Hillsdale College announced it would suspend in-person classes for the remainder of the spring semester. Offi­cials are cur­rently making plans regarding com­mencement, which will depend on state orders. Nolan Ryan | Col­legian

With the campus closed and in-person classes sus­pended for the remainder of the semester, Hillsdale College offi­cials are working on plans for com­mencement and when stu­dents may return to gather their things.

Due to the ongoing threat of the COVID-19 pan­demic, as well as state-spe­cific travel restric­tions, the college decided to con­tinue online-only instruction, Hillsdale College Pres­ident Larry Arnn announced in an email on April 7. Classes were pre­vi­ously set to resume on April 20. In addition to current courses, Arnn also said summer ses­sions will not be held on campus. The Student Affairs Office will be con­tacting stu­dents about how to handle belongings left behind on campus and other details. Com­mencement is still scheduled for May 9, but may be pushed to August if nec­essary.

Arnn cited the ongoing stay-at-home orders in Michigan and other states as part of the reason for his decision. He also said the college will not have “the knowledge and the tools” for dealing with the virus “for some weeks.”

The Michigan leg­is­lature voted on April 7 to expand Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s state of emer­gency through April 30. Arnn noted in his email that April 30 is also the first day of final exams.

“You do not want to be trav­eling, if you can travel, on the eve of those exams,” he said. “Moreover, many states have already extended their lock­downs beyond April 30, which means that many stu­dents would not be able to come.”

Arnn said the plan to hold com­mencement on May 9 depends on what happens with the pan­demic. The school has reserved Aug. 15 as a pos­sible backup date for the cer­emony. In that case, returning seniors will be pro­vided with space in the res­i­dence halls, as well as food service.

“We intend to have four days to cel­e­brate our common achievement and to do all the normal rituals plus some others,” he said.

Philipp said in an email that 10 stu­dents remain on campus.

“These 10 have been on campus since spring break and are likely to remain for the duration of the term,” she said.

Philipp added that Bon Appetit has con­tinued to feed these stu­dents, as well as “a few who come from off campus.”

Regarding when stu­dents can return to retrieve their belongings, Philipp said the college is waiting for updates to Whitmer’s orders that would allow the school “to welcome stu­dents back and to effec­tively manage their return.” She said plans for grad­u­ation also depend on the state orders and any updates that come in over the next few days.

Carolyn Mil­ligan, exec­utive sec­retary to the dean of women, emailed on behalf of Health Ser­vices to say that the college’s Health Center would remain open to faculty, staff, and stu­dents, including those still in Hillsdale.

Doctors are available for two hours every day: Monday, Tuesday, and Friday from 8 – 10 a.m. and Wednesday and Thursday from 1 – 3 p.m. These doctors are also on call at Hillsdale Hos­pital, Mil­ligan said, and may not always be available during these hours.

Mil­ligan also noted that Michigan now allows “a broader scope of COVID-19 testing.”

“Patients who are in need of testing will now be able to have their doctors order testing,” she said.

When delib­er­ating about bringing stu­dents back, Arnn said one concern is that there are likely cases of COVID-19 among staff and their fam­ilies. Those exhibiting mild symptoms, he said, haven’t been able to be tested.

In regards to student safety, Arnn said no one yet knows why the disease is deadly to some young people.

“It is known that the virus attacks the lungs in some cases with par­ticular intensity, and those who have problems with their res­pi­ratory systems are vul­nerable,” he said. “Maybe that explains why some young people get into the peril of their lives. That is only maybe. If we knew, we could isolate people with those problems.”

Arnn pointed out that coun­tries like South Korea and Taiwan were pre­pared for the pan­demic, but the U.S. was not. This is why things in the nation have to stop, he said.

“We have been resisting this dis­ruption with all our might, and we will con­tinue to do so.  We cannot make our resis­tance suc­cessful in time to resume classes this term,” he said.

The college, he said, has faced many crises in its 175-year history, including wars, pan­demics, and financial troubles.

“As the college rose from those worse crises, so it will rise and promptly recover from this one,” he said.

Arnn said members of the campus com­munity should focus on the friend­ships built in the work that goes on at Hillsdale. He encouraged stu­dents to make the most of online coursework and to keep up com­mu­ni­cation.