Ryan: No events to be held on Grounds; faculty and staff who can work remotely should

In response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the University of Virginia on Tuesday night announced that all classes will be held online for the remainder of the academic year and the original plan for Final Exercises has been canceled.

“We do not make this decision lightly, as we know how disappointing it will be to graduating students and their families,” UVa President Jim Ryan and Provost Liz Magill said in a joint statement. “That said, a team is already focused on developing creative alternatives to mark this important occasion, and we will communicate updates as we have them.”

Originally, the university said it would make a decision around April 5 on when students could return to Grounds and whether Final Exercises would continue as planned.

“It is exceedingly unlikely, based on all that we know at this point, that this virus will have abated by the end of April,” the announcement states.

Ryan on Wednesday, March 18, clarified in a statement that holding Final Exercises at a later date still is an option.

“Our apologies for not making this clear and for the confusion we caused, …” Ryan wrote. “There are a lot of logistics to figure out, but we will be back in touch as soon as we can. We know how important this ceremony is to our students and families, and we will do our very best to figure out a good solution.”

For students who will have difficulties in completing courses online, UVa has set up a technology support fund. University officials also are discussions about possible changes to its grading system for this semester, the announcement states.

Only students who have no other option will be allowed to remain on Grounds, the university said. Students who need to collect belongings have until noon Wednesday to get them. If a student is unable to retrieve property from their rooms by then, the university said not to return until they receive further instructions from UVa officials.

Students who  can return home must do so by March 20 unless they are:

  • international students who cannot secure travel home;
  • people whose permanent residence is on-Grounds, like graduate students, postdocs, faculty and staff; or
  • students who would face a severe health or safety risk if they travel home.

Anyone who receives financial aid and needs assistance in getting home should contact Student Financial Services at sfs@virginia.edu or (434) 982-6000, the university states.

The university also strongly suggests that students who live off-Grounds return home.

According to the university, Observatory Hill Dining Hall will be the only major dining facility that is open, other than those necessary at the UVa Medical Center. Food will be to-go only, and hours will be posted here. Student accounts will received pro-rated credits for on-Grounds Housing and dining contracts unless a refund is requested once further instructions are sent to students.

As long as students remain enrolled, financial aid will not be affected, the university stated.

Employees

According to Tuesday’s announcement, telecommuting is mandatory for all employees except for those who must report in person to carry out key functions. Employees should contact their supervisors for further clarification.

Employee compensation and benefits will continue for the foreseeable future, the university states.

Student workers who are teaching assistants or working on research will be paid if they continue their work. Further guidance on research will be released on Wednesday, the university said. Any student employees who car work remotely may do so with a supervisor’s approval. Students in the Federal Work Study program will continue to be paid through the end of the semester. If a student worker not in the work study program cannot work remotely and the lack of pay causes a hardship, supervisors have a list of emergency financial resources, the university said

The university stated that it will have a further announcement about contract employees soon.

University buildings and activities

UVa’s libraries are closed to everyone except for faculty and staff who need them to teach their online classes or for clinical care. All student activity spaces, including 1515 and all gyms and fitness centers, are closed, officials said. All venues and attractions, such as the McCormick Observatory and the Rotunda, are closed to the public. Bus service will be reduced.

All events on Grounds, regardless of size, have been canceled until at least May 15. This includes conferences, symposia and social gatherings scheduled to be held at the university but are not affiliated with it. Internal UVa meetings with adequate social distancing are exempt, according to the announcement.

“Implementing these changes will no doubt be difficult, and we know further questions will arise, but we remain as confident as ever in our community’s ability to navigate this unprecedented set of challenges together,” Ryan and Magill said in the announcement.

Article updated at 12:16 p.m. March 18 with additional information on Final Exercises.