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BREAKING: Haverford Moves to Virtual Learning in Light of COVID-19 Fears

On March 11, 2020, President Wendy Raymond sent out an email to the Haverford community announcing the decision to move to virtual learning from the end of Spring Break, March 16, until April 6 in light of the COVID-19 outbreak.

According to the CDC, as of 2:23 pm EST on Wednesday, the United States currently has 938 confirmed cases of COVID-19 with 29 deaths. Of these cases, California has 152, Massachusetts 92, New York 173, and Washington 267. However, it is suspected the actual number of cases is much higher, as demand for COVID-19 tests has vastly outpaced the supply.

Appealing to the values of community and responsible citizenship, President Raymond described the rationale for Haverford’s decision in her email: “If humankind is going to defeat this virus, we must do all we can to avoid becoming its carriers. And so our obligation means more than keeping ourselves healthy; it includes minimizing the possibilities for us each to become a carrier and, with that, a vector for later transmission to others, particularly those at risk for serious complications or death due to COVID-19. For the Haverford community, being a responsible citizen routinely means thinking beyond one’s own welfare; at this challenging moment, I ask that we embrace a broader definition of community, one that aligns with Haverford’s mission and extends our values of trust, concern, and respect to include doing our individual part for the benefit of all humanity.” 

President Raymond also stressed the administration’s concern for the Haverford community’s “health and well-being” and recommends that students leave campus if that is a possibility for them. However, Haverford will accommodate students who cannot leave: the dining center will continue to be open and the health center will support students if needed. Moreover, if students need to return to campus to collect belongings, Haverford will allow students to do so and, if returning presents a financial burden, Haverford will provide assistance for students to receive their items.

As far as the decision to move to online learning, the details—such as the platform that will be used—are still unclear. The current plan is for the week of March 16 to March 23 to be a trial week for virtual instruction: faculty will reach out to students to make a plan. From March 23 to April 6, courses will be conducted virtually at their normal times. By March 30, Haverford will announce if they plan on extending virtual learning.  

Haverford is not the only college moving online. Colleges across the country, including Swarthmore and Bryn Mawr, are soon switching to virtual instruction. Other schools, such as Wellesley, have yet to announce their plans. One of the first schools to make the switch to virtual instruction was Stanford, which announced their decision to do so indefinitely last week. 

Stanford student Emily Ross ‘21 had her first class on Zoom, a video and audio conferencing platform, earlier this week. “I have attended one class so far taught by three professors who were all in the same room, but made use of some multicamera functionality. They also made use of the chat functionality so people could say when they wanted to talk and then everybody in the class, which was about 100 people, was muted until they were designated by the teachers as being called on and then their mute functionality was removed. So we were actually able to ask teachers questions in class. There is also the ability [through Zoom] to do break-out discussions which I will be using later today,” said Ross. 

Of particular concern for Haverford students are those in art and lab classes who need to be physically present to do their work. 

“Changing to virtual classes for labs is unfortunate and difficult for students and teachers because lab is meant for hands-on experience and learning. We won’t get the full experience we would be had we been working in the lab rather than over the computer,” said Marisa LaBarca ‘21, who is currently taking Biology Superlab—a required course for her Chemistry major with a Biochemical concentration. 

It is clear that Haverford faces quite a challenge. The Clerk intends on providing timely coverage of Haverford’s plans. We have reached out for comment from the administration, but have not yet heard back. If you have a tip or want to write an op-ed about Haverford’s COVID-19 response, please email hcclerk@gmail.com

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