In a campus-wide email Monday, Ball State President Geoffrey Mearns updated the university's response to the coronavirus outbreak with new changes including closing the residence halls, canceling and postponing events, dining services and faculty and staff operations.
Mearns said he has decided to implement these measures to align the university's response with the directives issued by Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb on Monday and the most recent guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
While Ball State's coronavirus website will be regularly updated with any new information, he requested the campus community to bear with the university administration as more updates come in.
"We will likely have to take additional aggressive steps, because the decisions that we make today may very well be modified as additional information and guidance is provided to us," Mearns said.
Effective 5 p.m. March 29, Ball State's residence halls will be closed, he said. Students living in residence halls are encouraged to begin preparations to meet the deadline and are free to leave as soon as practicable.
Chris Wilkey, assistant director of housing and residence life for marketing, communications and technology, confirmed that this closure will not affect Ball State's University Apartments.
Mearns said he has authorized Ball State staff to make "very limited exceptions" to this directive in extraordinary cases — where students may not have "safe and suitable alternative living arrangements," or have "prohibitive travel restrictions" or "exceptional ongoing academic commitments."
Wilkey said the university is working on deciding which residence hall would accommodate the aforementioned students .
Additionally, Ball State will not enforce the standard provisions in housing contracts. Mearns said students will receive a credit to their bursar accounts in "the appropriate pro-rata amount," subject to applicable federal financial aid regulations, to be applied to future expenses.
In exceptional circumstances, Mearns said he has authorized Ball State staff to consider whether providing a pro-rata refund to a student, instead of a credit, is necessary to relieve unusual financial hardship.
All university-sponsored or university-hosted events of 50 or more people are postponed or canceled, he said.
Mearns said he will make a decision regarding Ball State's May commencement ceremonies within the next week.
"If we are compelled to cancel this special event, I will ask our graduates to share their suggestions about when and how we should celebrate their achievements," he said.
All Ball State Dining facilities are able to provide a to-go container for any food option, he said.
Campus services like dining, the library and recreational facilities will remain open for the time being.
Faculty and Staff
Mearns said he is encouraging administrators and supervisors to authorize their faculty and staff to work remotely while maintaining university operations. More guidance on this matter will be provided within 48 hours.
In the meantime, he said, non-essential, in-person meetings should be limited to 10 persons or less, and individuals at greater risk should not attend in-person meetings.
He said meetings should be conducted virtually whenever possible.