Chris Van Buskirk
Marlboro College is debating whether to allow its students who will be going home for the college’s upcoming two-week spring break to return to campus due to concerns over the rapidly spreading COVID-19, commonly known as coronavirus, according to college President Kevin Quigley.
In an email sent to the Marlboro community on Wednesday afternoon, Quigley said Marlboro will allow its international students, seniors working on their Plan assignments, and any students with pre-approval to stay on campus during the break. It will also restrict all college-funded travel, which includes spring break trips and conferences for faculty.
“The college is actively preparing for the possibility that we may need to ask students to delay their return to campus and to transition to online classes temporarily after spring break,” the email reads. “That decision could be made at any time between today and Friday, March 20, should conditions and recommendations from the CDC and Vermont Department of Health change.”
In a phone interview on Wednesday from Vermont, Quigley said the decision will be in collaboration with Emerson.
“[We will be] talking to Emerson to see how [Emerson’s] plan is working and determine whether or not it’s safe to bring our community back,” Quigley said.
Quigley said bringing students back later than expected is not out of the question, and that Marlboro has plans in place.
“If it turns out that we think it’s in the best interest of our community and keeping our students safe, to have them go home for six weeks,” Quigley said. “We still want to maintain the option of finding a way to finish the semester here on campus and have the plan presentation and commencement.”
In an email sent to the Marlboro Community on Wednesday afternoon, Quigley asked all students departing for spring break to bring with them materials “to conduct studies remotely for some period of time.”
Quigley said despite Marlboro’s remote location atop Potash Hill, the college is not immune to the virus.
“Our hilltop setting does not provide us adequate protection from the virus because people come and go all the time,” Quigley said. “Whether they come from New Hampshire or Brattleboro or North Hampton.”
As of Tuesday evening, there is one confirmed case of COVID-19 in Vermont with 215 residents of the state being monitored for the disease—62 people have tested negative for the virus in the state.
Quigley also said that some classes will be transitioning to remote instruction.
“We are like everybody else, moving to more online delivery of our program with the possibility that we may do that exclusively,” Quigley said. “Though like at Emerson, we have many of the same challenges that a lot of our work in the studio art, the performing arts, [which] involves a number of our students, needs to be face to face and we’re trying to figure out how we might deliver for that programming by using internet technology of various sorts.”
There is a faculty team at Marlboro working to support their professors who may not be familiar with some remote-learning technology.
“We have a faculty working group, supported by our IT team that are developing some tutorials and templates for faculty who aren’t quite as conversant with distance learning techniques to get them up to speed,” Quigley said.
Quigley said postponing Marlboro’s commencement—set to be their last if the proposed Emerson-Marlboro merger is completed—is not out of the question, but that he’s encouraged by Marlboro’s small size.
“We’re working really hard to see if there’s a way that we could have commencement,” Quigley said. “And maybe we’ll be in the middle of May, maybe it’ll be in the middle of June. But the circumstances are serious and fast-moving. And what we’re trying to do is take advantage of our small size and our ability to be nimble.”