A Second Case at SJU; University Extends Online Semester, Sends All Students Home

This time, they say refunds are available to resident students



St. John’s University is extending online instruction through the rest of the semester due to the spread of COVID-19, according to an email sent to the University community from President Conrado Gempesaw on Monday, March 16. 

Previously, online instruction was to end on Friday, March 27. Now, students will not be allowed to campus for the rest of spring semester. This announcement comes three days after President Conrado Gempesaw announced the first confirmed case of COVID-19 in the St. John’s community, an employee. The March 16 email announced a second case, a contractual employee.

“Since the University suspended face-to-face instruction on March 9,” the email says, “we have learned more about the rapid spread of the coronavirus in our community, with New York now reporting the largest number of positive cases in the country.” 

This progression is due in part to the recommendation by the CDC of “halting gatherings of 50 people or more for the next eight weeks.” All University events are canceled, but no decision has been made about St. John’s commencement events, currently scheduled to begin on Thursday, May 14, but an announcement will be made soon. “In the weeks ahead, we will make an announcement about plans for the University’s various Commencement activities … The coronavirus situation may prohibit these events from being held in person,” the email states.

Though many students have already vacated the campus, the University is now asking all students, even those “with written authorization to remain in the residence halls,” to leave. Students with previously approved “travel hardship” are currently making arrangements. 

Resident students who have already left received an email from Residence Life, obtained by the Torch that states:

At a later date, the University will communicate instructions about retrieving items left on campus. To be clear, you cannot return to campus now.


All resident students who have paid fees for room and board for the spring semester will “receive instructions regarding a pro-rata refund from the Office of Financial Aid.” Each update from the University is posted on this page of the SJU website.

Additionally, the University’s Queens campus will be closed on March 16 and March 17 (except for “essential personnel”) for a deep clean. Some work-study students have also received notice about their pay, because they haven’t been able to work on campus since March 10. In an email from the Director of Payroll obtained by the Torch, Assistant Sports Editor Sydney Denham was told the following:

In accordance with guidelines from the U.S. Department of Education, the University will continue to pay Federal Work Study students unable to work due to the disruption caused by the coronavirus (COVID-19). 

Others have been allowed to work remotely, but not all. “I emailed my boss back about whether or not we will be working from home, but she never got back to me,” says senior Abiola Giwa. “I’ve missed two shifts so far.”

St. John’s is not the only school closing its doors. Mayor Bill de Blasio and New York City Schools Chancellor Richard A. Carranza announced today that all city public schools will be moving online until April 20. CUNY and SUNY schools have moved online for the rest of the semester, and Howard University has canceled both in-person class and all commencement events.