Harvard University is attempting to get ahead of any potential coronavirus problems by ending all in-person classes as of March 23, and having all students move out of the dorms within the next several days, the Harvard Crimson reported.
Beginning March 23, all classes will be taught online. This is the last week before spring break, so the students are being asked not to return, and those who live in the dorms have been ordered to quickly move out by Sunday evening.
The decision sends students scrambling to make moving and travel arrangements on short notice. University spokesperson Rachel Dane said the move was a part of an effort to "de-densify" the campus as the number of coronavirus cases in Massachusetts increases.
"The goal of these changes is to minimize the need to gather in large groups and spend prolonged time in close proximity with each other in spaces such as classrooms, dining halls, and residential buildings," Harvard president Lawrence Bacow said in a statement.
Harvard's statement seems to indicate that students with "extenuating circumstances" might be allowed to remain on campus, although they would still receive remote online instruction like everyone else. The university directed students who would face financial hardship as a result of the sudden need to move to contact the financial aid office.
"Despite our best efforts to bring the University's resources to bear on this virus, we are still faced with uncertainty — and the considerable unease brought on by uncertainty," Bacow said in his statement. "It will take time for researchers, a good many of them who are our colleagues, to understand enough about this disease to mount a reliable defense against it. Now more than ever, we must do our utmost to protect those among us who are most vulnerable, whether physically or emotionally, and to treat one another with generosity and respect."
Decisions by Harvard and other Ivy League schools to essentially shut down this month will also impact their athletics programs. The Ivy League conference basketball tournaments, which determine automatic bids to the NCAA tournament and were set to be played at Harvard, were canceled, meaning the conference's regular season champions get the tournament spots.
As of Monday, there were 41 coronavirus cases in the state of Massachusetts.