A Look into the Decision to Cancel Classes

Mar 17, 2020
Originally published on March 19, 2020 3:54 pm

The ball was in Dr. Martin Abraham’s court last week.  It was up to Western Illinois University’s interim president to decide what course of action to follow as concerns about the spread of the coronavirus increased rapidly.

He decided to cancel classes at WIU for a week.

“It was one of the very hardest decisions I’ve ever had to make. We know that when we make a choice like that we’re impacting 7,000 students,” Abraham said in an interview with Tri States Public Radio.

“It’s been a very difficult week for me making some decisions I know are the right decisions but they hit you in the gut as you’re doing them because it’s so impactful on the people that it’s affecting.”

He pointed out numerous campus events have also been called off – so many that WIU has created a Canceled Events Site, which can be found here.

Western plans to use an Alternative Course Delivery System when classes resume on March 21.  Each instructor will choose the method they prefer and will notify their students about how they will proceed.

UPDATE: In-person classes will not be held for the remainder of the semester. Classes will resume in the electronic delivery formats of the instructor's choice beginning Saturday, March 21 and continue in this format for the remainder of the Spring semester. More details can be found here

Abraham said Western has kept an eye all semester on the global spread of coronavirus. He said Western conferred with the state and Illinois’ other public universities as concerns about the virus increased, but ultimately decisions were made at the local level.

“And I think you can see that in the variations across the different universities. We’re all different campuses. We serve slightly different students, we’re in different locations. And so what’s correct for us at Western may not be correct for some of the other universities,” Abraham said.

“The governor has given us the flexibility to do this the way that we think would be best for our students.”

He said WIU has a “high quality team” that has spent a considerable amount of time on the university’s response to the rapidly evolving coronavirus crisis.  But he said the plan is still a work in progress and credited faculty members for spending a lot of time preparing for the switchover.

“We benefited from having excellent faculty who are committed to the success of their students. And we appreciate what they’re doing for us (and) for the students in making these conversions and making sure the students continue to get what they paid for, which is a quality educational experience,” said Abraham.

He said the alternative system will remain in place until at least April 3. The university will decide in the days before that whether to continue with it. UPDATE: In-person classes will not be held for the remainder of the semester. Classes will resume in the electronic delivery formats of the instructor's choice beginning Saturday, March 21 and continue in this format for the remainder of the Spring semester. More details can be found here

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