Students impacted by campus closures due to coronavirus in US to get help

Updated on Mar 13, 2020 06:23 AM IST

More than 202,000 Indian students are enrolled in US universities and many of them stay on campus and many stay outside.

A sign warns students of a twenty minute loading and unloading parking restriction outside Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, U.S., on Thursday, March 12, 2020. The Indian embassy in Washington has started a helpline for Indian students and others planning to travel to India in view of the new travel restrictions.(Bloomberg)
A sign warns students of a twenty minute loading and unloading parking restriction outside Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, U.S., on Thursday, March 12, 2020. The Indian embassy in Washington has started a helpline for Indian students and others planning to travel to India in view of the new travel restrictions.(Bloomberg)
Hindustan Times, Washington | ByYashwant Raj

Indian and other foreign students impacted by the temporary closure of campuses and in-person teaching by US universities due to the spread of coronavirus are likely to be helped by their respective institutions in most instances to find alternate accommodation and continue their studies online.

The Indian embassy here has also started a 24/7 helpline for these students and others planning to travel to India in view of the new travel restrictions and is roping in the Indian American community here in the national capital and elsewhere through its consulates to help. The helpline numbers are +1 202 213 1364 and +1 202 262 0375; and the email address is cons4.washington@mea.gov.in.

More than 202,000 Indian students are enrolled in US universities and many of them stay on campus and many stay outside. Those staying on campus stand to be impacted the most as their universities close their campuses, end in-person teaching and switch to virtual classroom in view of the spread of coronavirus and shift to online classes.

They have either closed already or will, starting from Monday for the spring break and have asked students to go back to their permanent addresses and not return till sometime in April, which will be determined by the situation. Classes will be conducted online after the end of the spring break.

“The decision to move to virtual instruction was not made lightly,” Harvard President Larry Bacow said in a letter to students on Tuesday. “The goal of these changes is to minimize the need to gather in large groups and spend prolonged time in close proximity with each other in spaces such as classrooms, dining halls, and residential buildings.”

And an online FAQ posted by the university on the changes said, “We know there will be difficult and extenuating circumstances for students who cannot leave campus by March 23 or do not have another place to go. Harvard will provide you the help you need to stay safe, secure, and continue with your academic work.”

Georgetown University in Washington DC has made a similar arrangement. “We understand that for some number of students there will be a compelling reason to remain on campus,” John J. DeGioia, president of Georgetown university in Washington DC wrote in a letter to the university community on Wednesday. “Campus will remain open and key services will be available.”

Life and plans will be disrupted because of the closure and the extended spring recess that has been ordered by the universities but for some a big worry was how will their families come for India for their convocation, due in a few weeks, because of travel restrictions going up around the world.

But that’s for later. “I feel reassured by steps taken by the university,” said Sayantan Sahu, a graduate student at the University of Maryland.

The Spring Break that usually lasts a week and most Indian students don’t go back to India. They make plans instead to stay with friends and relatives or to just travel around and be back when classes resume. This time, they have more time on their hands because of extended breaks.

Harvard resumes classes, online classes, on March 23, and will continue online classes “to the greatest extent possible for the weeks ahead”. Georgetown will start its virtual classrooms on March 16 and Beginning Monday, The University of Maryland will move to online classes on March 30 and go on till at least April 10, it has said in an online guidance on its coronavirus-related closure and changes. Other universities have their own schedules, that are available online.

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