MINNEAPOLIS — The University of Minnesota Board of Regents has voted 8-3 to delay move-in at the Twin Cities, Duluth, and Rochester campuses for at least two weeks, while also moving undergraduate classes to online instruction over the same period.
U of M President Joan Gabel announced the proposals in a letter to students and staff last week, due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
During an emergency virtual meeting Monday, some members of the Board of Regents suggested that distance learning should be separated from the move-in delay. However, Gabel noted the experience at other university campuses that have had COVID-19 outbreaks, like UNC-Chapel Hill, where schools have had to lock down campuses or send students home. Gabel said that means students who live on-campus are heavily restricted in their movements and available on-campus activities, all while continuing to pay full residential costs.
"It's utterly abnormal," Gabel said. "This entire process is abnormal."
In her letter, Gabel had noted recent federal guidance suggested that higher education institutions should have the capacity to conduct up to 10,000 COVID-19 tests per day, which she said does not align with the U's current plans. Gabel said the delay will give school officials time to evaluate the testing guidance and the U's efforts to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.
In Monday's meeting, Gabel told the Board of Regents that while they can't give people certainty about the virus, they can give people certainty about dates.
Regents Janie Mayeron and David McMillan both said they'd received many messages from students and parents willing to "undertake the risk" of moving into campus.
Several members said they were conflicted about the delay, but ultimately supportive of the proposal in the interest of the safety and well-being of the university community.
During the meeting, regents heard from U of M professor and director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP) Dr. Michael Osterholm, who noted increasing COVID-19 case numbers among young adults in recent weeks.
University officials estimate the U of M could lose nearly $3.5 million in food and dining revenues at the Twin Cities campus during a two-week move-in delay, and an estimated $5 million across all campuses.