As campus cases rise nationwide, U of M president proposes delaying on-campus start

Goldy statue wearing a mask.
University of Minnesota President Joan Gabel on Friday said she's proposing that undergrads at three U campuses begin classes online only for at least the first two weeks of school this fall.
Glenn Stubbe | Star Tribune via AP file

The fall semester might begin even more differently than expected this year for undergraduates on several University of Minnesota campuses.

University of Minnesota President Joan Gabel announced Friday that she’s proposing that three of the U’s campuses — in the Twin Cities, Rochester and Duluth — begin classes online for at least the first two weeks of school this fall.

The announcement comes in response to news this week that several colleges and universities around the country — including the University of North Carolina, the University of Notre Dame and Michigan State University — have had to cancel or pause their on-campus learning because of COVID-19 outbreaks among their students.

“Minimizing transmission of COVID-19 has proven to be a formidable challenge for many communities, including college campuses,” Gabel wrote in a note to the university community Friday.

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Gabel’s proposal would also delay move-in for students who live in on-campus housing by at least two weeks, on the three campuses affected. Graduate and professional students would continue to follow their respective programs’ plans.

Move-in for on-campus housing at the University of Minnesota Crookston would continue as planned, and students already on campus in Morris would remain there. Classes on both campuses would continue as planned.

“Our approach is different here because of timing and because both campuses operate in communities where reported case numbers are lower than in other areas of Minnesota,” Gabel wrote.“We also believe the likelihood of widespread disease transmission to be lower on both campuses compared to our other campuses that have higher campus and community densities and more consistent traffic in and out of campus areas.”

The university's Board of Regents is expected to take up Gabel's proposal in a special meeting Monday morning. Duluth's fall semester starts Aug. 31; Twin Cities and Rochester students resume classes Sept. 8.

Gabel said university leaders will continue to monitor case numbers in the counties where its campuses are located; the availability of rapid testing; changing state and federal guidelines and community readiness as they determine whether they need to adjust plans further.

She urged the U of M community to adhere to mask-wearing, social-distancing, hand-washing and other COVID-19 prevention guidelines as a means to stave off the spread of the coronavirus on campus.

COVID-19 in Minnesota