Students, Parents Press BU Leaders on Housing, Commencement, Vaccines
Administrators answer questions about the spring 2021 semester at two Zoom meetings
Top Boston University administrators sat on two Back2BU Zoom meetings, one on Thursday and one on Saturday, and answered pressing questions from students and parents about the spring 2021 semester, ranging from housing protocols for next semester to whether there will be a 2021 Commencement ceremony to the plan for distributing a coronavirus vaccine this spring. More than 55 questions came in during the first hour-long session. Both sessions were moderated by Kenneth Elmore (Wheelock’87), associate provost and dean of students.
Find he link to the archived talks here.
Here are 11 top takeaways from Thursday night’s session:
1. What’s the University’s stance on traveling over Thanksgiving? Are administrators worried about an uptick in cases afterwards?
As Elmore and Judy Platt, director of Student Health Services (SHS), have said previously, students are urged to remain on campus for the holiday. If travel cannot be avoided, they should observe strict precautions, including isolating for seven days once they return.
Platt acknowledged that there may be more cases on campus after Thanksgiving because of the travel involved. “So the expectations that we are holding our entire community to is, as we return from the Thanksgiving break, everyone [should] increase their testing frequency for the first two weeks back on campus, and add a test,” she said.
2. There’s a rumor that if students are leaving for Thanksgiving and not returning until January, they need to pack up and turn their keys in. Is that true?
No, that is a rumor, said Peter Smokowski, vice president for auxiliary services.
3. What will the start of the spring semester look like?
Very much like the start of the fall semester, Elmore said, with social restrictions and guidelines in place, with adjustments being made if there are new requirements or advisories from the governor or mayor.
4. Are students allowed to cancel their 2021 spring housing?
While Smokowski said he hopes students keep their housing commitments, if they have circumstances where their plans have changed, they may send a request to firstname.lastname@example.org for review. “And it’s very likely we will approve that request,” he said, “with some conditions. If you have a financial aid package, we will ask you to work with Financial Assistance so you can understand any impact on your financial aid package.” In short, he said, “We will work with you.”
5. If students cannot return in the spring, what is the University’s plan for packing and shipping their belongings?
If students are concerned about this, Smokowski recommended that they stop by the Residence Life office and pick up some boxes and packing tape and prepack their room before they leave. Label boxes with your name and BU ID number, and set them on top of your bed.
6. How will Move-in work this spring?
Smokowski said that about 1,400 students are moving into University housing for the spring semester. There will be an extended Move-in period (January 14 to 24) similar to the fall’s, although spring Move-in should be easier since many students are already settled in their rooms and apartments. And you will be required to test as soon as you arrive.
7. How will the University decide which classes are in person this spring?
Those determinations are being made now, according to Sue Kennedy, associate provost ad interim for undergraduate affairs. She recommended students log on to the Student Link and look at their class schedule, as many spring semester classes are already listed. “You can tell if a class is going to be in person, Learn from Anywhere, or whether it’s going to be wholly remote,” she said. Look for class room and building assignments or for the not-in-person designation, NIP 320 for a wholly remote course, or NIP 920 for a remote component of a multi-component course.
8. Would the University ever close down again and send students home mid-semester?
The University is monitoring campus health numbers and metrics daily, which include the number of cases, the number of close contacts for each case, and the school’s capacity for isolation and quarantine.
“So we’re collectively looking at what’s going on within our own University and what’s going on within the city,” Platt said. “Certainly, if the governor or the mayor came down with an order, BU would comply with that. But I think what we have heard from both the governor and the mayor is that higher ed in Massachusetts is really paving the way for how we can stay open and how we can continue to thrive on campus with all of these robust safety measures in place.”
9. Will the University administer the COVID-19 vaccine to students once it becomes available?
“I can tell you that we have already begun planning for vaccine distribution,” Platt said. BU normally gives around 18,000 standard vaccinations a year, so it is already comfortable with giving a large number of vaccines. “There will be scaling up to give the COVID vaccine, but we are already looking at our plans. And we’ve actually prepared for something like this in our emergency preparedness planning for widespread campus immunization,” Platt said.
10. Should international students worry that they won’t be allowed back into the United States after intersession?
Amanda Connolly, International Students & Scholars Office associate director for student services, strongly advised international students to stay on campus for Thanksgiving and winter break. She pointed to the travel restrictions that were put in place “almost overnight” during 2020 spring break that prevented many students from returning from Europe and China.
Right now, there are embassy and consulate closures all around the world, she said, and if a student needs to apply for a new visa, there are massive delays.
“To tell our students to forgo winter break with their family is a huge sacrifice and we do understand that,” she said. “But if you choose to leave the United States and travel restrictions are put into place while you’re abroad, you risk not being able to come back for the spring semester.” She asked students to refer to the ISSO website for more information.
11. What do we know about the Class of 2021 graduation plans?
It’s too early to make a decision, Elmore said. “Like so many things, we’re just not sure where this virus is going to go and where we may be and what the city and the state might permit for us to do the sort of scale that we need to,” he said. He also acknowledged that “we owe the Class of 2020 a graduation, as well. ”