ROGERS PARK — With “COVID-19 infection rates and deaths” increasing across “numerous states,” Loyola University will conduct most of its fall classes online, school officials said Monday.
In-person classes will be limited to those requiring “face-to-face interaction,” including “labs, experiential learning classes, and research,” school leaders said in an email Monday addressed to students, faculty and staff.
Those in-person classes will have reduced course enrollment and other social distancing guidelines in place to reduce the spread of the coronavirus, university President Jo Ann Rooney and Provost and Chief Academic Officer Norberto Gryzwacz wrote in the email.
“Our priority remains the health, safety, and well-being of our Loyola community,” Rooney and Gryzwacz wrote. “In the coming days we will provide detail on the specifics of the fall schedule. In particular, deans and chairs will be working this week to complete the schedule of courses.”
The university will provide “necessary in-person, on-campus instruction and research opportunities to both domestic and international students,” according to the email.
Making in-person classes available to international students is critical in light of a recent move from the Trump administration restricting student visas to study in the U.S.
The guidelines, announced last week, prohibit international students on F-1 or M-1 visas from studying in the U.S. if their schools plan only to provide online instruction this fall. International students face deportation if they do not transfer to a school offering in-person classes — which might be too late to do at this point — or if they don’t voluntarily leave the U.S.
That restriction barring international students from taking online-only courses long has been in place. But it takes on different significance as campuses weigh whether they can safely conduct in-person classes amid the coronavirus pandemic.
More than 1 million international students study in the country, and more than 54,000 in Illinois.
Hundreds of protesters marched through downtown Chicago on Friday to protest Immigration and Customs Enforcement and denounce the policy.
Loyola officials blasted the decision and said last week they were committed to allowing international students to continue with in-person classes to comply with the visa requirements and help them remain in the country to study.
Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology are suing the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to try to block the federal government from enforcing the rule. In a separate email Monday, Rooney and Gryzwacz announced the university joined 178 colleges and universities to support to the lawsuit.
Loyola also filed a declaration with the Illinois Attorney General’s office in support of a lawsuit filed against the policy by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
“The ICE directive disregards guidance issued in the Spring that recognized the unprecedented nature of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Rooney and Gryzwacz wrote. “Forcing any international student who is in the U.S. legally to leave the country at this unprecedented time is misguided and inhumane.”
Despite the decision to hold most classes online, the university expects “many students” will return to residence halls in the fall. Dorms will be reduced to single occupancy and other measures across campus will reflect the reality of attending college during a worldwide pandemic, school leaders said.
Large gathering spaces will be restricted, work schedules will be staggered, class sizes will be reduced and assigned seats in classrooms will be marked off to keep a distance. Classes will also be spaced out 30 minutes to “allow for reduced crowding when entering and leaving classrooms and buildings.”
School leaders also will encourage social distancing, mask wearing and conduct “frequent” COVID-19 testing.
A “Return To Campus” page on the university’s website will provide additional details on campus life.
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