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Breaking News: ‘Coursework’ suspended next week

UPDATE: At 4:05 p.m. today, Chancellor Arvizu issued via email an update to all NMSU students and employees. The update mostly provided information on telework options for employees and clarifying information on student employment. The update also addressed caring for family members in light of the statewide public school closures, self-care essentials and travel. The update did not provide specific guidelines regarding administration of “coursework” or whether the spring semester would be extended to make up for the lost week of instruction. 

NMSU Chancellor Dan Arvizu sent out an email notice to all university employees and students this morning in which he announced he was implementing a system-wide, “two-week spring break for students” beginning Monday, March 16.

A classroom inside Milton Hall sits completely empty in the middle of the day Friday, March 13, 2020. NMSU Chancellor Dan Arvizu announced coursework will be suspended next week citing concerns surrounding the spread of COVID-19. (Kokopelli photo)

In the email, Arvizu stated the following: “While coursework will not be held during these two weeks, it’s important to note that the university will remain open. On-campus housing will remain open. NMSU’s Health and Wellness Center, Corbett Center, Dining Services, police, fire and all other support services will remain open during this time.”

NMSU Chancellor Dan Arvizu speaks at the ASNMSU Center for the Arts in May 2018. Arvizu sent out an email to all students and employees Friday, March 13, 2020, in which he announced he was implementing a “two-week spring break for students.” The announcement seemed to raise more questions than it answered. (NMSU photo by Andres Leighton)

According to discussion threads that have popped up on the NMSU Faculty-talk listserv and elsewhere, Arvizu’s announcement seems to have raised more questions than it answered.

One faculty member posted the following: “The word coursework is ambiguous. Does it include homework, for instance, or does it refer to face-to-face class meetings only?”

Faculty members raised a variety of other concerns on the listserv as well.

“I’ve never not had students continue to work on work during spring break or Thanksgiving break. It’s a break from course meetings, not a break from being oriented toward study,” posted one professor.

Another professor expressed uncertainty about a mini-mester course that is scheduled to begin next week. “I start teaching a minimester online course March 16. Am I supposed to tell my students that we start two weeks later, or do I go ahead and start the class?”

Some faculty members also expressed concern that extending the “break” by one week means the semester will have to be extended by a week.

“Does this mean the spring semester will be extended by a week?” posted one faculty member.

Another added the following: “When the students hear ‘break’ they stop being in a study mode. If we are going to extend the spring semester by another week in May, it means that those of us … who are teaching during summer will have absolutely no break.”

Finally, the chancellor’s announcement did not address how exactly this “break” would affect staff employees including part-time student employees.

Arvizu’s announcement did indicate that additional information for students, faculty and staff  would be “disseminated by the end of the day.” It remains to be seen whether this information will clear up what appears to be widespread confusion stemming from the chancellor’s initial announcement.

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