Updates to CS department logistics in the face of COVID-19

Over the last week, I’ve posted my colleague John Stratton’s response to Whitman’s move online, and our departmental plans for teaching and departmental community. John has had to update our plans in light of new College policies forbidding meetings between students and faculty, as well as student access to academic spaces. He has given me permission to share his update here.

Hello, CS students of Whitman,

In light of Kathy Murray’s most recent announcement, we want to provide some updates about our departmental response moving forward.  Primarily, we want to reiterate the administration’s call for seriously considering whether you are able to leave Walla Walla and complete the remainder of your semester remotely, and clarify some of the policies in our program and classes that might affect your decisions.  The concern is not about whether students are a danger to the community, but whether the campus can provide the support and accommodations you might need or expect if you choose to stay, particularly in light of tightening governmental restrictions on operations.  We are working to make sure everyone has the tools they need to make the most out of the rest of this semester, with the expectation that all coursework moving forward will be completed at home.

With tighter restrictions on campus building access, we do not expect in-person contact with students for the foreseeable future, or allowing physical access to our traditional lab spaces.  Continued remote access can still be achieved by following the directions in the online lab manual, under the “SSH Remote Access” and “SCP – Secure Copying of Files…” sections.   In every class, you should expect to hear more from your instructor about how you will complete the remainder of your coursework without physical lab access.  You do not need to figure out how to replicate the lab environment for your classes on your own.

CS classes have technology needs above and beyond basic webcams and browsers, which will likely be sufficient for many other classes.  You may need access to a personal computer running either Windows, MacOS, or Linux.  If you do not, look for a survey to come out shortly so that we can understand what technology support you may need to complete your CS coursework.  When we know how instructors plan to move forward with remote development environments, the course mentors and lab aides will have virtual office hours helping students get their personal environments set up correctly.  If you would like to prepare for these meetings and make sure you can connect with them via Google Meet, take a look at the WCTS guide provided for students.

I’ve enjoyed being able to have virtual meetings with several of you in the last several days.  I miss you all, and would like to remind you again to reach out and contact each other to check in, ask how things are going, and keep one another encouraged.


–John Stratton

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