KAIST stepped up preventive measures against the outbreak of COVID-19 by closing all housing complexes for undergraduate students.
Provost Kwang-Hyung Lee, in an email to KAIST community members on March 12, advised all undergraduate students who had already moved in to the dormitories to move out by March 23. The university opened the spring semester on March 16, two weeks later than originally scheduled, due to the outbreak. All in-person classes have been shifted to online classes and this will continue until further notice.
“The dormitory would likely become the source of a COVID-19 cluster on the campus. Given the gravity of the current situation, we can’t help but make this unprecedented measure. It is fully for the best interests for our students’ health and safety. It saddens me to say that students are required to go back to their homes,” said Provost Lee. Dormitory fees will be refunded, and transportation and storage services will be provided for students who return back home. It has not yet been decided when they can return to the campus.
There are four exceptional cases for this special measure: 1. when a student does not have legal residency in Korea, 2. if a student’s legal residence is located in a severely affected region such as Daegu, Chongdo, and Kyongsan, 3. if students in their final semester before the graduation need to take a research class that is not available online, 4. if students have a very special reason that does not allow them to stay at home. Such students are required to meet the Associate Vice President of Student Life for approval of the exceptional stay.
Meanwhile, the first day of the online semester on March 16 saw an overwhelming amount of traffic on the remote educational platform, the KAIST learning management system (KLMS), and the real-time platform, Zoom. The two systems were both overloaded. The Dean of the KAIST Academy sent an email to the community, explaining the technical glitch causing the overload. He said his office had fixed the problem, allowing resumed access to the system from inside and outside the campus. Considered the nature of classes that are difficult or impossible to provide online, the university decided to cancel the some of physical training classes such as golf, dance sports, badminton, swimming, and tennis this semester.
Social distancing is another issue the university is enhancing throughout the campus. The university announced new lunch break shifts to disperse the dining hall crowds; the first shift is from 11:30 to 12:30 and the second shift is from 12:30 to 13:30, effective from March 17. The COVID-19 response bulletin also instructed KAIST community members to sit in a row, not face to face, when eating together with colleagues, and asked them to refrain from talking while eating. In addition, a total of 29 virus and fine duster filtering machines have been installed across the campus dining facilities.
The bulletin posted on March 13 restressed the importance of wearing a face mask in compact areas such as elevators and refrain the non-essential business or personal travel. Parents who need to take care of their children due to the closure of schools and day care centers are advised to work from home.
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