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Coronavirus and Williams

As the Record points out in a slew of articles, two groups of students are being hit particularly hard by COVID-19: international students, and students studying abroad.

From “International students feel impacts of coronavirus travel restrictions”:

Many international students have changed or cancelled their plans to travel home during spring break. “I have already had to cancel my trip home to Dubai, but now I am unsure of whether traveling even within the U.S., like to California for example, is worth the risk either,” Simran Sohal ’20 said. “It’s hard to distinguish between paranoid and prepared.”

KJ Kogawa ’23, whose family lives in Shanghai and who also has Japanese citizenship, agreed. “It’s affected a lot of my plans,” he said. “I don’t want to be in a situation where I’m abroad and just being told, ‘you can’t fly back’…there’s a chance that I might just stay here, which is okay… Because I’m definitely not going home… And I don’t know if I’m even going to go back during the summer.”

There’s the obvious concern for students from those countries that have been hardest hit by the epidemic, who can’t even consider going home for spring break to see their family and are worried about whether their families will be able to visit them; the CDC has so far suspended entry of Chinese and Iranian citizens foreign nationals to the US, and has travel health notices for the majorly-hit countries. This worry about travel is on top of what must be fairly constant worry for their families in those countries.

But, as the article points out, there’s also a more general concern even for international students not directly from those countries; they’re stuck wondering if, by the time spring break rolls around–or even, as someone quoted mentions, by the time commencement rolls around–if flying anywhere means getting stuck in that country, being denied re-entry, or other such complications.

Meanwhile, juniors who are studying abroad in those countries affected by coronavirus probably aren’t having the phenomenal semester they were hoping for, either.

The Record highlights Italian study abroad programs that have been cancelled and directly affecting students; I don’t know how to tell if this is because Italy is somehow the only country in which junior Ephs are currently studying abroad, or if the Record just for some reason chose not to cover what’s going on with study abroad students in the other affected countries. In any case, in their article on Italian study abroad cancellations:

Ten students enrolled in study abroad programs in Italy are facing uncertainty about the rest of their semester due to the country’s coronavirus outbreak and subsequent program cancellations. Many students have already left Italy and will finish the semester through online classes. …

Students whose programs are suspended will not be allowed to return to the College at this point in the term, according to Chief Communications Officer Jim Reische. …

All of the students’ programs will be offering online classes, through which students can finish the semester. In a break from its standard policy, the College will grant these students credit for courses completed virtually, according to Christina Stoiciu, the College’s director of study away. The College will also provide support for students who will need to make up for course deficiencies over the summer, said Vice President for Campus Life Steve Klass.

That must be a pretty big letdown: to go from, say, studying classics in Rome to apparently having the entire program suspended, so that you’re sent home and left to take classes online, going from maybe one of those Williams students’ best educational experiences to probably one of the worst.

The article implies that, while other colleges are requiring that their students who are studying abroad return home, Williams hasn’t made any such demand of its students; instead, students are coming home because the programs they’re in are being outright cancelled.

It’s unfortunate, but makes sense, of course, that Williams can’t let them back on campus, but boy, must it be a bummer for those students. Next semester, though, they will be back on campus–and if coronavirus continues to preclude study abroad, then Williams will have a pretty big housing problem on its hands when those students who would have studied abroad are suddenly all on campus.

From the Record, the College is apparently thinking about contingencies for housing issues brought about by COVID-19:

If more juniors than usual are on campus because of disruptions to study away, students would be housed according to what Schiazza called a “stepped approach.”

First, students would fill all the beds in regular housing, typically by picking into “dingles” — doubles being used as singles — and thereby turning them back into doubles. Second, rooms that Schiazza termed “double-singles,” formerly known as flex rooms for their ability to function as either doubles or singles, would be converted into doubles.

If all the dingles and double-singles were to be used as doubles, and there were still not enough room for every student — a situation Schiazza called “not likely, but still possible” in his all-campus email — doubles of at least 230 square feet would be made to accommodate a third student. These larger doubles are called “triple-doubles.”

Fun stuff.

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