Hillsdale College stu­dents will do all classes over Zoom after a new round of COVID-19 restric­tions from
Michi­gan’s health department. Kalli Dal­rymple | Collegian

As Hillsdale College moved classes online yes­terday fol­lowing an order from Michigan’s health department, the number of active cases of COVID-19 among Hillsdale stu­dents has fallen sharply.

On Wednesday morning, the college reported 32 active cases of COVID-19, down from 76 a week earlier. Active cases are cat­e­go­rized as indi­viduals who remain in quar­antine for 10 days from symptom onset. Since August, 189 stu­dents have tested pos­itive for COVID-19. 

“Regret­tably, we are no longer able to hold or attend classes in-person as of Wednesday this week,” Hillsdale College Pres­ident Larry Arnn said in an email sent to stu­dents, faculty, and staff on Monday, Nov. 16. “We comply with these orders unwill­ingly and intend to do every­thing pos­sible to carry on the life of the college despite this interference.”

The announcement came in response to new restric­tions from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Ser­vices that banned in-person classes starting on Wednesday, Nov. 18, among a host of other restric­tions. Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced the new rules on the evening of Nov. 15.

In August, Arnn empha­sized the “joy of being together” in a college setting. While the order will pro­hibit in-person classes until at least Dec. 8, the college plans to remain as con­nected as possible. 

“You should know that your classes will con­tinue, though not in-person. The dining hall, dorms, library, and gym remain open,” Arnn said in his email to campus. “The college will con­tinue to provide all ser­vices and engage in all activ­ities which are not expressly pro­hibited by this latest round of rules.”

Sophomore John Paul Schlueter said the switch to online courses was expected and might even allow for more flex­i­bility in schedules. 

“It saddens me that we’re going online, but it opens the door for many incredible oppor­tu­nities,” Schleuter said. “I prefer in-person classes of course, but I get to spend more mean­ingful time with the boys and spend time with people I wouldn’t get to otherwise.”

Other stu­dents are not happy about the switch to online learning. 

“You hate to see it,” said freshman Finnian McHale. “I think we’ll lack the sense of com­munity that in-person classes bring, but maybe this will allow for an oppor­tunity to form a bond with our class­mates because we’re all going through this unique expe­rience together.” 

In the past week, 63 cases of stu­dents with COVID-19 have been resolved, meaning the stu­dents have left quar­antine,  and 94 cases were resolved earlier in the semester.

There are cur­rently 131 stu­dents in contact iso­lation, nine of whom are awaiting test results after exhibiting pos­sible COVID-19 symptoms. The stu­dents in contact iso­lation are being closely mon­i­tored by medical staff at Hillsdale’s Ambler Health and Wellness Center. No stu­dents have been hos­pi­talized due to COVID-19 this semester. Of the more than 504 stu­dents who have been tested for COVID-19 this semester, 315 have tested neg­ative and 189 have tested positive. 

The orders from the state’s health department come a week before Thanks­giving break, which begins Nov. 24. While stu­dents have the option to leave campus, Arnn said they are “neither required nor encouraged” to depart before Christmas break, which begins Dec. 12.

“This year, we encourage stu­dents to con­sider remaining in Hillsdale over the break in order to avoid an increase in trans­mis­sions,” Carolyn Mil­ligan, exec­utive sec­retary to the dean of women, said in an email. “We under­stand some stu­dents have already made plans, in which case we ask that you take great care wherever you travel and try to avoid areas where cases are elevated.”

The college will provide on-campus housing and dining options for stu­dents who plan to stay on campus over Thanks­giving break. Facil­ities such as the George C. Roche Sports Complex and the Mossey Library will be closed, however. 

General Manager of Bon Appetit David Apthorpe said that dining options will remain open for stu­dents staying on-campus over break.

“We will be oper­ating a meal service similar to an extended weekend with brunch and dinner service from Wednesday through Sunday,” Apthorpe said.

Stu­dents in contact iso­lation will con­tinue to be delivered. Stu­dents can check for updated hours of oper­ation and further infor­mation about on-campus dining. 

Director of Ath­letics Don Brubacher said Sunday’s emer­gency order, which reads, “gath­erings for the purpose of orga­nized sports are pro­hibited unless all par­tic­i­pants, teams, and venues comply with the enhanced testing regimen spec­ified in the Addi­tional Mit­i­gation Mea­sures for Safer Ath­letic Practice and Play,” will change oper­a­tions in the ath­letic department. 

“The newest orders from the Michigan gov­ernor will require changes in the oper­ation of our sports teams,” Brubacher said. “We are looking at options at this time to allow our sports teams as much activity as pos­sible while also com­plying with the orders.”

Brubacher said he has not yet made a game plan for the rest of the semester, but added that  his department is working hard to make quick adjustments. 

“We hope to have the pro­tocols for all sports in place by the end of the week,” Brubacher said. 

Hillsdale’s Student Activ­ities Board, whose event schedule has been repeatedly altered this semester, still plans on hosting events.

Director of Student Activ­ities Zane Mabry said SAB is still ded­i­cated to fos­tering social inter­action among students.

“Events look dif­ferent from past years,” Mabry said. “But the latest order is not changing any of our plans for the rest of the semester.”

Mabry said that the Hillsdale com­munity is still strong and con­nected, and that SAB’s agenda is to ensure that con­tinues to be the case.

“I’m thankful that we can still have events at all, and that we have stu­dents around to attend those events,” Mabry said. “Espe­cially as we near Thanks­giving and Christmas, we’re happy to have the oppor­tunity to cel­e­brate together.”

Apthorpe said that the new orders have altered how the catering company deter­mines who it can serve.

“The major change is going from a capacity basis to determine seating to a dis­tance basis,” Apthorpe said in an email. “So in the pre­vious health department order, we were oper­ating at 50% of normal capacity.  In the new order, guests must be six feet apart, essen­tially lim­iting one guest per table or booth, and tables must be spaced a minimum of six feet apart.”

Apthorpe said Bon Appetit may con­tinue to adjust dining reg­u­la­tions to improve efficiency.

“The biggest change will be in enforcement of the dis­tancing reg­u­la­tions, but we’re also looking at dif­ferent options to ensure com­pliance,” Apthorpe said. “There also may be an adjustment to the grab-and-go program. With in-person classes unavailable in the short-term, we may look to con­sol­idate loca­tions to utilize staff in a dif­ferent manner.” 

Arnn, who on mul­tiple occa­sions has said he hopes to return to normal as soon as pos­sible, said the college is exploring what legal strategies may be needed to con­tinue college.

“These new rules are sci­en­tif­i­cally and morally ill-informed, arbi­trary, and likely to cause serious harm to col­leges and stu­dents in the state. It is a grave thing to sep­arate stu­dents from one another and from their teachers,” Arnn said. “As John Henry Newman observed, the unstruc­tured and social inter­ac­tions among stu­dents con­stitute the most indis­pensable part of their education.”

A pre­vious edition of this story incor­rectly stated that the library and sports complex would be open over Thanks­giving Break. The Col­legian regrets the error.