we have in place.”

Cornell Cancels All Student Gatherings

Cornell University announced it is calling off “all in-person student gatherings, formal or informal.”

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The university said, “in-person exams will continue as planned, as there has been no evidence of classroom virus transmission. All exams are already de-densified (50 percent capacity).”

Rise in Cases at Penn

The University of Pennsylvania announced that over the last week of testing, the university confirmed 133 cases, more than 120 in the prior week.

“New COVID cases are primarily among students and are linked to indoor social gatherings,” said a letter from Beth A. Winkelstein, interim provost, Craig Carnaroli, senior executive vice president, and Benoit Dubé, chief wellness officer. “There still have not been any documented COVID cases of classroom or workplace transmission.”

As a result, the university announced that all indoor social events are canceled for the rest of the semester.

Some students are demanding that final exams be moved online. More than 500 have signed a petition that says, “The University of Pennsylvania should move finals to be an online exam for all large lecture based classes. The current transmission rate of COVID is so high that the university has declared that there cannot be social gatherings such as formals and other social events. Many students have not been getting testing.”

Tulane Reinstates Mask Mandate

Tulane University announced Friday that it was reinstating its mask mandate. “The university is requiring that everyone, regardless of their vaccine status, wear masks while inside campus buildings from now through the end of the year. It is encouraged that all nonessential gatherings where food and drinks will be served are moved to an outdoor location and continue to follow all CDC guidance,” the university guidance said.

“Even more so than masking, receiving booster vaccines is an effective way to protect yourself and the community against Omicron and other COVID-19 variants,” it added.

Rochester Bars In-Person Holiday Parties

The University of Rochester announced that in-person holiday parties were being banned “for the safety and well-being of university community members and in an effort to prevent a post-holiday surge of COVID-19 cases.”

The university announcement said that “students, faculty, and staff are asked to consider alternatives to in-person holiday gatherings, such as virtual celebrations, until the time that we can come together again at a lower risk of transmission.​”

More Colleges Require Booster Shots

In the past few days, more colleges have announced a requirement that all students, faculty and other employees get a booster shot against COVID-19.

Northeastern University is among these institutions.

Others are Carleton and St. Olaf Colleges and Wake Forest University.

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Scott Jaschik

Scott Jaschik, Editor, is one of the three founders of Inside Higher Ed. With Doug Lederman, he leads the editorial operations of Inside Higher Ed, overseeing news content, opinion pieces, career advice, blogs and other features. Scott is a leading voice on higher education issues, quoted regularly in publications nationwide, and publishing articles on colleges in publications such as The New York Times, The Boston Globe, The Washington Post, Salon, and elsewhere. He has been a judge or screener for the National Magazine Awards, the Online Journalism Awards, the Folio Editorial Excellence Awards, and the Education Writers Association Awards. Scott served as a mentor in the community college fellowship program of the Hechinger Institute on Education and the Media, of Teachers College, Columbia University. He is a member of the board of the Education Writers Association. From 1999-2003, Scott was editor of The Chronicle of Higher Education. Scott grew up in Rochester, N.Y., and graduated from Cornell University in 1985. He lives in Washington.

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