By Hannah Eason
Virginia colleges and universities are extending spring break and adapting online classes amid the new coronavirus — along with more than 100 universities nationwide and still counting — after the flu-like illness was declared a world pandemic on Wednesday.
There are nine presumptive positive COVID-19 cases in Virginia, according to the Virginia Department of Health. Most of them are in Northern Virginia, with one confirmed case in Central Virginia.
Professors are quickly pivoting to get material online, and some schools, like Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, are offering resources to help teachers adjust. Many students have expressed concern over a lack of digital equipment and internet access.
Most universities are canceling events with more than 100 attendees and have online resources for students to access updated information. Many colleges have canceled in-person classes, but faculty and staff will continue to work on campus. Below is a sample of universities that have changed schedules to help prevent the spread of the new coronavirus.
James Madison University will extend its spring break until March 23 and will teach online classes until April 5. JMU President Jonathan Alger said in a release that students will be updated on the remainder of the semester on March 27.
Longwood University will be closed until March 18, canceling in-person classes and events following a presumptive positive diagnosis for a Longwood student on Wednesday. In a release, Longwood President W. Taylor Reveley said faculty would continue to prepare for the possibility of online classes.
Norfolk State University extended spring break until March 23 and will teach classes online until April 6. University residences will reopen March 22.
Old Dominion University will resume classes online on March 23 after an extended spring break. ODU President John Broderick said in a statement posted on Facebook that the school would monitor the situation and reassess on April 6.
Radford University extended its spring break for an additional week and plans to teach online until April 17, according to the university’s website. The university – as most academic institutions are doing – asked that faculty, staff, and students complete voluntary travel declaration forms.
“The information will be shared with local health officials as needed on a case-by-case basis,” Radford President Brian Hemphill said in a release. “For those who traveled, the University may ask individuals to self-monitor or self-isolate for two weeks depending upon the locations that were visited and the activities that were engaged in.”
The University of Richmond extended spring break, canceling classes from March 16-20, and will hold online classes until at least April 3.
The school’s website states that students with extenuating circumstances, such as international students, can submit a petition to stay in on-campus housing although access to student services and facilities will be limited.
University of Virginia students will also move to online courses starting on March 19, according to a release from U.Va. President James Ryan posted on Wednesday.
“We will not be holding classes on Grounds for the foreseeable future, quite possibly through the end of the semester,” Ryan said in a release. “We will reassess after April 5 at the earliest and periodically after that date.”
Virginia Commonwealth University announced Wednesday that it will extend its spring break for an additional week. When the semester resumes on March 23, classes will be taught remotely for the “foreseeable future.” Classrooms are expected to use digital tools such as Blackboard, videoconferencing and online programs.
The release from VCU President Michael Rao said details regarding on-campus housing, student services, and dining plans are forthcoming.
“I also want to take this opportunity to thank you for being mindful and respectful of others during this outbreak, which is not limited to any particular age group, geographic region, nationality, ethnicity or race,” Rao said.
Virginia Tech’s spring break is extended to March 23, with a transition to online courses for the remainder of the semester. All events with over 100 people are canceled through at least April 30, though May commencement plans are still in place.
“Our campus administrators, public health experts, and community leaders have been continuously engaged in monitoring the situation in Blacksburg, across Virginia, and around the world,” a release stated. “In consultation with our partners in the Virginia Department of Health, we are adopting a range of principle-based actions, effective immediately.”
William & Mary will start online classes on March 23, after an extended spring break, to continue until at least April 1. University events are canceled until April 3.
Virginia State University announced Wednesday that it will cancel or modify all scheduled events for the next 30 days. Modifications include pre-packaged options in dining halls and live streams for events, like the Mr. and Miss VSU Pageant and student government activities. Christopher Newport University took a similar approach, by rerouting study abroad plans and limiting serve-served food, according to its website.
A few colleges remain open at this time: Liberty, Regent and Hampton universities and Reynolds Community College.
As of Wednesday, there are 938 confirmed and presumed positive COVID-19 cases in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The bulk of cases are in Washington, California and New York. The infection has caused 29 deaths in the states. Worldwide, more than 118,300 people have the infection, including over 80,900 individuals living in mainland China. The outbreak has killed 4,292, reported the World Health Organization.
For more information about COVID-19 in Virginia, visit www.vdh.virginia.gov/coronavirus.
Dominion Energy Christmas Parade Marching Online this Year
The 37th annual Dominion Energy Christmas Parade will shift to a television-only Christmas special.
Due to the unprecedented circumstances this year and the responsibility to make the safest decision for our community, the 37th annual Dominion Energy Christmas Parade will shift to a television-only Christmas special! While we will miss seeing everyone on streets this year, we are so excited about the opportunity to bring Richmond’s favorite holiday tradition to you in the comfort of your own home!
Tune in to WTVR CBS 6 News on Saturday, December 5 at 10 am to watch all-new performances from your favorite entertainment groups, heart-warming stories focused on celebrating our Richmond community, “best of” clips from past parades featuring giant helium balloons and colorful floats, and even a special appearance by Legendary Santa himself! You will not want to miss the must-see television event of the holiday season! #RVAparade2020
NOTE TO PARADE PARTICIPANTS: Spots in this year’s Christmas special are limited. Please stay tuned for more information via email next week.
College Greek life priorities change in the face of COVID-19
Virginia-based student sororities and fraternities are using Zoom to recruit new members. Some of these organizations believe the challenge of social distancing has strengthened bonds amongst each other as well as their philanthropy efforts.
By Megan Lee
There are no dodgeball games, cookouts or other rushing events at Virginia Commonwealth University’s campus in Richmond, but fraternities and sororities are still recruiting new brothers and sisters.
The Greek chapters at VCU, and many other Virginia schools, are using Zoom to recruit new members. Some fraternities and sororities believe the challenge of social distancing has strengthened bonds amongst each other as well as their philanthropy efforts.
“Not being able to meet in-person this semester as a whole chapter has been hard, but it has given us more time to focus on our priorities,” said John Rudolph, VCU Pi Kappa Alpha recruitment chair. “Those being our grades, community service and philanthropy.”
VCU’s fraternities and sororities have given around 8,400 hours of time to charities in the last academic year, said LaDarius Thompson, associate director of Civic Engagement and Fraternity and Sorority Life at VCU.
VCU Pi Kappa Alpha is finding alternative methods for their usual events like Bowling Buddy, community clean-ups and food drives, according to Rudolph. Rudolph said the organization is preparing virtual fundraisers using Instagram and Venmo for its annual Fireman’s Challenge, benefitting the Evans-Haynes Burn Center in Richmond.
Bingo donation boards, orders of Campus Cookies, and raffles are just a few of the virtual fundraising challenges Virginia Tech Kappa Alpha sorority are circulating through Instagram and Snapchat stories.
Mojdeh Nourbakhsh, Panhellenic director of risk at Virginia Tech, said that most of its fraternity and sorority causes “are in greater need now more than ever” due to the pandemic.
Kappa Alpha and Kappa Delta at Virginia Tech are raffling Airpods and a TV on social media to fundraise for NRV CARES, a nonprofit advocating for children involved in Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court proceedings.
William & Mary Kappa Sigma President Danny Driscoll said the chapter has raised $600 worth of food this semester for the Williamsburg House of Mercy, a local homeless shelter, and plans to raise another $10,000 over this academic year for philanthropy while following COVID-19 guidelines.
These philanthropy efforts are sometimes overshadowed by the notorious social life fraternities and sororities can bring to college campuses. But these social and recruiting events play a large role in establishing the sense of brotherhood and sisterhood that is an integral part of the organizations, Driscoll said.
Nourbakhsh said that when recruiting in person, “you get a better feel of their energy and how they would benefit your chapter best.”
Since most of these in-person events cannot happen, many Greek leadership boards decided to decrease semester fees.
“I think it’s so wrong to charge someone $300 when what are they really getting besides to say, ‘I’m in Kappa Sigma?’” Driscoll said.
Although rectangles of faces on a Zoom call have replaced real life meetings, there is no substitute for the brothers and sisters that live together — a common standard for many fraternities and sororities.
Students have tested positive in Virginia Tech’s Kappa Delta house, said Claudia Wrenn, the sorority’s vice president of membership.
Wrenn said that the organization’s positive students were quarantined off campus until they were well. She said that resident assistants conduct walk-throughs of all on-campus Greek housing, ensuring that masks are worn at all times in common areas and social distancing measures are in place.
Potential issues arise in off-campus housing, where universities do not have much control.
Thompson said that VCU, the Interfraternity Council and VCU Police have met with sororities and fraternities to reiterate state orders and find ways to prevent COVID-19 within Greek-populated houses.
Some of the Greek chapters that ignored college COVID-19 guidelines have suffered the consequences. Radford University suspended the Iota Zeta chapter of its Theta Chi fraternity for not following health measures during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to The Roanoke Times.
James Madison University also brought Harrisonburg to the top of a USA Today list of college towns with the worst U.S. COVID-19 outbreaks. Twenty percent of JMU students participate in Greek organizations, according to the university’s Fraternity and Sorority Life page.
There are no confirmed links between JMU Greek life and the school’s COVID-19 cases, but Driscoll said that people are connecting the two.
“We don’t want to be the scapegoats that they’re making Greek life into at JMU right now,” Driscoll said.
About 800,000 undergraduate students participated in Greek life across the country in 2018, but VCU Pi Kappa Alpha and William & Mary Kappa Sigma have seen lower recruitment numbers than usual with this year’s freshman class. Virginia Tech Kappa Delta is anticipating even lower numbers for spring recruitment.
Driscoll said Kappa Sigma has not reached half of the number of potential new members he would typically like to have at this point in the semester.
However, he said the unique challenges of this year have created a space for a different bond amongst the incoming class as they “navigate the pandemic together.” Driscoll decided to have a “year-long pledge class” for the 2020-2021 school year to create a longer acclimation period for potential recruits and a greater reach to interested students.
As fraternities and sororities reevaluate chapter goals, they also have time to reflect on Greek life’s impact beyond the college campus, Nourbakhsh said.
Nourbakhsh serves on a national committee created by the National Panhellenic Conference to address underlying racism and noninclusive policies within Greek life.
“There is so much work to be done in our country and starting off with organizations like Greek life and fixing systemic issues is a great start to changing the nation’s perceptions and culture,” Nourbakhsh said.
Students said they are eager to return to regular life.
“Coming from a pandemic and going back to normalcy, whatever normalcy will be, is going to benefit participation, loyalty, interest in these fraternities and sororities because people miss it,” Driscoll said.
Richmond BizSense Reporting Takeout Tacos Taking Over Naked Onion Spot
Good news for lovers of the taco. If you don’t love the taco, I don’t know if we can be friends.
In these uncertain dining times, it’s good news to see a new take-out option opening up.
TBT El Gallo, an upstart Mexican takeout concept, plans to take over the space in October.
TBT refers to the restaurant’s mainstay menu items: tacos, burritos and tortas. El Gallo, which means the rooster in Spanish, is the family nickname of owner Carlos Ordaz-Nunez. He picked it up thanks to a particularly bad childhood haircut.
“Richmond still needs a (a place for) very traditional Mexican-inspired tacos,” he said.
If you can’t wait to try the menu follow TBT El Gallo on Facebook. They are often hosting pop-ups around town and Facebook will keep in you the know.