UI dean of students: Empty campus ‘absolutely heartbreaking’

Matt Loveless, a broadcast journalism professor at WSU, conducts the advanced television news class made up of students who participate Murrow News 8 newscast in his office Monday in Pullman. He said his 13 students did some virtual class work prior to spring break.

University of Idaho Dean of Students Blaine Eckles said the absence of students on campus is “absolutely heartbreaking.”

Monday marked the first day of classes following spring break at the UI and Washington State University, but classrooms remain empty as students were encouraged to stay home and classes moved online.

Eckles addressed the UI students, faculty and staff in a “town hall” held on Facebook Live. He said the first days after spring break are usually vibrant, which is why he is saddened that students are not around.

“This is a sad time for everybody, but as Vandals we will get through this together,” he said.

While campus is still open, Eckles warned that most offices have a “skeleton crew” of people, and he advised people to call ahead before arriving at the office.

Eckles said the Vandal Health Clinic is open. The clinic is pooling its resources with Gritman Medical Center and Moscow Family Medicine, so people who show up to Vandal Health Clinic may be redirected to a Moscow Family Medicine clinic, he said. Eckles said UI can provide transportation assistance.

UI and WSU decided not to extend their spring break periods. Eckles said UI decided against extending the break in order to encourage students to collect their items from campus quickly before returning home.

He also said the university wanted students to focus on academics. Additionally, the university wanted to start its online classes right away to see how well it could adjust to distance learning.

Eckles said he knows this has been challenging for students.

“It creates a massive inconvenience for a lot of students and we fully recognize that,” he said.

Eckles encouraged students to contact their professors with questions they have about midterms and finals. He also said there will likely be a decision made sometime in April about the future of summer classes.

Eckles went over the protocol for what would happen if a UI student tests positive for COVID-19.He said a Vandal Alert will be sent out through email to students, faculty and staff. Then, UI will reach out to the infected individual and, if that person lives in a UI residence facility, they will be moved into a quarantine location where nobody else lives.

“We would not have them self-isolate on their floor where they currently live. We would relocate them to another location,” Eckles said.

He said if there ever comes a point the university has to ask students in its residence halls to move home, the university will find a solution for the students who do not have that option, such as international students.

He promised the university will not “kick anyone out on the street.”

“We will take care of you for the rest of the semester,” he said.

Anthony Kuipers can be reached at (208) 883-4640, or by email to akuipers@dnews.com.

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