Gordon College will be moving all classes online, starting Monday, March 23rd until Monday, April 13th. Made on March 16th, the announcement from the College stems from another on March 11th, which announced that classes would resume online starting March 23rd. All graduate classes resumed instruction on the evening of March 16th.
This latest announcement followed Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker issuing an emergency order prohibiting the gathering of 25 or more individuals on March 15th, and the order is set to expire on April 6th. Massachusetts has officially been under a state of emergency since March 10th, in hopes that it will allow the state administration to more effectively respond to the coronavirus outbreak.
According to the Gordon website, the transition to an online academic setting is up to professors: “Faculty will be contacting their students directly with directions and details on next steps as soon as possible this week.”
Since March 11th, the College has strongly recommended that students return and remain home until the evening of Monday, April 13th. They anticipate that in-person instruction will resume Tuesday, April 14th.
Other colleges and universities on the North Shore, such as Endicott College and Salem State University, have also adopted remote teaching to slow transmission of the coronavirus. Endicott plans on returning to in-person classes on April 6th, at earliest, while Salem State will continue online-only classes until the end of finals. Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology set a precedent earlier this month on March 10th, giving students days to pack and leave campus for the remainder of the spring semester.
Other colleges in the Coalition of Christian Colleges and Universities, such as Wheaton College, Seattle Pacific University, Calvin University, Azusa Pacific University, and Westmont College, have declared that classes will continue online-only for the rest of the semester until the end of finals week.
For many students, the change in scenery from campus life to online-only classes is a necessary disappointment. Aaron van Cleef, a senior this year, says, “While I understand and to some degree appreciate Gordon’s decision for public safety, I am concerned about what some last semester activities will look like for seniors,” referring to the uncertainty surrounding events such as Senior Formal and commencement. “I have a feeling of loss as I have many friends who I was supposed to be celebrating with” says van Cleef.
Some students do not fully understand the college’s decision to delay closing the campus to April 14, rather than close for the rest of the semester. “It feels like they’re delaying the inevitable… the changes they’re making are pretty gradual,” says Susannah Henry, a senior who is living and working on campus. Campus life for students who choose not to go home is also very different from a normal semester: “There’s some kind of camaraderie knowing we’re in this trying transition together,” says Praisye Yeo ‘20, “It’s been odd, too, not knowing when you’ll see people again, not knowing how to or whether to say goodbye… because for a lot of us international students it’s hard to know where to go when we’re told to go home, ‘cause this is it. Gordon is home.”
As of March 21st, students do not yet know if they will be refunded for their meal plans and boarding as they spend the next few weeks away from campus. According to the Gordon College Coronavirus Frequently Asked Questions page, the College is “100 percent focused on smoothly transitioning into a remote learning environment to meet the academic needs of all students” as faculty and staff work to find ways to allow academic life to go on after leaving campus. “We will be addressing this and other related issues as soon as possible and provide additional information at that time,” says the FAQ.
It is also unknown at this time whether the College will have a commencement ceremony, but students will likely know for sure once the College reevaluates on or before April 13th.
According to models from researchers at Imperial College London, these severe measures are necessary in lowering the potential death count resulting from the coronavirus. According to the Washington Post, “Such restrictions would have to be maintained, at least intermittently, until a working vaccine is developed, which could take 12 to 18 months at best” in order to “flatten the curve” of hospitalizations in the US.