The Effect of the Pandemic on the University of Redlands

The Effect of the Pandemic on the University of Redlands

UPDATE: An email announcement from the President of the University has announced “students are asked to leave campus as soon as possible,” and at latest March 20 by 5 pm.

The Theatre Arts Department’s production of Proof was live streamed on Anna Klein’s Facebook page Monday March 16.

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Starting Mar. 23, the College of Arts and Sciences will transition to “‘technology-enhanced’ hybrid virtual instruction” in an effort to minimize in-person meetings for the rest of the spring semester. A number of professors have transitioned to online classes this week ahead of schedule.

The School of Music has moved ahead and cancelled all ensemble rehearsals, unessential recitals, and in-person classes. The School of Education and Business is expected to follow suit. A number of junior and senior music students will have their recitals—landmark moments in their college career, and for some their last chance to perform what they’ve learned—changed to a live-streamed event; the students will perform to a camera with no audience present in the Fred Loewe Performance Hall.

The University’s response to COVID-19 follows a number of university campuses that had already cancelled all in-person classes the week before. Many students who have had all of their classes transitioned to an online format have left campus entirely to finish the remainder of the semester from their own homes. Those who have remained on campus are free to continue to use University facilities such as the computer lab, library, and the dining hall, but are encouraged to practice social distancing—“a conscious effort to reduce close contact between people and hopefully stymie community transmission of the virus”—in public settings. In addition, all non-essential gatherings of 100 people or more have been cancelled. Defiantly, the Theatre Arts Department will go through with a student-directed production of David Auburn’s Proof, while limiting audience sizes to less than 100 per performance (and as of today, every performance is completely sold out). A decision will be made about commencement ceremonies on Mar. 30.

Those who were abroad have been uprooted from their programs entirely. Days before President Trump announced a national emergency and travel bans to countries most at risk, all University of Redlands students studying abroad were recalled back from their programs.

Wenmei Bai 21’ was studying abroad in southern Italy, while the north was already under lockdown. Bai said in a phone interview that things were “very very normal” up until she left on Thursday Mar. 5. She received no medical screening on her flight home.

“Absolutely no stuff in place to screen people,” Bai said. “I flew from Rome to Frankfurt, and then Frankfurt to Vegas, and the only thing was that in Frankfurt they had us fill out a paper just basically saying where our permanent residence was so in case there was somebody who had the virus on that flight they could contact us.”

The program Bai was enrolled in acted before the U of R; Bai explained that “we switched to online classes a week before Redlands recalled me.” Bai has continued her coursework online from the U.S. Other abroad students had a similar experience. Amanda Wong 21’ was also recalled two months into her spring semester in Nagoya, Japan, and was also given the option to continue her studies in Japanese online. Students from other universities at her abroad institution who were not recalled were not allowed to stay in their dormitories, Wong said. “They don’t want a Diamond Princess situation,” Wong said. She also expects to receive “some sort of refund” for her housing, but Bai is unsure if she will receive the same.

Wong explained that she was grateful that she is still able to receive the credits she registered for via online instruction, but lamented “a semester’s worth of experiences and studying” cut short. Bai expressed the same sentiment, but has made some peace with the chaos of the situation.

“It’s pointless to ask why now or why me because it’s happening to so many people,” Bai said.

Some students who had made plans to study abroad in the fall in at-risk places like China have since changed their study abroad location. Junior Jahmari Johnson’s original intent to study in Shanghai was moved to New Zealand. Other students with plans to travel abroad in May were less fortunate, as the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences Kendrick Brown announced in an email that all May Term travel courses have been cancelled. This includes a domestic travel course through the Pacific southwest which two members of the Bulldog’s editorial staff had registered for.

Amidst the unprecedented response from the University, it so far remains untouched by the virus. As of today, San Bernardino county has reported one case of the virus in Fontana, but no University of Redlands campuses have reported any confirmed cases. A recent “Bulldog Be Safe” email reported that one student at the University’s main campus who was being tested is “no longer of interest for the novel coronavirus.” A student at the Graduate School of Theology in Marin is currently being evaluated for the virus, and is “self-isolating at home and will continue to do so until deemed no longer at risk for having the virus.”

The University’s website outlines their full university-wide measures, including a response team composed of 12 members of administration and faculty working with San Bernardino county liaisons to provide up-to-date information and recommendations.

[hr gap=””]Photograph by Alissa Eckert, MS; Dan Higgins, MAMS