This story has been updated to include new information from Stanford GSB Dean Jonathan Levin.
The University of California-Berkeley Haas School of Business is the most recent top business school to move classes online amid concerns about the spread of the coronavirus COVID-19.
UC-Berkeley Chancellor Carol Christ said in an email to faculty, staff, and students on Monday (March 9) that even though there have been no cases of COVID-19 infection reported at the school so far, in-person classes have been suspended across the entire university as precautionary measure. “As local, national, and global public health recommendations shift to include mitigation of transmission, the campus is proactively taking steps that will help to protect the community,” she wrote.
UC-Berkeley, including the Haas School, will suspend “most” in-person classes wherever appropriate and will move all lecture courses, seminar instruction, and examinations to “alternative modalities,” Christ wrote. Changes will begin March 10 and will run through the university’s spring break until March 29. Depending on the status of coronavirus containment at that time, the changes could last longer, Christ says, adding that a decision on further actions will be made after spring break.
The Berkeley campus will remain open, including dining halls and residential buildings. However, all events with 150 or more attendees will be canceled or postponed. For events or gatherings with fewer than 150 attendees, Christ wrote that school officials “strongly encourage” organizers and planners to consider alternatives to in-person gatherings.
“In our assessment of the current situation, including the likelihood that the Berkeley campus could have a coronavirus case here at any time, we believe that this is the best action for our campus community and the broader Berkeley community,” Christ wrote.
AT GSB, ‘WELL-ORGANIZED PROCESSES’ FOR DEALING WITH CRISIS
Also Monday, Stanford Graduate School of Business Dean Jonathan Levin penned an update to the school’s coronavirus alert website, reiterating that all winter quarter in-person classes were to become virtual and all exams were to be taken via Canvas.
Levin wrote: “The faculty teaching winter quarter, and our Teaching and Learning staff, have shown remarkable speed and collaboration over the weekend in figuring out plans to adapt and complete teaching. Students will have heard, or will be hearing shortly, from individual instructors about class arrangements.” He added that many classes and review sessions have been moved to Zoom.
Like Haas, Stanford will not close its campus, Levin wrote, but large events remain canceled until April 15, and other student events and activities for the week of March 9-13 will be virtual or be postponed, as will be faculty and Ph.D. student research seminars and lunches. Decisions on closures, Levin wrote, are being made on a case-by-case basis.
Levin wrote that all university-sponsored international travel is restricted through April 15. Decisions on spring quarter classes, activities, and travel have not yet been made, he added.
“First,” Levin wrote in conclusion, “right now, we don’t know if the incidence and health impact of COVID-19 in the U.S. will be limited or severe. In retrospect, measures to limit its spread could look like an over-reaction, or extremely prescient. What you should feel assured about, despite this uncertainty, is that Stanford and the GSB have well-organized processes for decisions and implementation, a fortunate depth of resources, and most importantly, a strong and adaptable community that will show its best colors.
“Second, let’s hope it doesn’t happen, but if some in our community do become sick in the coming days and weeks, it will be incumbent on us to show empathy and compassion. Let’s commit to provide them the support that we would want to be shown.
“This is a truly novel situation, and I want to reiterate my thanks to everyone who has stepped up over the last days and weeks to show their resilience and flexibility. It is a reminder of why the GSB is such a special place.”
MANY OTHER COASTAL UNIVERSITIES MOVING TO ONLINE-ONLY
UC-Berkeley joins a growing list of U.S. universities with top business schools to make such changes. Last week, the University of Washington moved classes for its entire population of around 50,000 students online. Not long after, Stanford University did the same. Both Seattle and the San Francisco Bay Area have been two of the areas impacted early by the spread of the coronavirus. On Monday the Grand Princess cruise ship, which has about 3,500 passengers and crew members, docked at the Port of Oakland not far from UC-Berkeley’s campus. Currently, 21 people on board have been confirmed to be infected with COVID-19.
The University of Washington, home of the Foster School of Business, plans to resume classes normally on March 30, after it completes the quarter and spring break, pending improvements in the virus containment effort. Stanford has a similar timeline, but will also be canceling its “Admit Weekend” for incoming students, which takes place April 23-26.
Seattle University, home of the Albers School of Business and Economics, will also be closing in-person classes for the rest of the month. At the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, the university will be running a test-period of online-only classes as a planning precaution from March 11-13.
On the East Coast, Columbia University — including Columbia Business School — has moved to online-only classes. New York’s Hofstra University, home of the Zarb School of Business, and Princeton University in New Jersey have done the same.
SPREAD OF CORONAVIRUS WREAKING HAVOC ON MBA PROGRAMS
While confirmed coronavirus cases and entire universities moving to online-only are still somewhat isolated cases, business schools across the world are being impacted by the spread of the virus. At first, schools began canceling or postponing immersion and study abroad trips to China. Meanwhile, China has largely canceled GRE and GMAT testing since February. After that, test centers closed in almost a dozen countries and B-schools began moving admissions interviews online.
Last week, news broke that an infected person attended an event with over 100 students from Dartmouth College’s Tuck School of Business after being exposed to the coronavirus on a trip to Italy. The employee broke quarantine to attend the invite-only event; no students have yet been diagnosed with COVID-19. Now, as spring break approaches for many universities, the travel plans of tens of thousands of business students have been thwarted or thrown into uncertainty.
In Europe and elsewhere globally, schools are grappling with the problem with similar solutions.
CURRENT LIST OF B-SCHOOLS WITH KNOWN IN-PERSON CLASS CANCELLATIONS:
- Stanford Graduate School of Business
- University of Washington Foster School of Business
- University of California-Berkeley Haas School of Business
- Seattle University Albers School of Business and Economics
- Columbia Business School
- Hofstra University Zarb School of Business
CORONAVIRUS COVERAGE FROM P&Q: