All spring term abroad courses canceled due to coronavirus concerns

The total cancellation of spring term abroad courses was decided on Thursday


An aerial view of Washington and Lee University. Photo by Coleman Martinson.

This is a breaking news story that will be updated with new information.

All 19 spring term abroad courses were canceled as of Thursday, adding to a growing list of university response to the global reach of COVID-19, otherwise known as coronavirus.

Four courses were first canceled on Wednesday, March 11, and the rest were announced as canceled on Thursday. 

  • ARTH 356: the Netherlands
  • ARTS 223/HIST 210: France
  • ECON 288: United Kingdom
  • ENGL 386/THTR 286: United Kingdom
  • FILM 251: Ghana
  • FREN 285: France
  • GEOL 373: Greece
  • SPAN 214: Spain
  • ROML 297: Portugal
  • SPAN 216: Argentina, Uruguay
  • ENGL/MUS 238: Ireland
  • AFCA-ENGL 286: Paris, France
  • BUS 191: Copenhagen, Denmark
  • BUS 391: Copenhagen, Denmark
  • BUS 390: Denmark, Sweden
  • ECON/EDUC 239: Denmark, Sweden, Finland
  • HIST 286: Kyrgyzstan
  • MESA 252: Egypt
  • JAPN 265/365: Japan

Students in these courses will have to register for an on-campus spring term class, which will begin after spring break on April 27.

Dean of the College Lena Hill and Africana Studies Professor Michael Hill were planning to teach the Africana Studies course in Paris together. Michael Hill confirmed the course’s cancellation and said they focused on student health and safety when making the decision.

According to an email obtained by the Ring-tum Phi from Michael Hill to students in the course, the course, “Black Writers and the Allure of Paris,” will not be taught on campus during spring term. Instead, he said, he will teach an on-campus course, “Adolescence in the African American Novel” during spring term, which he offered to students originally enrolled in the Paris course.

Garrett Clinton, ’20, was one of the students enrolled in the course and said he’s lucky he didn’t need it to graduate.

“I’m most likely going to spring option and I’m changing flights now,” Clinton said. “I’m wondering what W&L’s plan is for seniors who need the credits that they’re taking this semester.”

France ranks fifth in most diagnosed coronavirus cases with a little more than 2,200 as of Thursday, the New York Times reported. Japan ranks eighth, with more than 1,300 as of Thursday. Italy continues to be the center of the pandemic in Europe, with more than 15,000 cases.

Spanish Professor Seth Michelson confirmed in an email to the Ring-tum Phi on Thursday that the Spanish class with planned travel to Argentina and Uruguay is canceled.

The first-year seminar course, BUS 191, was canceled Thursday, said Rob Straughan, the associate dean of the Williams School and professor of business administration. Straughan would have taught the course alongside Elizabeth Oliver, associate dean of the Williams School and an accounting professor. 

Both of them would have co-taught BUS 391, a corporate social responsibility practicum also based in Copenhagen, which was canceled Wednesday.

Economics Professor Tim Diette confirmed his Scandinavia-based economics and education course with Director of Education Studies Haley Sigler was canceled in an email to the Ring-tum Phi on Thursday. The class would have spent one week on campus and three weeks in Denmark, Sweden and Finland.

Business Administration Professor Andrew Hess confirmed that the Social Innovation in Scandinavia course, BUS 390, was canceled in an email to the Ring-tum Phi on Thursday.

U.S. President Donald Trump issued a 30-day travel ban across the Schengen Area, the European Union’s border-free travel zone, on Wednesday. This 26-country region does not include the United Kingdom or Ireland.

Many students who are studying abroad in places such as Austria and France for the whole semester are on planes home or working to find flights back by the end of this week. 

The two language and immersion courses to Japan would have been based in Kanazawa, according to the university website. Janet Ikeda, an associate professor of Japanese who was leading the courses, confirmed the cancellation in an email to the Ring-tum Phi on Wednesday. 

Ikeda, who would have led the two courses in Japan, said in an email that each professor can make the best decision as to whether their spring term abroad syllabus will work on campus. She said she communicated to Provost Marc Conner and university deans that her syllabi won’t be able to work.

The course based in Cairo was originally set to take place in Lebanon but was moved in January to Egypt because of political unrest. Multiple students, including Stanton Geyer, ‘20, who were enrolled in the Cairo course confirmed that the course was canceled on Wednesday.

“We’re all pretty upset, and of course now are rushing to supplement those plans,” Geyer said. “I know we’re pretty focused on spending the rest of this year with friends and professors, because whether it was in Lebanon or Egypt so much of this trip was about finishing school with Estaaz Antoine.”

Lane Johansen, ’22, one student in the class scheduled to go to Kyrgyzstan, confirmed the class was canceled on Wednesday because Kyrgyzstan issued a fourteen-day quarantine for everyone entering the country.

“I’m definitely disappointed and feel like I wasted $1,000 on airfare that probably won’t be refunded, but I know that my professor is prioritizing the safety of our class and I respect that,” Johansen said.

Johansen said the professor who was leading the course, Richard Bidlack, will be teaching his spring term class on the rise and fall of the Soviet Union.

The Center for Disease Control has Japan, Kyrgyzstan and Egypt as a Level 2 Travel Health Notice, which encourages visitors to practice enhanced precautions.

“Cancellation of any trip would be based on numerous factors,” said Mark Rush, director of international education and a politics professor.

Spring term is a four-week mini-semester at Washington and Lee University, during which students can take one in-depth academic course.

Eight members of the Washington and Lee University community were asked to quarantine themselves after recent travel after already attending classes for a week, as the Ring-tum Phi previously reported.

Hannah Denham contributed to this story.