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UW-Madison moves all classes online for rest of semester
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UW-MADISON | DECISION ON COMMENCEMENT STILL TO COME

UW-Madison moves all classes online for rest of semester

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UW-Madison announced Tuesday that instruction and exams would remain online through the end of the spring semester, another aggressive step by Wisconsin’s largest university to stem the spread of COVID-19.

The university’s roughly 44,000 students are on spring break this week. Online coursework begins Monday through May 1. Final exams will also be delivered remotely.

“I share the disappointment of students and employees who were anticipating Terrace chairs, sunny days on Bascom and all of the events that make spring special at UW-Madison,” Chancellor Rebecca Blank wrote in a message to students and staff. “This is not the semester that any of us wanted.”

Other Wisconsin institutions, including UW-La Crosse and UW-Green Bay, made similar announcements this week. UW-Stout went so far as to say all summer coursework would be delivered online, too.

Bit by bit, nonessential operations of Wisconsin’s flagship university are closing.

Officials moved the majority of UW-Madison’s 22,000 employees to teleworking on Monday. On-campus child-care centers closed that same day.

Starting Wednesday, most libraries will be shuttered and only employees delivering “essential” services that cannot be done remotely will report to campus, measures that will remain in effect indefinitely.

Both UW-Madison and the University of Wisconsin System implemented temporary COVID-19 leave policies Tuesday that provide all employees, except for students working in hourly positions, with additional hours of paid leave. Full-time employees receive 80 hours of leave to use if they cannot perform their job remotely, become sick, are caring for an immediate family member or ordered to self-quarantine.

UW-Madison asked students to “carefully consider” whether returning to Madison after spring break was needed or if they could instead finish out the semester from their permanent residence.

Students living in residence halls under extenuating circumstances can remain in the dorms, but may be asked to move to a different building to reduce staffing needs.

Many of the thousands of students who moved out of the dorms last week left belongings behind, expecting to return sometime in April. Those students now need to schedule a time with university housing officials to officially move out. No fees will be assessed for move-outs that take place later this semester, according to a university statement.

Disappointment for soon-to-be graduates

Blank said she realized the disappointment that Tuesday’s announcement brings, particularly among seniors and graduate students scheduled to earn their diploma this spring. Years of hard work will be capped off remotely, alone behind a screen, instead of alongside friends and mentors.

“The more we sit here with this, the more we realize there are people we will never see again,” UW-Madison senior class president Lauren Sorensen said. “Professors we will never talk to again. I’m never going to sit in a college classroom again.”

The university’s most recent announcement hit Sorensen and others in the class of 2020 harder than last week’s news when UW-Madison announced a shift to online instruction expected to last for perhaps only a few weeks. But Sorensen said it’s hard to be angry because of the circumstances.

Several universities across the country have already canceled their spring commencement ceremonies, including the University of Michigan. Students at the University of Maine- Orono, organized an impromptu “Coronamencement,” according to The New York Times.

UW-Madison hasn’t yet made the call on commencement. Blank said Tuesday that information on graduation would be coming soon.

“It would mean no closure,” Sorensen said, referring to the possibility of no commencement ceremony. “The way I would describe it is just feeling empty.”

Sorensen said she reached out to other senior class officers Tuesday to start brainstorming ideas for events or activities that could take the place of the traditional ceremony that crams thousands into Camp Randall Stadium.

“This is an opportunity to be creative,” she said. “This is an opportunity to do something that perhaps has never been done before.”

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