On Tuesday, March 3, at 4:30 p.m., DePaul’s Office of Public Safety sent out an email to the DePaul community advising them to adhere to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) travel notices regarding the coronavirus. On Wednesday, March 18, Public Safety announced the first case of COVID-19 at DePaul. In the roughly two-week period in between, the university radically changed how it would operate going forward, sending out many announcements and updates, which were, at times, minutes apart from one another.
DePaul, like many universities across the country, quickly adapted broad policies requiring students to move out of residence halls and classes to become remote. The confusion and questions surrounding these changes proved difficult to address as the university tried to solidify its policies and adapt to the constantly changing reality of the virus.
14 East has done its best to keep up with these announcements and changes in what will likely go down as one of the most historic two-week periods in DePaul’s history. Here is a timeline of DePaul’s communication with students, faculty and staff regarding COVID-19.
Tuesday, March 3 at 4:30 p.m.
DePaul sends an email advising people traveling to adhere to the CDC’s travel notices. Anyone returning from a country under a Level 3 travel alert should stay home for up to 14 days and monitor their health. DePaul says to adhere to the information in the email, especially if you are planning on traveling internationally during Spring Break. The message was sent by DePaul’s Office of Public Safety and Office of Health Promotion and Wellness.
Thursday, March 5
Interim Provost Salma Ghanem advises faculty to prepare for a scenario in which the university closes due to COVID-19. Selma specifically advises faculty to relax class attendance policies related to sickness, develop remote teaching contingency plans and acquire at least basic online communication skills as soon as they can.
Monday, March 9 at 6:31 p.m.
DePaul President A. Gabriel Esteban announces that the university has created a COVID-19 Planning and Response Task Force that will meet daily to respond to the new developments regarding the coronavirus. The task force is led by Jeff Bethke, executive vice president and chief financial officer, and features 15 other students, faculty and staff. He also notes new prevention efforts including wiping down facility surfaces and canceling spring break study abroad trips. He addresses the Provost’s advisory for faculty to prepare for class disruptions, stating, “We have no reason to believe such a disruption is imminent. No members of the DePaul community have been diagnosed with COVID-19. These measures are being taken as a precaution.”
Tuesday, March 10
DePaul announces that all classes at Cinespace Chicago Film Studios are canceled from March 10 through 12, after someone working on set of the TV show “Next” at the studio tested positive for COVID-19. Executive Vice President Jeff Bethke notes that the facilities DePaul uses are not near where the show was filmed, but the university’s facilities would still undergo a deep cleaning.
Wednesday, March 11
Interim Provost Salma Ghanem emails faculty, announcing that no winter quarter final exams will take place on campus in light of the university’s plans to increase social distancing, with the exception of students registered with the Center for Students with Disabilities.
Wednesday, March 11 at 7:33 p.m.
President Esteban sends an email to the DePaul community reiterating that Winter Quarter Finals will be remote, all university-sponsored events are to be canceled, Spring Quarter classes are to be administered remotely “whenever possible,” and students who live in residence halls should prepare not to return for Spring Quarter. He also states, “Campuses will remain open to faculty and staff, and operations other than in-class instruction will be expected to continue.”
Friday, March 13
President Esteban announces that “whenever possible,” all university departments and divisions should begin operating remotely beginning Monday, March 16. He concludes by saying, “In the next few weeks, disruption will be the norm. I ask for your continued patience and resourcefulness as we take further steps to guard the health and safety of our community and continue our students’ progress toward degree completion.”
Friday, March 13 at 6:27 p.m.
Student Affairs provides updates and clarification on the university’s recent announcements. Students enrolled with the Center for Students with Disabilities do not have to take their final exams in person. Students should expect all classes next quarter to be online, and “in-person courses in Spring will be a rare occurrence.” Spring Quarter tuition will remain the same, but the Student Activity Fee, Athletic Fee and CTA U-Pass fee will be waived for the quarter. Students in residence halls will be fully refunded for all housing, meal plan and MedCare charges if they move out by March 22.
Monday, March 16 at 6:31 a.m.
DePaul Newsline sends an email with a link to a facilities hours update for finals week. John T. Richardson Library is to be open from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. through Friday, March 20, and closed Saturday, March 21, through the end of spring break. Loop Campus Library is to be closed through spring break. LPC Student Center is to be open 7 a.m. to 1 a.m. on Monday through Friday (including normal hours for Dining Services and Food Pantry). The Ray Meyer Fitness & Recreation Center is to be open 5:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Monday through Friday. AMITA Health Services is to be open 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. on Monday through Thursday and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Friday. The update opens with the statement: “As students begin finals week, be assured that these campus facilities and services remain available. Please visit each facility’s website for the most up-to-date information. Hours are subject to change based on the rapidly evolving COVID-19 situation.”
Monday, March 16
Interim Provost Salma Ghanem emails faculty, announcing that the deadline to turn in winter quarter grades is extended to midnight on Sunday, March 29, 2020. She also states that negative course evaluations for quarters that were moved to remote modality will not be held against faculty in review, promotion or tenure decisions.
Monday, March 16 at 6:20 p.m.
Student workers who can work remotely should record their time as usual. Student workers who can’t should apply for opportunities posted on the Campus Job Board. The end of the section about student employment reads, “Student workers will be paid the difference between actual hours worked and their regularly scheduled hours up to Friday, May 1 at which time the process will be re-evaluated.” Staff who are paid hourly and can work remotely are supposed to do so up to 7 hours per day or 35 hours per week. Overtime is not allowed. Staff who cannot work remotely will, similarly to student workers, be considered for alternative duties in the department. Full-time faculty will teach their scheduled course load and be paid their salary. Adjunct faculty will be paid at the rate established for the course(s) they are teaching.
Tuesday, March 17
DePaul Newsline announces that on Tuesday, March 17, the Richardson and Loop Libraries, all university computer labs, and the Ray Meyer Fitness Center will be closed “until further notice.” Access to the Lincoln Park Student Center will be limited to people with a DePaul ID.
AMITA Sage Medical to Close, Reopen on Thursday, March 19
Wednesday, March 18 at 6:29 a.m.
A Public Safety email confirms the closure of the university’s libraries, and states that AMITA Sage Medical at the Lincoln Park Campus will close just for the day and reopen on Thursday, March 19.
Wednesday, March 18 at 7:12 a.m.
A Public Safety email states that late on Tuesday, March 17, DePaul was notified that a faculty member working in the 1150 W. Fullerton Ave. building tested positive for COVID-19. The faculty member was last in the building on Sunday, March 15, with a non-DePaul person who also has been confirmed to have COVID-19. The entire building, which includes AMITA Sage Medical and the Lincoln Park Chicago Public Library branch (where elections had been held the day before), are closed for the day to allow for cleaning. Public Safety also confirms that a resident at Ion Apartments, formerly 1237 West, where many DePaul students reside, also tested positive for COVID-19. Instead of contacting SAGE, students should contact the Chicago Department of Public Health’s call center at 312-746-4835 or firstname.lastname@example.org with coronavirus questions.
Public Safety Escorts Discontinued
Wednesday, March 18 at 9:29 a.m.
In a social distancing effort, Public Safety announces by email that safety escorts and transportation to Illinois Masonic Medical Center will be discontinued, and extra patrols will be added between residence halls and the Student Center.
Wednesday, March 18 at 1:55 p.m.
In an email, President Esteban states that the faculty member who tested positive for the coronavirus worked in the department of Art, Media and Design and hasn’t had contact with a student since Wednesday, March 11. The faculty member believes they contracted the virus sometime after their class on March 11. The DePaul spaces inside the 1150 W. Fullerton Ave. building are to be closed until further notice. The AMITA Sage Medical office will still open tomorrow.
Wednesday, March 18
President Esteban, Interim Provost Ghanem and Executive Vice President Bethke shared an update on what buildings and operations will continue through Spring Break until Spring Quarter begins on March 29. Effective immediately, DePaul employees will need their DePaul ID to enter the Schmitt Academic Center, McGowan North and South, Arts and Letters, 990 West Fullerton, Munroe Hall and 2352 N. Clifton. Students will have access to the Student Center. The 1150 W. Fullerton Ave building, Ray Meyer Fitness Center, libraries and computer labs will remain closed until further notice. Beginning on Monday, March 23, the Student Center will serve three meals a day on weekdays and two on weekends. Loop dining options will be closed. Campus bookstores will remain open under new hours.
Header image by Yusra Shah, 14 East