The chancellor of the University of Maryland System said Thursday night that all undergraduate classes will switch to online instruction for the rest of the semester, though a decision about graduate classes has not been made.
Chancellor Jay A. Perman told the board of regents that the presidents of each of the 12 campuses in the system would work out the details for their students, but he said their decision to turn to online was unanimous. Many of the campuses had already begun to plan for going online. There are 177,000 students in the university system.
Gov. Larry Hogan had announced at a morning news conference that he was suggesting to the board of regents and Perman that universities move to distance learning, so the board’s action was expected.
“I believe this is important not only for our institutions but for our students themselves, who should be assured that they did the work — and successfully demonstrated the knowledge and skills — that their courses required,” he said.
Perman said universities will need to look at the graduate programs more closely before a decision is made.
“In terms of graduate students and students in professional programs, we have a different set of considerations. We’re working through those considerations now, and we’ll certainly need guidance from the relevant accrediting bodies and boards that provide certification,” Perman said.
The system also announced a number of important decisions for families and students.
All graduation ceremonies this spring are canceled and Perman said he encourages students and faculty to find creative ways to celebrate without being together physically. He said he would encourage in-person commencements once the health emergency is over.
The universities will refund the cost of room and board on a prorated basis. If students took out financial aid to pay for room and board, Perman said, the federal government has assured the university that students will not have their money “clawed back.” Deposits for the fall semester are due May 1, but that deadline will be pushed back.
Students who do not have access to a laptop or internet at home will be given both, Perman said, without offering details.
The restrictions will also affect research at Maryland’s many universities. Perman said the system will be “advising that laboratories ramp down their research significantly and continue only those research activities currently in a critical phase, meaning that abandoning them would cause a major or irreversible loss in project viability.”
In a message to UMBC students on Thursday night, the school’s president, Freeman Hrabowski III, and its provost, Philip Rous, acknowledged student concerns.
“We know you have been concerned with what happens next, and we are all feeling for you and with you,” the message said. “There is so much you hoped to do this semester, and it is such a disappointment to have these plans interrupted.”
The board of regents also voted to give Perman temporary authority to change the university policies because of the pandemic.
Leaders of individual campuses are expected to send information to their communities. Morgan State University, Johns Hopkins University and some others have already announced that their students will not be returning to campus this semester.
Perman warned students to take the rest of the semester seriously.
“This isn’t a break. It’s not a respite from the semester. It’s not a party. I urge students staying in their family homes or in off-campus housing to follow the state and federal guidelines on gatherings,” he said, noting scenes from spring break partying that has been going on in Florida this week.