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USM schools to transition to distance-learning for rest of semester

University System of Maryland Chancellor Jay Perman delivered a statement on March 19 detailing that all undergraduate, face-to-face instruction will be conducted using distance-learning for the rest of the academic year.

According to Perman, those students who do not have access to reliable internet service or laptops will be provided with the necessary equipment and will receive free internet service through carriers from their university. 

Individual universities have been collaborating for “weeks now,” according to Perman, in order to share resources about “technology plans and platforms for things like final exams, clinical simulations and lab demonstration.”

While undergraduate students will be spending the rest of their semesters online, graduate students and students in professional programs are subject to different academic “considerations,” which includes seeking “guidance from the relevant accrediting bodies and boards that provide certification” before finalizing instructional changes, Perman said.

The USM is recommending that reimbursement for students’ room and board costs will occur on a prorated basis, Perman said, and stated that financial aid packages will not be impacted, under “good guidance from the federal government.” 

“Distance learning has still more implications to housing, specifically the fair adjustment of cost, including room and board,” Perman said. 

Each university is formulating a schedule for student move out procedures. “Obviously, this needs to be done in an orderly fashion — with special attention given to the fact that we cannot have people gathering in large crowds, and that we need to be able to maintain social distancing,” Perman said. 

In an email communication from UMBC President Freeman Hrabowski and Provost Philip Rous, they stated that “students who have left campus for spring break will continue to be unable to access their residence halls. Students with an urgent need to retrieve items from their residence halls prior to this announcement may contact Residential Life.”

Residential Life staff will be disinfecting high-touch areas and trying to alleviate crowding in “pinch points,” or small spaces where large groups could gather.

All USM schools have also been instructed not to hold traditional, in-person commencements and are encouraged to “be creative with how they celebrate their graduates,” Perman said. 

Perman issued a word of warning to students who may not be social distancing. “This isn’t a break. It’s not a respite from the semester. It’s not a party. I urge students staying in their family homes or in off-campus housing to follow the state and federal guidelines on gatherings,” Perman said.

As of March 19, 38 percent of patients hospitalized were between 20 and 54.

Earlier in the meeting, Board of Regent members voted unanimously to temporarily delegate authority to Perman to amend board policy as needed to respond to COVID-19. This temporary authority was granted for up to 1 year, with a fiscal spending limit of 10 million dollars.

Treasurer of the Board of Regents William Wood cited Perman as being uniquely qualified, after his time as a doctor and the president of the healthcare campus at the University of Maryland, Baltimore. “He’s the perfect person for this responsibility,” Wood said.

These decisions come just hours after Governor Larry Hogan asked the USM Board of Regents to keep students off campus and move the remainder of the semester online. Perman noted that Governor Hogan’s press conference was in alignment with the decision that the Board of Regents was moving towards.

As of March 17, two UMBC community members were being tested for COVID-19. UMBC has not released results and does not plan to unless the tests are positive.