Global pandemic sends students, faculty, and staff home; School quickly pivots to online learning

Since January 2020, a UVA team met regularly to prepare for the potential impacts of COVID-19 on the University, with Dean of Students Allen W. Groves offering travel guidance and reminding students of spring break health and safety in a Feb. 26 message. On March 11, with the number of cases increasing in the U.S., UVA President Jim Ryan announced that all classes would move online starting March 19 and urged students away on spring break to return or remain home. In May 2020, UVA offered its first ever online-only graduation ceremony.

The following message was distributed to UVA students by Dean of Students Allen Groves March 13, 2021:

Dear Students:

Much has occurred in the past week since your Spring Break began. I realize you have been receiving a great many messages from the University this week, so I am going to highlight my most important points up front. First, if you can return to your home, we need you to do so as soon as possible. Second, if you are away from Grounds and only need a few essential belongings, we can help.

Now, the details:

If you live on Grounds: With your permission, we can arrange for a staff person to go to your room, retrieve essential items you need, and ship them to you. You also are welcome to have a friend do this. To make arrangements for either, please contact housing@virginia.edu.

If you live off Grounds: We have enlisted the help of primary landlords in the area. If you need items from your home or apartment, please call your landlord for help with this or other critical matters. We also hope those of you residing in fraternity and sorority houses will return home. We have been in contact with alumni house corporation officers to seek their (and your) cooperation. If you have friends still in town, please consider asking for their help in collecting your belongings before they leave.

Remember, too, some leases require that you let your landlord know, in writing, if you will be gone for a week or more. Please check your lease and make sure you follow these and other instructions. If you don't have a copy of your lease, ask your landlord to email it to you.

It is very important that you return home and be ready to start virtual classes on Thursday, March 19. We know some of you will need to stay due to unavoidable circumstances, but otherwise, you should be returning home right away. If you need to return to collect your belongings from your apartment or residence hall, please make every effort to make your trip as brief as possible. We are facing a global pandemic previously unseen by any of us. You are risking not only your own health if you continue to gather in groups and circulate in the area, but also – of critical importance – you are risking the health of others in our community who are likely to be more affected by this disease.

International students and those living a great distance from Grounds: If we resume in-person classes before the end of the semester, we will make sure any student who has gone home and cannot return to Grounds is able to complete the term.

Student Workers: Students who are part of the Federal Work Study program will continue to be paid even if they are not able to work. This flexibility applies to students who started classes this spring and earned FWS wages prior to the University moving to virtual instruction. It will remain in effect as long as virtual instruction remains in place. The employment of other student workers is under discussion by University leadership, but nothing has been determined at this point.

Financial concerns: The University is committed to assisting students in need during this unprecedented time. If you are currently receiving financial aid and have questions about resources for leaving Grounds and returning home, please contact UVA Student Financial Services through a special website for Emergency Travel Assistance.

Online resources: We recognize what an abrupt and challenging transition it will be to shift to virtual classes. Faculty and staff across the University are working hard to make the shift as smooth as possible, and you will have support from the University. You will be able to link to resources through the coronavirus website.

Thank you for all the steps you are taking to help us respond to this health crisis. This is an unprecedented situation in our lifetimes, and I respectfully ask each of you to do the responsible thing as citizens in a larger community. Your willingness to comply with what is being asked of you will help the broader community – including many at-risk individuals – minimize the impact of this crisis as much as possible. Unlike some crises we witness from afar, this is one where we can each take action that has a tangible result. Individual actions will make a huge difference in how we face and eventually spring back from this difficult challenge. In this case, a selfless decision on your part may save a life.


Allen W. Groves

University Dean of Students

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