Italy’s aggressive campaign to stop the spread of the coronavirus has American universities caught in a logistics crosshairs.
The notice came late Monday night from New York University’s global offices that it was shutting down its campus in Florence, Italy until March 29. While students in off-campus housing or rooming at host families were strongly encouraged to return home, students living in on campus housing were told that they had to vacate by Thursday morning, February 27. The campus will shutter as well on Thursday.
“Though there is no evidence of a pressing risk to the NYU Florence community, the past month has demonstrated that countries may swiftly and unexpectedly make decisions that can significantly affect one’s ability to travel,” said NYU officials in an email to students.
Outside of China, Italy is reported to have the highest reported cases of coronavirus. Last week, those infected were not even two dozen. By Monday, it shot up to over 200 with seven deaths. Now, several towns in northern Italy have been quarantined and much of the travel in that region has ceased.
“. . . the occurrence of coronavirus cases has climbed steeply in northern Italy,” said NYU officials. “In response, the Italian government has been taking swift action to try to prevent its spread.”
To prevent students from being stuck in Italy or risk worse, the university decided to close the campus. One student described Monday evening’s packing as “hectic” for students who coordinated last minute travel and packing. “We got an email a few minutes before midnight,” the student detailed. “People started screaming out loud and into their pillows. All [of] the campus offices were closed at that time as well, so we had no one to talk to or question.”
The student also said that Chinese students at NYU Florence “were more hesitant to go home because they didn’t want to get stuck there.” Currently, there are approximately 280 students taking courses at NYU Florence. While most are from NYU, other students from Duke University, Wake Forest and Spelman College attend classes.
“I’m as shocked as the students that the campus is closed, but I’d rather my child be safe with me than on the other side of the world trying to get out if anything happens,” said Kaia Shivers, a professor at NYU campus who is also Ark Republic’s editor-in-chief.
“The staff is working double-time to sort everything out. Since there is a small window to get things done, we’re working in concert.”
Villa La Pietra campus.
NYU Florence campus is on a 57-acre estate known as Villa La Pietra. A renaissance-era villa donated to NYU by Harold Acton after his passing in 1994, it holds an extensive collection from the Acton family. Harold’s parents moved to Florence, a provincial city in the Tuscany region, in the early 20th century. His father, Arthur Acton was a pseudo-professional artist and art dealer, while his mother, Hortense Mitchell, came from a wealthy Chicago family who were prominent bankers. The campus is in the suburbs of Florence.
While the campus is closed, classes will be offered online.
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