Last Tuesday morning at Middlebury College in Vermont, rumors swirled. Across North America, colleges and universities were suspending in-person classes and shuttering campuses in response to the coronavirus outbreak. An associate professor had sent an email to students in two of his classes, indicating that Middlebury classes would end that Friday, 13 March, and screenshots of the email began to spread through an increasingly anxious student body of more than 2,500 undergraduates.
“Everyone was like, ‘Is this real? What do I do? How do I prepare?’” said Leif Taranta, a Middlebury student. “Do we need to leave this place that’s been our home?”
About an hour later, Middlebury’s president, Laurie Patton, confirmed that students would have to leave campus by Friday for an extended two-week spring break. Remote classes would begin on 30 March, and students would be “expected to remain at home and not return to campus until further notice”.