The Nevada System of Higher Education has directed its eight institutions to make the switch to online or remote learning “at the earliest possible opportunity but under no circumstances later than March 18.”
The direction, which was sent from NSHE Chancellor Thom Reilly to the state’s public college and university presidents on Sunday, bumped the deadline for moving to online learning up to Wednesday from April 3, a date set just five days ago. In the memo to presidents, Reilly wrote NSHE was “following Governor Steve Sisolak’s closure of K-12 school systems.”
Sisolak announced Sunday that all of Nevada’s schools would be closed until at least April 6.
The new NSHE deadline changes little for the University of Nevada Las Vegas and the University of Nevada Reno, both of which are currently out for spring break and had already announced they would move to online learning when classes resume on March 23. For Truckee Meadows Community College, which is also on spring break this week, the change bumps up their deadline a week. TMCC had previously announced they would move online on March 30.
Nevada State College had already planned to transition to online learning on March 18. After the NSHE announcement on Sunday, NSC canceled all in-person classes scheduled for Monday and Tuesday.
Affected most by the new deadline is the College of Southern Nevada. CSN announced late Sunday they would transition to online classes on Wednesday. The community college’s spring break is not this week, meaning physical classes were expected to continue Monday and Tuesday.
CSN had, until the Sunday memo, been working toward the April 3 deadline — much to the consternation of faculty, who say their attempts to move online sooner were rebuffed by the administration.
Sondra Cosgrove, who teaches history at CSN, told the Current faculty and adjunct instructors pressed the administration internally last week to move the deadline up, citing their concerns for public health. She says they were met with veiled threats.
“You are not to go online with your ground or hybrid courses until granted specific permission to do so,” wrote one department chair in an internal email obtained by the Current. “Faculty may face serious consequences if they convert to online (consequences too numerous and complicated to include here.)”
The email notes that faculty could be held in “breach of contract” and “that may not be the most serious consequence for you.” The department head said there were “legal issues” involved with moving online and said the board of regents needed to approve plans to switch to remote learning.
Cosgrove says emails staff has received in light of the move to online learning by Wednesday have been “vague” and instructors have been left confused. Some, she says, don’t want to hold physical classes on Monday or Tuesday but are afraid of getting in trouble with administration.
One adjunct, who asked their name to be withheld out of fear they would not be asked to teach again for future semesters, said they are prepared to go online in two days only because they had decided last week to work ahead of the original deadline set by CSN.
“All of this is moot,” they said. “This is about the health and safety of everyone. If this happened 30 years ago, we would have just shut down.”
The adjunct believes CSN should have moved more aggressively to protect students, staff and the community.
Cosgrove is also upset with how leaders in the community college have handled the change, but she says she knows other businesses and government agencies are having similar headaches.
“In other places, with hurricanes, wildfires and earthquakes, every business has a plan,” she says. “Because we only have hot weather here, I think that businesses and public agencies just haven’t been thinking about emergency planning. It’s showing.”