Here’s what you need to know about how the coronavirus is affecting Butler University

Butler University announced on March 11 it is canceling classes through March 18 and will conduct classes online through at least April 4. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. 

JESSICA LEE | EDITOR-IN-CHIEF | jelee2@butler.edu

As the coronavirus continues to spread, Butler University became the sixth school in Indiana to either close campus or move classes online. No cases of the coronavirus have been confirmed on campus, however Butler President James Danko encouraged a minimization of social interaction on and off campus in an email announcement. As the situation changes, Butler will notify the community with updates.

The Butler Collegian will continue to follow this story as more information becomes available.

8:01 p.m. March 31

Kathryn Morris, provost and vice president for academic affairs, announced to students a new alternative grading option for spring 2020 due to classes being moved online for the rest of the semester. 

According to the email, faculty will use the traditional A-F grading scale by default, but students can choose an alternative option: Satisfactory or Pass. This option will not affect grade point average.

“The goal of this policy is to incentivize strong academic performance while providing a ‘safety net’ for students whose academic performance may suffer due to the unexpected shift to online education,” Morris said in the email.

Morris strongly encouraged students to thoroughly read both the policy and the update on Butler’s Coronavirus (COVID-19) FAQs page.

The policy states that students who earn a letter grade of C- or better can choose to change the grade to Satisfactory. Students who earn a letter grade of D-, D or D+ can choose to change the grade to Pass. If a student receives an F, it will remain so.

Courses recorded as Satisfactory will count toward the major or minor, core curriculum, language proficiency requirements and prerequisite requirements. Courses recorded as Pass will only count toward those requirements if it requires a D- or better. 

Students have until May 15 at 5 p.m. EST to decide whether to choose the traditional scale or the alternative option. Grades will be posted in letter grade format on May 7. On that day, Registration and Records will send all students an email with instructions on how to select the alternative grading option.

According to the policy: “Once the alternative grading option is requested, it is irrevocable and will not be reverted to standard A-F grading at any point in time for any reason.”

In a previous email to students on March 18, the deadline to change a course to Pass/Fail was extended to April 6. The Pass/Fail policy and standards still applied in this situation; courses required for graduation, such as the core curriculum or toward majors and minors, cannot be taken as Pass/Fail. Morris had said in the email it was “unwise” to change all grades to Pass/Fail, mostly because those grades cannot transfer to other institutions and graduate programs, and no reassurance of preparedness for future courses. 

According to the new policy, students may not want to choose the new alternative option for many of the same reasons, such as graduate and professional program applications or athletic eligibility.

According to the FAQs page, the policy may not have implications toward a student’s financial aid or scholarships, as Satisfactory or Pass evaluations do not count toward GPA. However, the Office of Financial Aid will work with students if their eligibility is impacted.

As the choice and responsibility of switching to alternative grades “resides with each student,” the policy encourages students to first speak with advisors before choosing.

This alternative option is only open for undergraduate students for their undergraduate courses for the spring semester. Those who are in professional programs like pharmacy — including juniors and seniors in their first and second year of pharmacy — cannot choose this grading option. However, the policy states graduate programs can adapt a similar policy and will communicate that to their students.

2:15 p.m. March 24

Bruce Arick, vice president for finance and administration, announced in an email that credits for “unused housing and board plans” will be applied to student accounts by April 8. The amount of money being refunded has yet to be determined. Additionally, the due date for student account payments has been moved from April 2 to May 31. All interest on outstanding balances and late fees are suspended through May 31.

12:00 p.m. March 18

Butler’s Student Government Association announced in a tweet it is canceling the spring Butlerpalooza concert.

2:15 p.m. March 17

In the most recent update regarding preventative measures to address the spread of the COVID-19 virus, Butler President James Danko announced classes will be online for the remainder of the spring semester. Spring commencement on May 9 has also been canceled.

In Danko’s message, he said Butler is “fully committed to honoring and celebrating the Class of 2020.”

“This is not the way we hoped to finish the semester, especially for the Class of 2020,” Danko said in the message. “We share your disappointment, but we strongly believe this was a necessary decision in our new reality and consistent with our mission of serving the greater good.”

Butler is investigating how to conduct a “virtual convening” of the senior class and relevant university administrators instead of an in-person commencement.

Danko cited recent guidelines from both Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb and Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett as contributing factors to the university’s decision.

On March 16, Holcomb announced additional efforts to stop the spread of coronavirus, including no in-person events of more than 50 people in accordance with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Hogsett also issued a “local disaster emergency,” an executive order that limits non-essential travel.

Danko also made the announcement over video, which was shared on the university’s social media platforms and on the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Update page.

“It is quite evident that well into the foreseeable future that we’re not going to be in a position to gather people on our campus,” Danko said in the video message. “Therefore, I’d like to make the decision now so that people can plan accordingly.”

Students are discouraged from completely moving out their personal belongings from residential halls. As previously allowed, students can continue to come to campus to retrieve essential belongings.

This most recent decision extends the online learning period from April 4, which was the original end date decided by the university. 

“This is tough economic times for all of us,” Danko said in the video message. “Rest assured that we will also make sure that we provide appropriate refunds for housing and food and so forth. So also keep an eye on that information. We will certainly be doing the right thing by our students and their families.”

9:20 p.m. March 15

In the most recent update regarding Butler’s plans to address the coronavirus, Kathryn Morris, provost and vice president for academic affairs, said the Butler Cultural Requirement will be waived for all students graduating this May or August.

“One of the most common student questions to date has been about the Butler Cultural Requirement,” Morris said in the email announcement.

Students are required to attend eight BCRs before they graduate — this year, the deadline for the requirement was April 13. Many BCRs are hosted by the university or Butler Arts and Events Center.

However, in Butler President James Danko’s first announcement about the university’s plan regarding the coronavirus, all university-related events with 50 or more attendees was canceled. Similarly, after Governor Eric Holcomb’s announcement to reduce the spread of coronavirus in Indiana, Butler Arts and Events Center canceled all events until April 12.

“Please know that Butler’s faculty, staff, and administration are working very hard to ensure you are able to complete your coursework this semester and make good progress toward your degrees,” Morris said in the email announcement.

Morris further said common questions received by Academic Affairs are posted on Butler’s Coronavirus COVID-19 FAQS page.

12:04 a.m. March 15

Butler President James Danko announced in an email that all residential housing will be closed until at least April 4. He also advised students living in Greek houses and campus-adjacent rental properties to return to their permanent residences. The email stated the university does not know if it will re-open again this semester at this time.

Students can request assistance or an exemption for extenuating circumstances by emailing deanofstudents@butler.edu.

Danko also said he is committed to doing what is “right and fair” when it comes to financial questions regarding room and board charges.

7 p.m. March 13 

In a message from the Office of Student Affairs, all Butler students are required to fill out an online COVID-19 form so the university can assess risk on whether they are returning to campus or not.

The form asks students to report any recent travel, whether they are experiencing any symptoms consistent with the coronavirus, any possible exposure to the virus, whether they are in isolation or quarantine, their plans for the rest of the semester, and for any related health needs they may have. 

A “Coronavirus FAQs for Butler Students” page has also been added to the university’s resource page.

Regarding moving back from campus after the original spring break period, residence halls will be closed until 10 a.m. on March 18. Greek houses will also be closed until that time.

Residence hall students can pick up “critically needed items” between 10 a.m. and 8 p.m. on March 15. Students who wish to enter their room must follow a check-in process and will be limited to 20 minutes in the building. Students must also fill out the COVID-19 form prior to picking up items. It is unclear whether this “grab-and-go” process includes university apartments. Greek houses are encouraged to also communicate an opportunity to pick up items. 

It is “imperative” to keep a distance from others, Frank Ross, vice president for student affairs, said in the email. 

Students who stayed in their leased campus apartments or residence halls over spring break and did not travel can stay in their apartments. 

Dining options will also be limited during the extended break. The Marketplace in Atherton Union and ResCo dining will not open until 4:30 p.m. on March 18. Trip’s Corner Market in AV Dawghouse will open the same day at 10 a.m. Plum Market will be open for limited hours at 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on March 15, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on March 16 and 17, and 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. on March 18. Starbucks will be open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on March 15, and 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. through March 16 to 18. Meal plans will not be accepted until March 18.

The Butler Arts and Events Center has canceled all events through April 12 and the Diversity Center will be closed until at least April 4. 

4:30 p.m. March 13

Butler’s Department of Residence Life announced in an email that it has rescinded permission for students to return early to on-campus housing. Students who planned to return on March 13 or 14 will no longer be able to. The Office of the Dean of Students confirmed to the Collegian an email will be sent to the entire student body on March 13 with additional information regarding when students will be able to return to on-campus housing.

11:00 p.m. March 12

Butler’s Health and Recreation Complex announced in a tweet its “recreation, fitness and aquatics facilities” are closed until at least April 4.

6:00 p.m. March 12 

Butler student organization events of more than 50 people have been suspended until further notice, according to the Office of Student Activities. This includes Greek life chapter events. An email was sent to student organization leadership detailing the university’s precautions.

Additionally, all student organization-sponsored travel has been suspended until further notice.

10:50 p.m. March 11

On March 11, Butler President James Danko sent an email to the community in response to the coronavirus, stating all classes are canceled until March 18, effectively extending spring break.  From March 19 to April 4, classes will be conducted online. 

No cases of coronavirus have been confirmed on campus. While campus will remain open for now, all university-sponsored events with more than 50 attendees are suspended until further notice. This includes campus lectures, meetings, conferences, admissions events and student-run events — there is no clarification on whether this also affects commencement, which is scheduled for May 9.

The campus leadership and incident response team has been monitoring the spread of the virus, meeting regularly and discussing with local and state health departments.

“The steps I am announcing this evening are being taken with the highest concern for the health, safety, and wellness of our campus community, and I believe are most appropriate, given what we know at this point in time,” Danko said in the email.

Some time between March 16-18, faculty will hear more plans from Kathryn Morris, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs. That time, though, is also meant for faculty to prepare for that transition to online. By the end of March 18, students will receive information regarding how online classes will be administered.

Butler will decide no later than April 4 whether to resume in-person classes.

The email statement said the situation is “fluid and changing daily,” and to check Butler’s website for updates.

“Let me assure the community that I, personally, along with other leaders across campus, understand that these actions will cause inconvenience and disruption,” Danko said in the email. “However, we believe these precautionary actions are necessary to protect the Butler community.”

University services, such as residence halls, dining facilities, academic support services and Health Services, will remain available. If students feel sick or experience symptoms, have been exposed to someone with the coronavirus or have recently traveled to a Level 3 country — Italy, Iran, China and South Korea — categorized by the Center of Disease Control, they should contact Health Services in the HRC. Any faculty or staff in the same situation, or is at higher risk of getting infected, should contact Human Resources.

“The University encourages community members to minimize social interactions in large groups, both on and off campus, and we are increasing preventative measures to clean campus facilities,” Danko said in the email statement.

Athletic operations and non-Butler sponsored events, such as those at Clowes Memorial Hall, will remain open. The NCAA announced on March 11 a ban on fans at men’s and women’s basketball tournament and championship games, although the university is working closely with the organization and the Big East for future Butler athletic events, according to Butler’s statement.

University-related travel is suspended, and Dean and Vice President approval is needed for any travel. As stated in a message sent to the campus community on Feb. 29, Butler continued to caution any travel for personal reasons.

Butler has become the sixth university in Indiana and the 52nd college in the U.S. as of March 10 to either close or move classes online due to the spread of coronavirus. 

Ball State University canceled in-person classes from March 16 until the end of the semester on April 30. Purdue University moved classes online before March 23 and could stay that way until the end of the semester as well. Indiana University’s classes will be temporarily online for the two weeks after its spring break from March 23 to April 5, although the return date could change. University of Notre Dame canceled school for the week of March 15 to allow teachers to prepare the move to online classes from March 23 to April 13. The University of Indianapolis will extend its spring break another week until March 22, and then move classes online indefinitely. 

There have been no confirmed cases of coronavirus on any of those campuses, and they hope to continue with their set commencement dates.

According to the Indiana State Department of Health, there has been a total of 10 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Indiana, including one in Marion County, as of March 10. 

With more than 118,000 cases and more than 4,000 deaths globally, the World Health Organization declared a pandemic on March 11. It’s the first pandemic since the H1N1 “swine flu” in 2009.

“We’re in this together, to do the right things with calm and protect the citizens of the world,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom said. “It’s doable.”

It is not certain of how the disease spreads, but according to the CDC, it is thought to be spread between people who are in close contact with one another. It can also be spread through surfaces that other people commonly touch, although this is not thought to be the main avenue of contamination. Symptoms include fever, coughing and shortness of breath. There is no current treatment or vaccine for the virus, although people should take precautionary measures such as: washing hands with soap and warm water; avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands; and avoid people who are sick. It can sometimes take up to two weeks for symptoms to show.

Read the full letter from Danko below:

Dear Butler Community, 

As we all closely monitor the impact of the Coronavirus (COVID-19), I am writing to share an important update on the situation and our plans for Butler University. Our campus leadership and incident response teams have been continuously assessing this unprecedented health crisis, which has resulted in the development of the action plan below. As part of the process, we have been in regular communication with local and state health departments and have monitored guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The steps I am announcing this evening are being taken with the highest concern for the health, safety, and wellness of our campus community, and I believe are most appropriate, given what we know at this point in time.

While there are currently no confirmed cases at Butler University, we have decided to extend Spring break through Wednesday, March 18 for students (no classes) and all classes will be conducted through virtual instruction from Thursday, March 19 through at least Saturday, April 4.

  • The three-day extension of spring break for students (March 16-18) will allow faculty additional time to prepare for a successful transition to an entirely online delivery of instruction. Faculty will be hearing more regarding the plans for March 16-18 from Dr. Kathryn Morris, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs. 
  • Students will receive information about how online classes will be administered by the end of the day on Wednesday, March 18, and how their advising will be conducted by the end of the day on Friday, March 20.  
  • We will continue to monitor and evaluate the situation, and will decide no later than Saturday, April 4 whether to resume in-person classes.

During this time, Butler’s campus will remain open.

  • We recognize that some students will elect to remain home to take their online courses, whereas others may choose to remain on campus. Student Affairs will communicate with students next week to learn of their intentions.
  • University services—including residence halls, dining facilities, academic support services, and Health Services—will remain open during this time. However, students should contact Health Services if they (i) are sick or experiencing symptoms of an illness; (ii) have been exposed to someone with COVID-19; or (iii) have recently traveled to a Level 3 country as categorized by the CDC.    
  • Our employees are essential to maintaining campus operations and should report to work as usual unless they satisfy any of the three criteria listed above. If employees have a health condition that places them at greater risk of complications from COVID-19 as defined by CDC guidelines, they should contact Human Resources to discuss their situation.

Meetings, events and other gatherings will be limited.

  • Butler University-sponsored events of more than 50 people will be suspended until further notice. This includes campus lectures, meetings, conferences, admissions events and student-run events. 
  • We are working closely with the Big East and the NCAA regarding Butler Athletics (practices and games). Athletics operations and non-Butler sponsored events, including those at the Butler Arts & Events Center (e.g., Clowes Hall) remain as planned unless otherwise noted.  
  • The University encourages community members to minimize social interactions in large groups, both on and off campus, and we are increasing preventative measures to clean campus facilities.  

University-related travel is suspended, unless deemed critical. 

  • We are suspending all University-related travel, both international and domestic, until further notice unless deemed critical. Dean or Vice President approval is required for any travel. 
  • The University has previously announced that it is not supporting University travel to countries with a CDC travel advisory of a Level 3 (China, South Korea, Iran, and Italy).
  • Anyone traveling for personal reasons is urged to closely monitor their destination and consult the CDC website for restrictions and quarantine information upon arrival or return.

Let me assure the community that I, personally, along with other leaders across campus, understand that these actions will cause inconvenience and disruption. However, we believe these precautionary actions are necessary to protect the Butler community. As you know, the situation is fluid and changing daily, so we will continue to actively monitor the situation and respond accordingly. Please visit our webpage for ongoing updates. 

If you have questions not answered by the website, contact information is listed below. 

  • For health-related questions, contact Health Services at healthservices@butler.edu or 317-940-9385.
  • For academic-related questions, students should contact their instructors, and faculty should contact their Dean.  
  • For study abroad questions, contact the Center for Global Education at https://www.butler.edu/global-education/contact-center-global-education
  • For questions related to student activities, contact Student Involvement and Leadership at 317-940-9262 or involvement@butler.edu.
  • For staff questions, contact the Office of Human Resources at askhr@butler.edu or 317-940-9355.

Sincerely,

James M. Danko

President, Butler University

 

Managing editor Meghan Stratton, digital managing editor Joshua Doering and news editor Sorell Grow also contributed to this story. 

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