Local Catholic college and university students affected by COVID-19 response

By Dan Russo & Daniel Charland

For The Witness

DUBUQUE — The three Catholic institutions of higher learning in the Archdiocese of Dubuque have canceled face-to-face classes and many other activities because of the coronavirus outbreak (COVID-19) . They are coping by offering forms of online learning. The unusual circumstances have had an impact on all students.

 “It’s a lot of stress because of school and classes, and now we all have to move because we can’t be in campus housing,” said Anna Olberding, a Loras College student from Dyersvile. “There’s a lot going on and it’s not like anything that’s ever happened, so no one knows whats going on … I’m personally not worried about myself, but I’m worried about the elderly around me. I work at a nursing home, so I’m worried about them, as well as my grandma and grandpa. To some extent I think it’s a little blown out of proportion because all of these elderly people are at home watching TV all the time and it’s freaking them out a bit.”

Loras College president Jim Collins informed students in a March 15 message that face to face classes would end March 18. All classes scheduled for Thursday, March 19, Friday, March 20, and Monday; March 23 are cancelled. 

“Classes will resume on Tuesday, March 24 through an exclusively on-line delivery. The on-line delivery approach will remain until at least Friday, April 17,” wrote Collins.

While spring break will remain as planned, online courses will be delivered on Easter Monday, April 13 due to the aforementioned class cancellations noted above. Depending on any new information that becomes available, students will not be able to return to campus until Monday, April 20, according to the president’s message. 

Clarke University’s campus in Dubuque is open with limitations. Officials have decided to “suspend on-campus face-to-face instruction for two weeks following spring break due to coronavirus concerns and move to virtual forms of instruction for a period expected to span March 23 through April 5, 2020,” according to the university. In the case of Mt. Mercy University in Cedar Rapids, all courses for the remainder of the spring semester will be offered online. 

As of March 17, the Loras campus in Dubuque was much quieter than usual as students were adjusting to a new reality. Sports, study abroad programs and many other aspects of student life have been curtailed or suspended. Opinions on the situation were varied. 

“Recently, I had an exam coming up, and I spent quite a bit of time on it,” said Conor Kelly,  Loras student from  DuPage County, Illinois. “It ended up being canceled, so, on the one hand, I don’t have to stress as much; I also wasted a lot of time that could have been prepared for moving out of the rooms. … On the other hand, it’s also interfered with my internship. My own county has three cases now, so I’ll be driving home to a county that already has it. … As far as I’m concerned, this thing is significantly worse than the flu, and there’s a lot of people who are actually quite vulnerable who are a significant portion of our population. It’s not overhyped, it’s just not significant for people who only think about the youth.”

Amber Hamm, a Loras student from Dubuque, offered a different perspective. 

“As a student at Loras, I feel the coronavirus hasn’t really affected me that much because I’m a student that lives in Dubuque, but as far as online classes go, I’m not sure if I’m going to like them or not,” she said. “It’s not the fear of the unknown, it’s just the difficulty of communicating. I have English courses that are discussion-heavy, so I’m not sure how it’s going to work. … Honestly, I feel like it’s being overdone. I feel like people are panicking before there’s even a case here in Dubuque. I feel like people need to tone it down just a little bit.”

Updates can be found on special sections of the college and universities websites:

Clarke University

Mt. Mercy University 

Loras College