Mason and Other Virginia Universities Respond to COVID-19

Mason makes adjustments to classes, events and housing; other universities take similar precautions


Mason and other Virginia universities are taking precautionary measures during the COVID-19 outbreak. 

Interim President Anne Holton announced on March 16 that Mason will be moving to online classes for the rest of the semester, and residential and dining halls remain open for students in special circumstances who are unable to return home. 

The first university in Virginia to take action against COVID-19 was the University of Virginia (UVA), which announced it will close all campus events and in-person classes until May 15. Mason has also canceled all events through May 18. 

UVA President James Ryan explained the reasoning behind the university’s decision in a video message to students. 

“Our approach is guided by three goals: (1) to protect the health of our students, faculty, staff, and Charlottesville neighbors; (2) to help slow the spread of the virus in Virginia and the nation; (3) to ensure the continuity of our teaching, research, and clinical care. All of those goals are advanced by reducing the number of people who are living and meeting on Grounds,” Ryan said. 

Following UVA, other universities such as William and Mary (W&M) and Virginia Tech announced their decisions. W&M is encouraging all students to move out of their residential dorms by March 25 at 5 p.m. It is creating a “locked, but not closed” policy for all buildings. 

FourthEstate/Alexandria McAlpine

Virginia Tech is making the decision to move commencement online, with a celebration planned for September. Mason has suspended commencement indefinitely.

“For many of our students, commencement is arguably their greatest achievement at this point in their lives, and we will recognize and celebrate it,” Virginia Tech President Tim Sands stated in a university-wide email. “I understand and share their disappointment regarding these unavoidable disruptions. We are experiencing an historic, unprecedented event that requires extraordinary actions. We will do what we must to stop the spread of the virus and protect our community, while honoring our graduates in the most meaningful way we can.”

Holton expressed similar sentiments in a video message sent to the Mason community. 

“This is an extraordinary time, an unprecedented time at Mason and around the world, and I am continually amazed and inspired by the creativity and resilience of our Mason community,” Holton said.

A pass/fail grading system will be available for undergraduate courses at W&M for the remainder of the semester. This comes as students from different universities — such as W&M — signed petitions to change classes from the normal grading scale to pass/fail. A petition has started at Mason.

Read more about this petition in an opinion piece by Opinion Editor Dominic Pino here