If the U.S. government shuts down this weekend, the University of the District of Columbia would likely have to do the same.
That would likely mean canceled classes, a locked-up campus and professors ordered not to work — right at the end of the semester when students are trying to write research papers, pass their finals and gear up for summer classes. Classes are scheduled to end on April 18 and graduation is set for May 7.
“A looming federal government shutdown will have serious negative implications for our university community,” said UDC President Allen L. Sessoms in a statement Thursday afternoon. “If DC Public Schools can remain open, so can UDC, and we should.”
Sessoms said that today he is talking with city leaders and members of Congress to explain the “serious negative consequences” of shutting down the university for even a few days. When the government last shutdown in late-1995 and early-1996, the university shut down for several weeks, according to a university spokesman. (The university again shut down for a month during the summer of 1996 for budgetary reasons.)
As things stand now, if the university were to close, Sessoms said only essential security and facility employees would be allowed to work. In a letter distributed to staffers on Wednesday, Sessoms said there are ”no assurances” that employees would be paid for that time.
The potential shutdown leaves students with a lot of questions. At least one professor has already contacted his students with plans to continue class, finals and grading through an online forum, said Ben Marcus, a senior political science major.
“Should we even be studying for finals? What the heck does this mean?” said Marcus, 27. “It’s certainly frustrating to us as students that we’re looked at as such a minor detail... This is people’s careers. This is people’s grades.”
Other UDC students didn’t realize a shutdown was even a possibility until Thursday. Several said they were shocked by the news.
“ Eh gads, there are so many consequences that I'm just beginning to realize,” said Vanessa Steck, a junior history major. “I personally have been insanely well organized for once this semester, so I'm actually basically done.”
About 400 UDC students are supposed to graduate on May 7, said UDC spokesman Alan Etter. Those students are busy studying for finals and lining up jobs — plus, many parents have taken time off of work to attend commencement. This is especially troublesome for international students whose parents booked plane tickets months ago.
“This couldn’t come at a worse time,” Etter said. “Our hope is that we stay open.”
Also: DC’s Wilson High School, which is temporarily based at UDC, would remain open because it provides its own staff, Etter said. However, those students wouldn’t have access to campus amenities, such as the sports complex.
Note from Jenna: This blog post was updated at 2:30 p.m. to include a statement from Sessoms. It was updated again at 4 p.m. to include student comments. This blog post was updated at 5:30 p.m. to include the last campus shutdowns.
If you are a UDC student or professor, I would love to interview you about this possible shutdown. Shoot me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.