JMU suspends all study abroad programs for spring semester

Published: Mar. 10, 2020 at 10:36 PM EDT
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James Madison University has closed all four of its Spring 2020 semester-long study abroad programs as concerns over the spread of the coronavirus continue.

Last week, about 40 students returned from Italy, and now, other students will return home from Belgium, Spain, and the United Kingdom.

In total, JMU has recalled 109 students back to the U.S., plus a handful of faculty and staff.

In accordance with CDC guidelines, only students returning from Italy were asked to stay away from campus and off-campus housing for two weeks. Each of those students has been isolating themselves at home.

At least one of the students who returned from a study abroad trip in Italy

she was not screened by government officials for the virus anywhere along her way home from Italy, passing through customs and airport security without a hitch.

The entire country of Italy has since been placed under travel restrictions, with people inside the nation only allowed to travel out in exceptional circumstances. More than 10,000 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed there.

In the past few days, dozens of U.S. colleges have canceled "in-person" classes and announced classes will be held online; however, James Madison said classes will resume as normal after Spring Break.

"We recognize that we will have travelers returning from destinations abroad and domestic," said Caitlyn Read, spokesperson for JMU. "We have been working with senior leadership and our infectious disease response team to conduct contingency planning and emergency operations planning."

According to the

, JMU is preparing to support faculty if they individually choose to cancel "in-person" classes. Faculty has been asked to make reasonable accommodations to allow sick students to stay out of contact with others.

You can learn more about JMU's plans in connection coronavirus at their dedicated page


Below is the letter issued by Dr. Heather Coltman, JMU Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs, to faculty and staff on March 10:

Dear Colleagues, I last wrote to you on Tuesday about our work to monitor the evolving COVID-19 situation and align university planning with guidance from health officials. Our Academic Affairs Infectious Disease and Campus Tech Response Teams are active and integrated with the ongoing work of the university’s larger Infectious Disease Response Team. I have urged you make reasonable accommodations for students who may be out of the classroom in the coming weeks or months. One way to do this is by making online teaching and testing options available. To be clear: there is no mandate at present to move courses online. However, I do encourage you to explore options for alternative modes of delivery in the event of any possible disruption to normal operations. The JMU Libraries is here to help. I recommend reviewing the resources they are assembling here. Also, we recognize that public health emergencies are stressful times for communities. Fear and anxiety about a disease can lead to social stigma toward people and places, for example, associating COVID-19 with a population or nationality, or with people who have traveled. Stigma hurts everyone by creating fear and anger toward others. The reality is that diseases can make anyone sick regardless of their race or ethnicity. (Adapted from the CDC’s webpage on Stigma and Resilience.) We ask you as faculty and staff to continue to model the JMU way, that Dukes take care of Dukes. If you or your students have experienced stigma, please contact JMU’s Office of Equal Opportunity at If your students are in need of mental health services, have them contact the JMU Counseling Center through their Outreach Request Form. Please continue to check JMU’s COVID-19 FAQ page for the most up to date information. Thank you for all that you do. Sincerely, Dr. Heather Coltman Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs

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