Update 3/18: On Wednesday, UVa President Jim Ryan clarified that while Final Exercises are canceled "as currently planned," the university is still exploring alternatives in order to give students a graduation, including holding ceremonies at a later date.
The University of Virginia on Tuesday announced that it will cancel Final Exercises in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Classes will move online for the rest of the semester, and all events on Grounds, regardless of size, are canceled through May 15, UVa President Jim Ryan announced in a Tuesday evening letter to the university community.
Ryan said the decisions were made based on evidence that the novel coronavirus will not have abated by late April. The university had initially hoped to put a brief pause on in-person teaching and operations.
“In light of the evidence about the likely progression of the virus over the next couple of months, and when it will peak, we have made the difficult decision to cancel Final Exercises as currently planned,” Ryan wrote. “We do not make this decision lightly, as we know how disappointing it will be to graduating students and their families.”
The university will continue to pay full-time and part-time employees through the shut down, the letter said. Employees who can work from home will be told to do so, the letter said, and those whose jobs are in-person must still show up for work. The rest may be asked to pick up other duties, the letter said, but they will be paid either way.
The two-day Final Exercises ceremony, a staple early-summer event that draws thousands, was scheduled for May 16 and 17. UVa staff are working on an alternative to the Lawn celebration, the letter said.
Ryan said he will provide clarity on the status of research at the university Wednesday. UVa is committed to research, the letter said, but is seeking steps to keep its workers safe.
Students with federal work study jobs will be paid an average of their bi-weekly pay through the end of the semester, if they cannot work remotely. Work study students who can work remotely will be allowed to do so with the approval of their supervisor, Ryan said. Teaching assistants and students assisting with research will continue to be paid if they are able to work remotely.
Student employees who cannot work remotely and are not in the work study program will not be retained, the letter said.
“For the safety of students and the others with whom they may come into contact, non-FWS student employees who cannot work remotely will not be eligible to continue working while the University’s operating schedule is modified due to COVID-19,” Ryan wrote.
Dining services that do not support UVa Health will be restricted to the O-Hill dining hall, and will be served as take out or grab-and-go, the letter said. Only students with no other housing option, such as international students who cannot return home, will be allowed to remain in university housing after noon on Wednesday. Many students are already moving out.
“Implementing these changes will no doubt be difficult, and we know further questions will arise, but we remain as confident as ever in our community’s ability to navigate this unprecedented set of challenges together,” Ryan wrote. “In the meantime, our profound thanks to everyone in this community for your dedication, creativity, and compassion.”