CU Boulder Goes Online


The Wolf Law Building, like the rest of CU Boulder’s campus, will be devoid of students, faculty and staff for the next two weeks. Via Wiki Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0

Beginning Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2020, the University of Colorado’s Boulder campus will switch to remote learning for at least two weeks in an effort to mitigate the rapid spread of on-campus coronavirus cases. This announcement comes after 457 people associated with the university tested positive for the virus in the last week, prompting a letter from Boulder County Public Health that urged students to quarantine for two weeks in order to contain the outbreak.

In a video message to the campus community, CU Chancellor Phil DiStefano told students that “this is a temporary situation, but it could become permanent if we continue to disregard public health guidelines.” Classes were held in-person on Monday and Tuesday to allow faculty to prepare for the switch to remote learning, which will continue until at least Oct. 7. 

When students returned to CU in August, the university was ready with a “road map” that outlined expectations for students as well as the precautions already taken by the school, including a health questionnaire that must be completed by students, faculty and staff for every day they plan to be on campus. Despite the precautions, the virus has continued to spread, the majority of cases coming from the 72 percent of students living off-campus. The university has been able to better regulate the activity of students living on-campus, including moving 186 students out of their dorm to make more room for quarantined students. Sick students will not be sent home as that would cause the virus to spread across Colorado and the rest of the country, a scenario Governor Jared Polis called “very dangerous.” 

Given the university’s proximity to the broader Boulder community, the switch to virtual learning is also an attempt to protect residents from contracting the virus. Of the 663 Boulder County residents who tested positive in the past two weeks, 76 percent were associated with the university. CU plans to suspend any student who violates public health orders for a minimum of 10 days and up to the remainder of the semester. So far, 14 students have been suspended from campus. 

The degree of success CU achieves with their temporary shift to online will determine the rest of their school year’s trajectory. As DiStefano reminded the campus community, “this may be the last opportunity…to bend the curve of infection and return to in-person instruction before we are forced to move to remote learning for the remainder of the semester.”