Colleges cancel classes and international travel to minimize risk of coronavirus


Kathy Fang

Columbia University last February. Columbia is one of several schools that has decided to cancel its admissions events as a part of new procedures that have emerged after the ongoing spread of the coronavirus.

by Varsha Rammohan, Managing Editor

As more information is released about the closure of universities and colleges around the United States, this article will be updated with the latest news. Check Harker Aquila for continuous coverage.

This article was last updated on March 11 at 7:30 p.m.

As the United States sees more cases of COVID-19 across the country, several colleges are taking precautionary actions for the health and safety of their students and faculty. 

Many schools have canceled study-abroad programs and nonessential international travel while others have completely shifted all classes to an online format and closed their campuses.


Shortly after Stanford University Provost Persis Drell notified the college community that two undergraduate students were in self-isolation after potential exposure to the coronavirus, she announced that all university classes will be moving to online formats instead of in-person teaching until further notice. Stanford is also requesting that all undergraduates leave campus at the end of the quarter.

Among the many school closures in California, most colleges in the University of California (UC) system have chosen to transition to virtual instruction.

UC Berkeley announced yesterday that all lecture and seminar courses would move to remote-learning platforms until March 27, the last day of spring break. The campus remains open during this time.

After a second case had been identified in Santa Cruz County, UC Santa Cruz also moved all lecture courses to alternative learning platforms in an effort to reduce face-to-face interaction as much as possible. The change was implemented today and will continue until April 3.

Students at UC Santa Barbara received an update from the chancellor that stated that the university would transition to remote instruction through at least the end of April. The campus, including housing and dining, will continue normal operations.

Beginning March 25, UC San Diego will also transition to a remote teaching structure after students return from spring break. For this week, courses are continuing to meet in person, but attendance will not be taken into account in terms of grading.

UCLA will suspend in-person classes through April 10, which is the end of the second week of Spring Quarter. Students will take Winter Quarter final exams remotely and are encouraged to start the Spring Quarter from home.

At UC Irvine, final exams next week will be administered remotely, and Spring Quarter will see a complete transition to a remote learning mode except for courses involving labs or studios. UC Riverside is also following a similar plan until April 3.

The University of Southern California will continue online classes after Spring Recess, which is from March 22 to 29. Students are encouraged to bring home all essential items during break. Intercollegiate athletics events will continue as scheduled but without spectators until March 29. 

Washington state

President Ana Mari Cauce of the University of Washington, with 79 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the state, sent a message to all students on March 8 that classes will no longer meet in person for the next two weeks until the end of the quarter on March 20. 

Seattle University announced on March 6 that classes and exams will not be held in person through the remainder of Winter Quarter, but residence halls and food services remain open.

East coast

Harvard University announced on March 8 that it would transition to virtual instruction by March 23, which is the end of its spring break. The university advised students to not return to campus after spring break until further notice and also diminished all on-essential gatherings to no more than 25 people.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) announced today that a recruiter from Mastercard Advisors who visited the Sloan School of Management has tested positive for the coronavirus. All classes are canceled next week, and online instruction will begin on March 30 and continue for the remainder of the semester. MIT is also requiring undergraduates to stay at home after spring break. 

After a Columbia University community individual self-quarantined after exposure to the coronavirus, classes were suspended on Monday and Tuesday. Classes resumed virtually today and will remain remote through the week after spring break which is March 16-20.

New York University announced on March 3 that it would cancel all international upcoming university-related travel until further notice. NYU’s campuses in Shanghai and Abu Dhabi have decided to transition all classes online through webinars, online office hours and emails after both the Chinese and the United Arab Emirates Ministries of Education ordered universities to close across the countries.

Two Princeton University staff members are currently in quarantine after a possible exposure to the coronavirus. Princeton will move classes to virtual instruction beginning March 23 through the end of the semester. All undergraduates who are able to return home must do so and remain there for the rest of the semester.

Cornell University’s Ithaca campus will move to remote learning beginning April 6. Students living on campus will be notified of move-out procedures as well as a process for submitting a petition to stay on campus in case they are unable to return to their permanent residence.

At the University of Pennsylvania, spring break is extended one week, and virtual instruction will begin on March 23. Students who are currently out of town should not return to campus, and those who are on campus should depart effective March 15. 

Duke University is extending spring break until March 22, and remote instruction will commence on March 23. All undergraduate, graduate, and professional students who are not on campus for spring break are told not to return to Duke if possible.

The University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill is eliminating all university-affiliated travel to locations where a state of emergency has been declared as a result of the coronavirus and enforcing a mandatory 14-day quarantine protocol to anyone who will be individually traveling to a Level 2 or Level 3 country, as defined by the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention.

The Ivy League also decided today to cancel the upcoming Men’s and Women’s Basketball Tournaments. All campus athletics events will have highly restrictive spectator limitations except for essential personnel. 


The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) will cancel face-to-face courses beginning March 23 and will switch to an online format. Students are encouraged to consider staying at their permanent home after Spring Break. All study abroad programs have been canceled until at least August 15.

The University of Michigan in Ann Arbor canceled classes this week and will resume classes in alternative formats through April 21, which is the last day of classes in the semester. Last night, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer announced that there are two cases of COVID-19 in the state, one of which is being treated at Michigan Medicine.

At Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, spring break is extended one week, and when classes resume on April 4, they will be conducted remotely for at least three weeks. Students who plan to leave campus for spring break are asked to not return until further notice if possible.

Purdue University is also moving to online instruction after March 23 until potentially the end of the semester. Students currently living in residence halls can choose whether to return to campus or not after spring break.


After a Rice University employee tested positive for COVID-19, classes were suspended this week. Barring any further complications, the university plans to resume normal classroom instruction after spring break on March 23.

Vanderbilt University in Nashville is moving all classes online beginning March 16 through at least March 30. The campus will remain open with limited or reduced services.