The COVID-19 Semester

How Loras College faced the challenge of a global pandemic

On March 17, 2020, Loras College announced that all in-person classes were cancelled and the rest of the semester would be conducted exclusively online – an unprecedented move in the College’s 182-year history.

As dire warnings about the spread of the novel coronavirus grew, the campus shutdown was only one step in Loras College’s efforts to try and keep students, faculty and staff safe.

In light of a historic semester, what follows is a timeline of the campus activity in response to COVID-19 to document and reflect on the unique experience that resulted in a new way for Duhawks to come together despite social distancing.


December 2019
01 – Doctors in Wuhan, China, document the first case of a newly discovered variety of coronavirus – named COVID-19.


January 2020
21 – The first reported case of COVID-19 in the United States is found in Washington state.


February 2020
29 – The CDC announces the first American death linked to COVID-19 in Kirkland, Wash.


March 2020
8 – First three cases of coronavirus reported in Iowa (Des Moines)

9 – President Jim Collins (’84) issues a statement encouraging students and faculty to be mindful of travel warnings and announcing on-campus informational sessions on the virus.

Online learning and meetings, including this virtual get-together by media studies students, became the normal way of connecting through the pandemic.

11 – NCAA Division III limits attendance at national competitions to athletes and six guests. Wrestling and Men’s and Women’s Track & Field are scheduled to compete for national championships and Women’s Basketball is scheduled play in the Sweet 16 of the national championship tournament on March 13.

12 – Loras Study Abroad programs are cancelled and students are called back to the U.S. and required to self-quarantine for 14 days before returning to campus.
– NCAA Division III cancels national tournaments and all spring athletics
– President Collins shares a communication to the campus community regarding these updates and announcing limits to on-campus events and cancelling all Loras-sponsored travel.

15 – President Collins issues a statement cancelling classes on March 19, 20 and 23 and pushing all instruction to an online format beginning March 24 until at least April 20. All students living on-campus are instructed to move out no later than March 20.

17 – Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds announces that any gathering of greater than 10 people is prohibited across the state. In response, Loras cancels all in-person instruction effective at noon while previous online instruction plans remain.

“I am especially saddened to have come to this decision given this special time of year for our seniors. Further, for all our students who have come to find Loras as a second home, I know how hard it must be to have to leave friends, mentors, and resources that Loras so capably provides. So many of you have invested time, hard work, and great love into performing, competing, presenting, etc. I recognize how devastating it must be to have so much of this stripped away so abruptly.” – President Collins statement on postponing in-person instruction.

19– First confirmed coronavirus case in Dubuque County

20 – Only students with extenuating circumstances remain on campus.
– All on-campus events and visits are cancelled until at least May 1.
– Faculty and staff are instructed to begin working from home beginning March 25 with the exception of those deemed essential.

30 – President Collins issues a statement announcing that instruction will remain online for the remainder of the semester. He also announces that commencement will be postponed.


“To be clear, my heart breaks in having to send this communication. Further, my heart bleeds red, not purple and gold, for our seniors who have given so much in making Loras extra special. My colleagues I so wish we could have given you all that we have given the previous 180 graduating classes with the deep affection, love, and support you deserve – in person and at this juncture of your Loras experience. Despite, we will still celebrate you well!”

– President Collins, statement on postponing commencement.


April
20 – President Collins issues a statement announcing the rescheduling of commencement to October 9. Faculty and staff will continue to work remotely until at least May 29.

29 – Students are informed about CARES Act funding available to them.(could add CARES Act page link here)

30 – President Collins issues a statement announcing initial plans for in-person instruction for the 2020-21 academic year.


May
21 – The academic year came to a close.

23 – President Collins appears on an episode of the Duhawk Digest podcast to mark what was originally scheduled to be the day of commencement and provide a look back at the year.


June
10 – Campus update from President Collins provides details on plans for fall, including dates for students returning to campus, and unveils the Loras Flex plan for students to choose their instruction delivery.


While not an exhaustive list, this timeline allows us to look back at some of the steps taken to keep the campus community safe while still providing education at the high level for which Loras is known. Behind the scenes, the Emergency Response Team has met at least weekly to map out protocols, and essential staff have cleaned campus and are busy reconfiguring facilities for the upcoming year.

You can find a full timeline, including all statements released by the Loras College at loras.edu/coronavirus.

About Loras College
Founded in 1839, Loras College leverages its historic roots as Iowa’s first college, the second oldest Catholic college west of the Mississippi River and one of the nation’s 10 diocesan colleges to deliver challenging, life-changing experiences as part of its residential, Catholic setting. In 2020, Loras was ranked the 16th Best Regional College in the Midwest by U.S. News & World Report and one of America’s Top 200 Most Loved Colleges/Universities by Forbes Magazine for the fourth consecutive year. Loras students ranked No. 2 in the world as part of the global Peeptrade Investment Challenge while a second group ranked No. 4. For the 12th consecutive year, Loras Media Studies student-led television station (LCTV) was named the TV Station of the Year by the Iowa College Media Association (ICMA).