Arkansas Tech University has made the decision to temporarily cease in-person instruction as of 5 p.m. Friday, March 13, 2020, and move toward delivering exclusively virtual instruction.
The decision was announced by ATU President Dr. Robin E. Bowen on Thursday, March 12, in response to the escalating coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic as defined by the World Health Organization.
"While we do not have any confirmed coronavirus cases on any of our campuses or in our immediate service area as of 4 p.m. Thursday, March 12, the momentum of this situation is clear and consistent with what has been observed in other states and other regions of the world," said Bowen. "It is our civic responsibility to put the health and well-being of our students, faculty, staff and neighbors first.
"There will undoubtedly be logistical challenges as we move forward with this plan," continued Bowen. "It is unprecedented in the history of our institution. However, I am certain that with the compassion, patience and persistence of all involved, we can continue to fulfill our academic mission during this extraordinary moment. Our most important responsibility at this time is to support each other in every way possible. We are all in this together, and we will get through it together."
In preparation for this eventuality, there will be no classes (face-to-face or virtual) Monday, March 16, or Tuesday, March 17. This 48-hour period will allow faculty and staff with an opportunity to make final preparations for virtual instruction. Campus offices will be open these two days and will remain open for regular business hours for the foreseeable future.
Virtual instruction will begin Wednesday, March 18, and continue through Friday, March 20.
Spring break will take place March 23-27.
Virtual-only instruction will resume Monday, March 30, and continue through at least Friday, April 10.
An update will be provided Friday, April 10, based upon the information available at that time.
"Learning outcomes are not being revised," said Dr. Barbara J. Johnson, ATU vice president for academic affairs. "Only the method of delivery will be changed. We will continue to provide students with a high-quality educational experience despite these challenging circumstances."
Members of the ATU community are asked to regularly visit www.atu.edu for updates as they become available.
This will become a catch-all resource that will attempt to answer all frequently asked questions as the university works to facilitate virtual instruction.
Below are some highlights of what is known at this time:
*All out-of-state domestic university-sanctioned travel will cease as of 5 p.m. Friday, March 13. Any faculty member, staff member or student traveling out-of-state may be subject to a 14-day self-quarantine.
*All university extracurricular events will cease as of 5 p.m. Friday, March 13. This policy will remain in place for so long as the university is engaged in exclusively virtual instruction. Some event organizers are choosing to cancel events earlier than March 13.
*Residence halls will remain open for so long as it is safe to do so. Students are invited and encouraged to return home when possible, but no student with on-campus housing will be denied access to their residence hall or on-campus apartment for so long as it is advisable to keep student housing open. Any changes to this policy will be communicated to the university community.
*On-campus food service will continue for so long as it is safe to do so. Any changes to this policy will be communicated to the university community.
*Ross Pendergraft Library and Technology Center will remain open regular hours during the period of virtual instruction in order to provide students and faculty with access to necessary academic resources for so long as it is safe to do so. Personnel from the ATU Office of Facilities Management will take every precaution possible to keep the facility as clean as possible in order to combat any possible spreading of the virus. The university will be evaluating the possibility of opening other computer labs on its Russellville and Ozark campuses as warranted. Other major-specific computer labs may be opened at the discretion of academic departments for so long as it is safe to do so.
*Faculty members will be allowed to access their offices for so long as it is safe to do so. Any changes to this policy will be communicated to the university community.
*The ATU Office of Human Resources will be communicating policies and procedures relative to the situation at hand to staff members. Staff members are asked to consult their e-mail and respond to their supervisors with any questions.
*Student workers will continue to be engaged in their work as possible and may be eligible to receive their planned compensation. Student workers should contact their supervisors regarding their individual situations.
*All employees who report to campus are asked to practice social distancing. Face-to-face meetings should be as limited as possible.
"The health and safety of each member of the ATU community and our neighbors stands alone as our top priority," said Bowen. "It is our belief, based upon information from health care and emergency management experts, that these steps will contribute to our statewide efforts to prevent the spread of the coronavirus in Arkansas. At this moment, that is the most important thing we can do as a university."