Regional UW campuses announce shift to online instruction after Thanksgiving

Following the announcement of 100% ICU bed capacity at hospitals in the Eau Claire area and the increased strain on hospital capacity caused by the rise of COVID-19 cases in the Twin Cities region, and in line with the recommendations issued Tuesday in the executive order from Gov. Tony Evers, three western Wisconsin regional UW campuses have decided to move to remote instruction after Thanksgiving, the chancellors said in a joint statement.

“We all had high hopes of returning to campus after the fall break to continue our in-person classes,” said UW-Eau Claire Chancellor Jim Schmidt. “But with these two pieces of important information within a 24-hour period, it was a literal game-changer. Governor Evers’ recommendations to help mitigate the virus includes advising folks to stay home because – in his words – the crisis is urgent. In the spirit of public good requested by the Governor, we need to pull together to help keep as many people safe and at home during the remainder of the semester.” 

“The health and safety of our faculty, staff and students are of the utmost importance,” said UW-Stout Chancellor Katherine Frank. “However, we live, work and play in our communities. When we have hospitals at full capacity, a sudden spike could overwhelm our local healthcare system and we have to do whatever we can to prevent that.”

“Together as Western Wisconsin’s three regional campuses we all believe this is the right decision,” added UW-River Falls Chancellor Connie Foster. “President Thompson encouraged us to work together as a region in making this decision and we chancellors agree that this is the best approach.”

Even with remote instruction, the campuses will remain open. Students can continue to live in the residence halls and utilize dining services and have access to campus WiFi and resources like the library and research, laboratory, creative activity or other independent project spaces. Employees can continue to access offices and research and lab spaces as well. Those planning to return to campus after Thanksgiving break, however, must be tested twice the week they return to campus and routine testing will continue to be mandatory for students living in the halls.

The chancellors emphasized that the announcement about campuses switching to remote instruction does not reflect a significant rise in cases among their students or employees, and it does not affect their operations for the spring 2021 semester.

We know that our campus academic spaces are among the safest places to be, and we’re proud of the work of the entire campus and our students for adopting safe practices. We are, however, also acutely aware of impacts the disease is currently having on in our region and throughout our community and we have a duty to help safeguard our healthcare resources,” said Foster.

“We understand that many students would like to return to campus and continue their studies, and that is a decision each and every student must make for themselves,” stated Schmidt. “Our campuses will be open for those students and faculty, and extra antigen testing will be administered.”

All three campuses are located in the far western portion of Wisconsin including the cities of River Falls, Eau Claire, Menomonie.

For more information about the UWRF decision, call Dina Fassino at 715-425-4306 or email [email protected]