LSU is considering temporarily suspending face-to-face instruction because of the novel coronavirus, officials said Saturday.

"In the event local public health concerns warrant a decision to suspend face-to-face instruction, course instructors should be prepared to deliver courses  remotely to the best of their ability," according to a memo to faculty members from Matt Lee, vice provost for academic programs and support services.

"As a short-term solution, the university has developed an instructional resource page providing tools on moving course materials to an online environment," Lee wrote.

"To be clear, at the time of this writing all instructional activities should proceed as planned," he said. "However, the situation is extremely fluid and in the interest of protecting the health and wellness of the campus community it may be necessary to temporarily suspend some campus activities, including instruction."

"If this is the case then the first line of action will be to maintain continuity of instruction remotely. The Office of Academic Affairs strongly recommends all instructional faculty visit the resource page and expeditiously begin planning for the possibility of delivering course content remotely."

Exactly what might trigger suspending traditional classes is unclear.

Lee could not be reached for comment.

Louisiana does not have a confirmed case of coronavirus.

However, both state and school leaders have announced a wide range of steps to limit what experts say is the inevitable arrival of coronavirus cases in the state.

Bob Mann, a professor of mass communications at LSU, called the announcement prudent.

"This is March and a bunch of students are graduating in May," Mann noted Saturday. "There is probably some anxiety out there."

Mann said the resources included in Lee's memo are helpful.

He said that, while he could teach his two large classes online, some students are involved in public affairs campaigns.

"A lot of it is going and meeting with administrators, with other students, setting up a table in Free Speech Alley."

"I would have to adapt and they would have to adapt to what they are doing," Mann said.

A spokesman for LSU noted that the memo is for planning purposes "and is to let faculty know that the university is putting plans in place in the event of a local outbreak."

The instructional assistance includes how to make courses available online, adding a teaching assistant or guest instructor, creating a quiz and online exams.

Faculty members are also being asked to fill out a survey, including what other resources would help.

LSU's spring break is the last week of March.

The message Saturday came one day after LSU leaders announced that all planned study abroad trips were being canceled through Aug. 17.

School officials said that faculty, staff and student who were earlier approved for international travel to non-targeted countries would have to win the okay for those trips again.

Trips to China, Italy, Iran and South Korea, where there is widespread, ongoing transmissions of the virus, will not be authorized.

Interim LSU President Tom Galligan said Friday school officials are taking extraordinary steps to keep the campus clean, including residence halls, academic buildings and athletic facilities.

"At this moment, it’s important that we all stay calm," Galligan wrote in a message to the LSU community.

Other states, including Washington, have taken more drastic steps to protect college students from contracting the virus.

Mann noted that Stanford University announced it was canceling in-person classes effective immediately for the final two weeks of the winter quarter at the school in Palo Alto, Calif.

Stanford is also hoping to use online classes temporarily in lieu of traditional classrooms. 

   


Email Will Sentell at wsentell@theadvocate.com.