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Bon Appetit is pro­viding bagged meals for some stu­dents still on campus during the COVID-19 out­break. Maria Servold | Col­legian

After most col­leges and uni­ver­sities have been shut down or shifted online due to the COVID-19 out­break, stu­dents and faculty across the country are adjusting to their new life after mandatory social-dis­tancing.

As of Sat­urday morning, the U.S. had more than 19,900 con­firmed coro­n­avirus cases, with at least 275 deaths. The global death toll is at 11,900, with 4,000 of those deaths from Italy, the country with the highest number of deaths. According to Johns Hopkins Uni­versity data, there are 287,000 cases of coro­n­avirus around the globe. 

In its own response to the coro­n­avirus crisis, Hillsdale College has post­poned the return date of stu­dents to campus after spring break until March 29, with in-person classes set to start March 30. The college, like many others, has also taken steps to move classes online, beginning March 23.

When in-person classes resume, stu­dents and faculty who are not com­fortable meeting in person may remain at home and finish the semester online.

“Stu­dents who prefer to remain at home while the coro­n­avirus is pan­demic may do so. Faculty members who prefer to teach their classes remotely, even when in-person classes begin, may do so,” Hillsdale College Pres­ident Larry Arnn said in the email announcing the post­ponement of classes on March 12.

Even stu­dents who live off-campus were ordered to refrain from staying in or moving back into their off-campus houses and were asked to return home. 

“Hillsdale College’s campus is closed to stu­dents until Sunday, March 29. No stu­dents are to return to campus: neither stu­dents who live on-campus nor stu­dents who live off-campus,” Exec­utive Sec­retary to the Dean of Women Carolyn Mil­ligan said in a follow-up email regarding logistics of stu­dents returning to campus.

In his announcement post­poning classes, Arnn said the college will do every­thing pos­sible to get life back to normal for stu­dents, faculty, and staff. 

“We like to be the most reluctant people on earth to give in to pressure,” Arnn wrote. “Unwilling to sur­render, we will do two things: 1) Begin online courses on March 23, after a week for faculty to better figure out how to do it. We will do this in all pos­sible cases. This we think will lib­erate us later to have in-person classes for those who can and wish. 2) Every­thing in our power to resume regular classes on March 30. We will know a lot more by then.

Arnn stressed the two pri­or­ities of the college: grad­u­ating seniors and the health of staff and faculty. He said the staff seek to serve stu­dents, “even at risk of illness to them­selves.”

“Of course, their health is our fun­da­mental impor­tance and we and they will do all we can to protect it,” he said.

In a video posted online by the college on March 20, Arnn also empha­sized his desire to bring stu­dents back to campus as early as pos­sible.

“This is a test of char­acter and intellect of the kind that shapes human souls and por­trays them in their excel­lence,” Arnn said. “It will be easy — won’t it? — to sink into some kind of las­situde while you’re away. Not everybody’s here; you don’t see people in person. There are plenty of dis­trac­tions. And yet it’s true nobody ever learned any serious thing except by intensity.”

Arnn addressed the tur­bulent events of the past week, including the stock market dropping. He noted that motion grabs our attention and makes us look for “a theme or rule in the middle of it,” causing us to ask ques­tions about the purpose of life.

“It’s a new kind of test. It’s a shameful thing to waste a day of your life, espe­cially if you’re young and tal­ented because what you do today will affect all the days to come — and you have many to come.”

COVID-19 Update

Hillsdale College Pres­ident Larry P. Arnn addresses stu­dents and parents regarding the start of online classes and the spirit of the College (video update #2, March 20, 2020).

Posted by Hillsdale College on Friday, March 20, 2020

A Student Activ­ities Office email sent on March 20 announced that a decision will be made on March 24 about whether stu­dents will return to campus. 

We will announce plans, if any, on Tuesday (March 24) regarding stu­dents returning to campus (no decision has yet been made); pro­fessors will be in touch about details and instruc­tions for their online courses,” the email said.

Tran­si­tioning to classes online

With the college starting online classes on Monday, the admin­is­tration has taken steps to ensure the tran­sition to an online-only format is smooth.

Asso­ciate Pro­fessor of Spanish Todd Mack helped lead a series of training ses­sions early in the week to ensure faculty are con­fident teaching their classes online.

Mack was approached by Instruc­tional Tech­nologies and Appli­ca­tions Manager Heidi Barg­erhuff about leading the ses­sions, as he has expe­rience teaching online classes.

“I have done a little bit of research on online edu­cation and its effec­tiveness, and I just thought about it in the context of Hillsdale College,” Mack said. “We had four ses­sions over three days where I just gave pro­fessors broad, high-level thoughts about how to approach moving your class online. The basic idea was keep things simple and use tools that you already know how to use.”

Mack stressed that online classes can be a pos­itive expe­rience for all. 

“We can use these tools to make the best of the sit­u­ation and our classes,” Mack said. We don’t have to just assume that our classes are going to be a bust because we have to move online. We just need to work hard to con­tinue to com­mu­nicate with our stu­dents to engage in dia­logue.”

Mack said most pro­fessors are pes­simistic about whether in-person classes will resume.

“Our instruc­tions have been: prepare to teach online for the rest of the semester,” Mack said. “I do know that many stu­dents and pro­fessors are just planning on teaching online for the rest of the semester. There are some that are still holding out hope that stu­dents will come back. But even if they come back, we still have to provide some online alter­na­tives to stu­dents who don’t decide to come.” 

Mack said pro­fessors are hard at work in making the online tran­sition suc­cessful. 

“This is a big change for a lot of us, but learning and engagement are about com­mu­ni­cation. We still have good tools that can help us com­mu­nicate,” Mack said. “Stu­dents can learn the things that they need to learn and get through the end of the semester. We’re going to be alright.” 

Study-abroad trips can­celed 

As the coro­n­avirus’ epi­center has moved to Europe, and with Italy’s death toll sur­passing that of China, the college decided to cancel the Col­le­giate Scholars Program’s summer study-abroad trip to Greece from May 12 to May 25. 

“This is very sad, but it is the right call,” Asso­ciate Pro­fessor of Classics Eric Hutchinson said in an email. “The college has done an out­standing job with its response to the coro­n­avirus.” 

The CSP trip to Greece is an expe­rience offered to rising seniors the summer before their final year at Hillsdale. The trip alter­nates between Greece and Turkey. 

Junior Dominic Bulger was scheduled to go on the trip this summer. Bulger said he still has the oppor­tunity to attend next year’s trip the summer after he grad­uates from Hillsdale. 

“At the time we received the email saying the trip was can­celed, I still hadn’t quite emo­tionally grappled with the fact that I was going to go to Greece,” Bulger said. “I also wasn’t that sur­prised that the trip was can­celed. And as Hutchinson pointed out, we all have the chance to go next year, so hope­fully I’ll be able to do that. All of those factors softened what might have been more dis­ap­pointing news. At this point I’m mostly just hoping the money we put down for flights doesn’t go down the drain — I know Hutchinson is working on getting that back for us.”

The German department’s annual trip to Wurzburg was also can­celed. The trip, for German majors and minors, was orig­i­nally scheduled for July 21-Aug. 21. 

Junior Sabrie Dalton said Assistant Pro­fessor of German Stephen Naumann emailed stu­dents on Tuesday of spring break to announce its can­cel­lation. Although the college has plans to postpone the trip to next summer and give pri­ority to stu­dents reg­is­tered to attend this summer, Dalton says she will be unable to attend.

“With my plans to join the Air Force directly after grad­u­ation, I will most likely be unable to attend the trip at that time,” Dalton said. “This was sup­posed to be how I got the minor and is why I took German classes last summer. Now I’m not quite sure if I will be able to earn the minor before I graduate next spring.” 

Stu­dents studying abroad this semester had to choose between staying in their respective foreign coun­tries or going back home to the United States. 

Junior Madi Van­de­grift is remaining in Germany for the time being as she waits for the crisis to recede. 

“The German intensive month-long course I was taking has been can­celed, but they are allowing us to com­plete exer­cises online and poten­tially taking the exam online as well,” Van­de­grift said. 

Van­der­grift plans to stay in Germany because, she said, there is a chance classes at the Uni­versity of Saarland could begin in May.

“It is important to me to at least try and stay here to see what happens so that I do not have to add another semester on later,” she said.

Van­de­grift also cited safety pre­cau­tions as another reason for staying in Germany.

“The first couple of days — right after Trump announced the first travel ban — were very scary, and I had a lot of phone con­ver­sa­tions with my parents about what the best decision would be,” she said. “We decided that it was less of a risk for me to stay here rather than travel 11 hours in an air­plane and then have to be quar­an­tined for two weeks, instead of a self-quar­antine here,” Van­de­grift said.

She also noted that she didn’t want to risk the chance of her grand­parents picking up any illness from her if she returned.

Van­de­grift lives with other inter­na­tional stu­dents who have given her more per­spective on the global crisis.

“I’m living with two stu­dents from Italy, a girl from a small island off of Greece, and a girl from Mon­tenegro which has def­i­nitely opened my eyes to the sit­u­a­tions in other coun­tries. My one friend is from Bergamo, Italy, and it’s very inter­esting to hear some of the stories her family has been telling her about their expe­rience during this epi­demic,” Van­de­grift said. “It’s brought a lot of the inter­na­tional stu­dents together here because many of us cannot go home due to lack of flights, or it’s safer in Germany at the moment than in the home country.” 

Junior Madeline Aherin flew home to the United States on March 16 from Seville, Spain, and is cur­rently in quar­antine. She decided to come back to the U.S. as the program she was a part of   the Center for Cross-Cul­tural Studies moved its classes online. 

“Everyone was starting to shut down in Spain and things were moving toward a nationwide ‘shelter in place.’ Therefore, I would be stuck in my home in Spain indef­i­nitely,” Aherin said. “I knew the same would even­tually happen in the states as well, so I figured I would rather be stuck inside my house in America than in Spain for an indef­inite amount of time.

As a for­eigner, the fear was getting stuck in Spain because of border closings. Thank­fully, I was able to make it home pretty easily. Overall, it was really strange to see the city of Seville com­pletely shutdown in a matter of days. It is such a lively city, so seeing the streets empty was almost apoc­a­lyptic.” 

The hallways of buildings on campus are empty with the majority of stu­dents back home during the COVID-19 out­break. Maria Servold | Col­legian

Dining hall closed, Bon Appetit pro­viding bagged meals

On campus, Bon Appetit man­agement has been trying to make the best of the sit­u­ation and plan ahead. David Apthorpe, general manager, said the current plan is to offer prepackaged meals for the next two weeks, using A.J.’s Cafe as a dis­tri­b­ution hub.

They con­tinue to feed about 80 stu­dents on campus, including those who stayed on campus for a mission trip, as well as members of sports teams and inter­na­tional stu­dents.

March 16 was the first day Bon Appetit served meals this way, so Apthorpe said there is still a learning curve.

“Right now, we have almost all the man­agement team putting the meals together,” Apthorpe said. “We have nine acting man­agers. We think if numbers stay similar, that will be suf­fi­cient. We’ll have to see when we come to the 30th.”

As of now, Apthorpe said, Bon Appetit is not cur­rently keeping track of meal swipes.

“Our main goal is to make sure everybody who wants to be fed will get food.”

Apthorpe said plans are changing con­stantly, and he’s getting updates from the cor­porate Bon Appetit office, planning the best way to serve stu­dents. He said the man­agement team is preparing for how to run meals if stu­dents return for classes on March 30 as planned.

“We’ve talked about how it would look to shuttle food from the dining hall to res­i­dences, whether that’s sack lunches or bulk meals,” he said. “We’ll play it by ear as to what the limits are.”

Faculty and staff working on campus are able to pur­chase the to-go meals. 

WHIP stu­dents head home

Many stu­dents were in the middle of their semester with the Wash­ington-Hillsdale Internship Program when the college announced its plans regarding the coro­n­avirus. Most of those stu­dents have since left D.C. and returned home.

Matthew Spalding, vice pres­ident of Wash­ington oper­a­tions for Hillsdale and dean of the Van Andel Graduate School of Gov­ernment, called meetings with the WHIP stu­dents last week to discuss and address plans for responding to the coro­n­avirus. Spalding said that based on the potential for high demands on the D.C. healthcare infra­structure, the limited ability to support self-quar­antine and illness, and the like­lihood that intern­ships would be can­celed, he strongly advised stu­dents to go home or return to campus. Hillsdale D.C. classes were imme­di­ately shifted to an online format.

Junior Brady Helwig was interning with the Her­itage Foun­dation and will con­tinue to do some work remotely from his home in Wis­consin. He said Hillsdale in D.C.’s rec­om­men­dation to stu­dents was a prudent decision.

“I’ve been really impressed by how Hillsdale in D.C. has handled the sit­u­ation,” Helwig said. “The Kirby Center staff helped us relocate. They fol­lowed up with us and made sure we got home safely.”

Helwig said he appre­ciated the college leaving the decision to relocate or not up to stu­dents, while also pro­viding a strong rec­om­men­dation to leave.

The whole sit­u­ation, he said, was surreal.

“It probably shouldn’t have been as unex­pected as it was,” Helwig added.

Helwig said he decided to return home after hearing rumors about the pos­si­bility of domestic travel bans.

“I packed up my stuff on Friday and drove back to Wis­consin — 13 hours — on Sat­urday,” Helwig said. “It was really wild. I’m still adjusting to being home. It’s strange; I’m glad I’ll be staying busy.”

As part of his internship, Helwig has been researching the coro­n­avirus since mid-January. He spent six to seven weeks on the subject. It’s been strange, he said, to watch the COVID-19 disease develop and spread across the world.

Junior Carl Miller was interning in the office of Sen. Tom Cotton (R‑AR). At first, Miller said, the WHIP stu­dents were in high spirits.

“We were hoping intern­ships would con­tinue, and we would stick it out,” he said. “By Thursday morning, Sen. Cotton’s office had closed. Given that and then the college’s announcement of campus being closed for a little while, I got the impression that it was a matter of when, not if, the Hillsdale House would close entirely.”

Miller had been planning on trav­eling to the Midwest for a wedding anyway, so he brought his belongings in the event he wouldn’t return to D.C. He’s cur­rently taking WHIP classes online through Google Hangouts. He said WHIP classes “didn’t miss a beat.”

“It’s nothing like being there in person. There’s no sub­stitute for that,” Miller said. “But I was really pleas­antly sur­prised with how good the platform was. It’s not a seamless tran­sition — it’s a pro­fessor and a group of stu­dents learning for the first time, so there are hurdles.”

Miller said he is still opti­mistic that he might be able to return in a couple of weeks to con­tinue his internship in person. He is able to do some remote work for Sen. Cotton, he said, though not as much.

Reed Lawe, a junior WHIP student, has been interning with a venture-backed start-up called Why­Hotel, where he is working for a Hillsdale alumnus. When Spalding ini­tially met with the stu­dents, they thought they might try to wait out the sit­u­ation. But things changed quickly.

“Almost half of the WHIP intern­ships were can­celed,” Lawe said. “We under­stood the gravity of the sit­u­ation and were making plans to leave since travel restric­tions were looking likely.”

Lawe is working remotely full time from his home in Florida. He said being in D.C. gave him a unique per­spective on the effects of COVID-19.

“You see the scale of how people react,” he said. “Some people in the grocery store were com­pletely stocking up and wearing masks. Some people were taking public trans­portation like it’s no big deal.”

He also noted that in his trav­eling he saw how empty planes are right now.

Lawe said he thinks the prob­a­bility of returning to D.C. is low and that he doesn’t plan to return to campus if in-person classes resume as planned.

“A lot of us plan to go back for the summer in D.C. program, so hope­fully that will be a good com­pen­sation,” he said.

Lawe said he appre­ciated Hillsdale’s “unified and clear approach,” which has reas­sured him.

Reporter Nolan Ryan con­tributed to this report.