Editorial: UCLA needs to follow lead of other universities, better prepare for COVID-19
March 9, 2020 9:39 p.m.
This post was updated March 9 at 10:27 p.m.
The novel coronavirus nearly hit Westwood last week, prompting UCLA to share its plan for online classes should the outbreak continue.
Unfortunately, that plan was little more than a list of online resources and of course, recommendations for frequent hand washing.
And students need more than an emailed plan to put them at ease.
Three UCLA students tested negative for COVID-19 on Friday. The following day, the university sent out an email detailing potential options like CCLE, Zoom and BruinCast if it must transition to online classes. But leaving it at that is far from the right course of action.
UCLA’s population is the size of a small city, and transitioning 45,000 students and thousands of faculty to online-only classes will be no easy feat. Despite this, the university has remained unclear regarding how, when or if they will be implementing online final exams or remote classes in spring. And with the disease not projected to die down any time soon, UCLA needs to let students know what the plan is immediately – and get them ready if it comes to fruition.
Administrators may be relieved by negative test results, but that’s no excuse for complacency.
UCLA is two weeks away from spring break, and many students will likely leave the state and country, potentially exposing themselves to the virus. And once Bruins start returning to campus, the university will likely face more than just negative test results.
A rising number of schools – totaling more than 20 as of Monday and including the University of Washington, Stanford, New York University and UC Berkeley – have already made courses entirely online for at least the next week. USC stated Friday that it is planning to test online classes this week in preparation for a further outbreak following spring break. UC San Diego just announced it will move classes online for the spring quarter.
Meanwhile, UCLA confirmed they do not plan to move all classes online at an information session tonight.
The university doesn’t necessarily need to cancel classes right now, but there is a real possibility that cancellations may happen after spring break or sooner. And while administrators have proposed the possibility of an online setup, they should use this virus-free grace period to test their plan before it becomes a reality.
Because without a run-through, this will be an unnecessarily difficult transition.
Not only would this help students adapt to the impending change, but it would give those who may feel sick the option to attend class from home. UCLA has made it clear in its countless emails that students should stay home if they are sick. But in the final weeks of the quarter and with no consensus on a course of action, some students may have to choose between harming their academic standing and protecting the wellbeing of themselves and their peers.
If the university wants to nip this in the bud while protecting students, it should at least make online classes a more viable option.
The coming weeks hold major uncertainties about the spread of COVID-19. Whatever the case, UCLA claims to have a plan for classes should the virus infect Westwood.
But without practicing that plan, students and administrators alike won’t be prepared for what they might come back to after spring break.