As the COVID-19 outbreak gathered momentum, campuses everywhere began to wrestle with the difficult decision of how to proceed. For many, the conversations started with questions about the impact it would have on students studying abroad. Quickly, though, it turned to offering all classes remotely, with the University of Washington in Seattle announcing that they would enact the measure on March 9, with the hope of resuming normal operations on March 30 when they were to begin a new academic quarter. It feels like so long ago.
Moving classes online escalated quickly to asking students to leave campus entirely, including having students move out of the residence halls if they were able to. Compounding this issue was the fact that many campuses were observing their annual spring break at this time, meaning that some students were not asked to leave as much as they were asked not to return except to gather their necessary belongings.
Of the 286 who answered the question in an ACUHO-I straw poll taken March 23–25, 82% were “closing campus residence halls but allowing certain students to occupy them” while 6% reported “closing campus residences and not allowing any student to occupy them.” (About 12% had not implemented or publicly announced a decision regarding residences at that time.)
Those students who did not wish to move out of the residence halls submitted their appeals through online surveys and printed forms. The accepted reasons (respondents were asked to select the option that best characterized the operations at that time) often were questions of logistics (students whose homes were in other countries) but also reflected student-centered considerations.
—James A. Baumann