COVID-19 update: Conduct probation and internship cancellations

Some students are asked to finish the term virtually. Others are told that their summer plans are cancelled

Avalon Pernell and Grace Mamon

As positive cases continue to escalate on campus, the Washington and Lee administration has enforced restrictions and cancelled a summer internship program to Cape Town, South Africa.

Eight students were asked to move to all-virtual instruction for the rest of the term last week after holding an off-campus event to which a number of positive cases could be traced. Another 50 students were fined and put on conduct probation because of the same off-campus event, said a community update posted by the COVID-19 Committee on Sept. 30.

Another eight students were asked to leave campus on Sept. 18 for exceeding the size limit for an indoor gathering, failing to wear face coverings, and failing to physically distance, according to an email from Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students Sidney Evans.

Among the new cases identified last week was the first law student to test positive and the first asymptomatic employee to test positive through weekly surveillance testing, according to the weekly email update on Sept. 30 from the COVID-19 committee.

President William Dudley sent an email to the student body the next day, saying that there is no specific number of cases that will prompt a shift to fully virtual instruction.

“We can continue the term on campus so long as we have the capacity to isolate, feed, and care for our students,” he wrote. “So far, we have managed the caseload successfully without overwhelming those capacities.”

Restrictions still include limiting indoor gatherings to six people or less, including housemates, and limiting outdoor gatherings to 10 people or less. Physical distancing of at least six feet and face masks are required at all gatherings, indoors or outdoors, said the Sept. 30 email from the COVID-19 Committee.

None of the cases originated in classroom settings, he said, so the administration believes in-person classes can continue for now.

But the university is less optimistic about some international programs. Many winter abroad trips are still pending approval, but the Cape Town summer internship program is already suspended for summer 2021.

There is too much global uncertainty surrounding the pandemic to conduct the internship, according to the university website.

The program, conducted by the Williams School, is normally an eight-week, six-credit experience that teaches students of any major about the business climate, history and culture of Cape Town.

Students who were enrolled in the program said they understand the decision.

“Obviously I am disappointed,” said Tanajia Moye-Gree, ‘23. “But I recognize that the pandemic has made nearly every single plan that we make for the next year uncertain.”

She said professors are smart to cancel the program until the world is on “more solid footing.”

“When it comes to disappointment ver- sus safety, I will always err on the side of safety,” Moye-Green said. “Because it’s not just my life that I put at stake by continuing to engage in activity that potentially puts lives at risk.”

Jeremiah Kohl, ‘22, was planning on studying in Cape Town last summer. He said he was offered admission into the summer 2021 program as well, but wouldn’t have been able to take it any- way.

“I am applying to more specialized in- ternships within my career path,” he said. Moye-Green said she plans to apply to other study abroad programs and intern-ships and hope that they work out.
But Kohl said the pandemic has ham-pered his hopes for studying abroad.

“I am not sure if I will be able to fit a study abroad experience into my timehere at W&L now.”