Undergraduate classes move online for fall; letter urges students not to return to campus

Students may be required to quarantine for two weeks upon returning; on-campus services limited

CHERYL AARNIO, Evergreen reporter

The WSU Pullman campus will be offering all undergraduate classes remotely with very few in-person exceptions, according to a letter WSU officials published today. WSU will announce information about graduate classes by Aug. 1. 

Delivery options for class schedules will be finalized Aug. 1, said Phil Weiler, WSU’s Vice President for Marketing and Communications. Students who will have face-to-face courses can either come to Pullman for fall or take those classes another semester. 

“Students, if you can stay at your permanent residence during this current phase of the COVID‑19 outbreak, please continue progressing toward your degree from home,” the letter states.

The university is also asking students who live in an area with a high transmission rate to stay home. Areas have a high transmission rate when there are more than 10 positive COVID-19 cases for every 100,000 residents over a 7-day period, according to the letter.

Housing and designated quarantine areas

Only students who show “a demonstrated institutional need and are approved to live on campus” will be able to live in residence halls starting Aug. 15, according to the letter.

An institutional need includes students with certain financial situations, first-generation college students and students who have in-person, on-campus jobs. This also includes students with an ADA accommodation, international students and students who have face-to-face courses. A full list of exceptions can be found in the letter.

Students who do not demonstrate a need to live in a residence hall must cancel their contract or defer to next semester, according to the letter.

Some people took to Twitter to state their frustration with their housing situation:

Students will be required to quarantine in a designated residence hall for two weeks before moving into their own residence halls if they demonstrate need, are approved to live on campus and are coming from an area with a high transmission rate, Weiler said. 

WSU officials expect few people to live on campus next semester, he said. The residence hall set aside for quarantine will not reach capacity, and there will be room for social distancing, Weiler said. Normally, 6,200 people live in on-campus apartments or residence halls. WSU officials expect about 1,000 students to live in residence halls next semester. 

The residential hall used for quarantine will be set aside for the semester in case a student starts feeling sick, Weiler said. They will also be required to get tested for COVID-19 at Cougar Health Services. 

On-campus apartments will open Aug. 1 as planned, according to the letter.

This is because it is easier for students to isolate themselves in an apartment than in a residence hall where congregation is common, Weiler said. The apartments will also stay open because they house several graduate students whose research might still need to be done in a face-to-face environment. 

Students who live off-campus must be prepared to quarantine for two weeks if they return from an area with a high transmission rate. Those students “may not be allowed to use the University’s recreational or other facilities, including community spaces, until proof of quarantine has been provided,” according to the letter. 

People planning to live in their fraternity or sorority house should work with their “chapter’s housing corporation,” according to the letter.

Students staying home can enter intercampus enrollment, which allows students to transfer to another WSU campus, Weiler said.

Within the next day or so, other physical WSU campuses will determine how they will hold classes, Weiler said. If another campus has face-to-face classes, intercampus enrollment could be easier for some students.

Food, recreation and health services

There will be limited food services on campus. There will be grab-and-go options, and students can use the GET app to order food online and pick it up in-person. This is similar to how food services operated during the last half of spring 2020, Weiler said. Dining halls will have limited seating.

Recreation centers will be open with COVID-19 safety protocols, Weiler said. Cougar Health Services will also be open.

WSU’s reason for the change and community reactions

The country, including the Moscow-Pullman area, is in a very different place today than it was a month ago, Weiler said. There have been many COVID-19 outbreaks recently. 

“A month ago, we were confident we were going to be able to have students return,” Weiler said.

Siobhan Cassidy, senior journalism and multimedia production major, said she is the HR director for Cable 8 Productions. Executive members of Cable 8 had talked with their advisers and knew there was a high chance classes would end up mostly online.

“I kind of saw it coming, but it didn’t mean that it wasn’t super disappointing, especially considering it’s my senior year,” she said. 

She is frustrated with the tuition raise, Cassidy said, especially because it was likely classes would be online, and now they are. 

Most students will be home, so they will not have access to resources they are paying for, she said.

Others shared similar sentiments on Twitter:

Cassidy said she is coming back to Pullman because she is leasing a house with some of her friends. She said she also hopes to do some Cable 8 work in person. 

Noelle Kamaunu, mother of an incoming freshman, said she agrees with WSU’s plan because the best thing they can do is protect students, staff and families.

“I support it 100 percent. I was not planning on sending my daughter at all for fall,” she said.

Their family lives in Hawaii and Gov. David Ige has mandated a two-week quarantine for anyone arriving. Kamaunu said she and her husband had planned to accompany their daughter to WSU, but they did not want to have to quarantine when they got back to Hawaii.

They had already planned to have their daughter stay home, Kamaunu said, partly for financial reasons. Plane tickets are expensive, and she did not think the pandemic was getting better due to the recent surge in cases. 

Kamaunu said she thought the school would shut down during fall. 

“Knowing that it’s possible that [my daughter] would have to come right back within who knows when, it just didn’t make any sense,” Kamaunu said.

Outbreaks on other university campuses, like the recent outbreak at the University of Washington, is another reason for WSU’s change, Weiler said. 

Whitman County, Pullman included, does not have the proper healthcare capacity to treat an outbreak, according to the letter.

WSU officials will address details of the recent announcement during the COVID-19 town hall July 24.