University cancels campus events amid COVID-19 outbreak

Academic+Senate%27s+March+meeting+is+canceled.+

Photo by Jordan Johnson

Academic Senate's March meeting is canceled.

The spread of COVID-19, commonly referred to as “the coronavirus,” has resulted in a cascade of effects, ranging from nationwide shutdowns in countries such as France and Spain to the university’s cancellation of all campus events prior to April 10.

Joining many of its fellow secondary education institutions across the country, Marquette University announced in a March 12 email to students that all classes would be conducted online until April 10. 

This abrupt shift to distance learning in order to promote social distancing and to reduce the risk of infection in the close confines of university life has led to the event cancellations, according to university spokesperson Chris Stolarski.

“No decision has been made on currently scheduled Commencement activities, but it will be made no sooner than the week of April 10th,” Stolarski said in an email.

The canceled events include Pride Prom, Dreamers Gala, the play Julius Caesar and the March 16 Academic Senate meeting, according to the corresponding Marquette website pages for each of these events.

“This decision was made by the Executive Leadership Team, which comprises President Lovell, Provost Ah Yun and Senior Vice President Pogodzinski, based on guidance from a cross-campus COVID-19 Response Team, which includes medical professionals,” Stolarski said in an email. “The team is basing its recommendations to the ELT on guidance from public health officials, including the Centers for Disease Control, Wisconsin Department of Health Services and Milwaukee Health Department.”

Lisa Maragakis, senior director of infection prevention at Johns Hopkins, defines social distancing as the practice of deliberately increasing the space between people and minimizing large social interactions in order to slow the spread of the disease. Examples of effective social distancing include working from home, postponing large gatherings, and communicating electronically rather than in person, she wrote on the Johns Hopkins Medicine website.

According to the World Health Organization, “Coronaviruses (CoV) are a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV).” The particular strain which has garnered so much attention in recent months is Coronavirus Disease 2019, or COVID-19.

As of March 15, the official guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was to “cancel or postpone in-person events that consist of 50 people or more.”

The Marquette University School of Dentistry has announced that, until further notice, it will close all patient clinics and will not accept walk-in emergency services, according to its website.

“COVID 19 is a highly contagious virus and the danger it can pose to vulnerable populations demands that we take precautions to protect all members of our Marquette community,” the website said. “We have a dedicated team working through these complex issues to identify the best courses of action in the coming days and weeks.”

Additionally, the Marquette University Medical Clinic website said that it has made online scheduling unavailable “Due to enhanced screening during to COVID-19 outbreak.”

The clinic said that anyone who is experiencing any of the symptoms of COVID-19, which include fever, cough and shortness of breath, and has come into contact with someone who has tested positive for the disease should instead contact their primary healthcare provider.

According to Sumana Chattopadhyay, chair of the Academic Senate, none of the items on the agenda for the March meeting were time sensitive. She said the items included curriculum recommendations from the Board of Graduate Studies and the Board of Undergraduate Studies, work group discussions on shared governance, a campus safety update and a proposal about the creation of an Interprofessional Education and Collaborative Practice Committee.

“The University Academic Senate is responsible for advising the senior administration and board of trustees on matters crucial to the success of Marquette University’s academic mission,” according to its website. “It is co-chaired by the Provost and a chair elected from the UAS faculty senators, and its membership includes elected faculty senators, undergraduate and graduate students representatives, and appointed and ex officio deans and vice provosts.”

The website also said that the senate meets monthly during the academic year.

Chattopadhyay said she made the decision to cancel the meeting and consulted with the Senate Executive Committee, taking into account that faculty were busy this week transitioning their classes online. She said she did not want to burden them with an additional item to worry about.

“There is a provision in our bylaws for doing things or voting without being there in person, so we can do that,” she said. “One of the challenges might just be having everybody online.”

Chattopadhyay said March’s agenda items have been moved to the April 20 meeting. She said if the university returns to normal, in-person function, the meeting will continue as originally planned. If the university extends its online presence past April 10, the meeting will take place through Microsoft Teams.

“It’s mainly going to be just not being there in person and the face-to-face communication, but the business will get done for sure, I am confident about that,” Chattopadhyay said. “By then, this will become the new normal on campus if we have to do it that way.”

Jacqueline Black, Associate Director of Hispanic Initiatives, said in an email that the cancellation of Dreamers Gala “was a huge disappointment for the student planning team, the speakers, and many of the 360 folks who had registered for the event.”

“The Dreamers Gala has continued to be a yearly student-led initiative that brings together students, administrators, faculty, staff, Jesuits, and community members in a beautiful celebration of the accomplishments and resilience of our undocumented/DACAmented students,” according to its website.

It is also a fundraising opportunity for a scholarship named after Ignacio Ellacuría, S.J., “a proponent of liberating the oppressed in order ‘to reach the fullness of humanity,'” the website also said.

“Fortunately, however, so many folks who had registered for the event simply gifted their registration fee to the Ignacio Ellacuria, S.J. Dreamers Scholarship fund,” Black said in an email. “So while we didn’t hit our fundraising target, the hard work that the students put in was still very worthwhile.”

Though the event will not be rescheduled, she said in an email that “John Baworowsky, VP for Enrollment Management, and his wife Dr. Kathleen Cross are hosting an annual wine pairing event in July, the proceeds of which go toward the scholarship fund.”

Black said that interested parties should reach out to her or donate directly to the scholarship through the Marquette giving website.

Stolarski said in an email that, “although the university understands that students may be disappointed about events that cannot be held now, it expects students, faculty, and staff to comply fully with the regulations meant to ensure everyone’s safety.”

“Protecting the health, safety and wellbeing of our students, faculty, staff and visitors is the very definition of fulfilling the university’s core values and Catholic, Jesuit mission,” Stolarski said in an email. “The university expects students, faculty and staff to comply fully with the regulations communicated to keep everyone safe.”

With regards to planning for the fall semester, Stolarski said that the university cannot speculate that far into the future given the continuously evolving nature of the pandemic.

This story was written by Shir Bloch. She can be reached at shir.bloch@marquette.edu.