Dean’s Update: State of the School

March 15, 2020

Dear Social Work Community,

This note is to provide you with an update on the ways we are working within the School to ensure the safety of our students, staff and faculty amid the COVID-19 pandemic unfolding worldwide. As I shared with you in prior communications (available on our BUSSW COVID-19 web page), this past week I assembled our COVID-19’s response team (CORE team) which includes staff, faculty, and administrators, and three colleagues who currently serve as Remote Teaching Coordinators (RTCs). The CORE team and RTCs developed contingency plans to address interruptions to our face-to-face teaching and field placement activities.

Since President Brown’s announcement on March 11 that all BU courses will be offered remotely effective March 16th through April 13th, we have made important decisions regarding continuation of field placements, staff working remotely, and students attending courses remotely.Considering the rapidly unfolding events of the past few days, including the recently imposed state of emergency in Massachusetts and other states, nationally, and the public health call to society to minimize public contact and gatherings, we have made the difficult decision that:

Effective Monday, March 16, 2020, students will no longer be required to attend their field placements.  This will be effective until the end of the semester May 1, 2020. 

Field Internships: Initially, the Field Education Department created guidelines to provide options in the event that students were not able to complete field education requirements in person.  These guidelines included allowing students to complete some of their requirements remotely and strategies for remote competency development that adhere to CSWE field education requirements. While preparing these communications and materials, we have been mindful of the differences among the various platforms (CRC, Off-Campus, & Online), student status (part-time/full-time, advanced standing/HSE), cohort year (some will graduate this Spring, others in Summer, and others started field in January, 2020), and the diversity of sites nationwide. On Friday March 13 we also hosted a “question and answer” session for CRC & OCP students. However, we have taken down this post because the Field Education information has since changed; another Q&A session is scheduled for tomorrow Monday the 16th from 3:30-4:30pm. For those who cannot attend we will post the Q&A in the FIELD EDUCATION and INFORMATION FOR BUSSW STUDENTS sections of the BUSSW COVID-19 web page. The Off-Campus Program directors have been in contact with their students and have virtual meetings planned with their campuses this week.

The decision to no longer require students to attend their field placements was arrived after extensive discussion and consultation with the Field Education Department and members of the CORE team.  We made this decision out of concern for students and out of concern for their clients, as each of these populations could affect the other. This is also a decision that, increasingly, other schools of social work are making for the same reasons.

Some students may choose to continue in their field placements until the end of the semester, if they so desire. Students who discontinue their placements will have the opportunity to work on alternative assignments to complete the remaining hours to meet CSWE requirements. For more details on our communication to students about these options, please see this letter.

Remote Working: Following President Brown’s communication on working remotely, I have asked all staff to meet with their supervisors to discuss plans to work remotely.  Some groups are alternating the days they will be in the office. Others are staggering their schedules during particular days.  Please see my letter to the school. Our primary consideration is to ensure the safety of our community, while also continuing to provide uninterrupted services to our students. The timing of this decision coincides with the closing of the Boston Public Schools and other school districts in Massachusetts.

Remote Teaching: The RTCs have been working with their counterparts from across the university to identify strategies to make the transition to remote teaching as smooth as possible. You can access additional information HERE. Some of the initiatives we have undertaken include, but are not limited to, (1) developing a remote teaching buddy system, (2) holding multiple webinars to prepare faculty to teach classes remotely through Zoom/Blackboard, and (3) identifying and using curriculum materials already created for courses in the Online Program. Many department chairs have met with their faculty to plan and offer mentoring around this process. Any questions regarding Remote Teaching should go to sswrtc@bu.edu.

We will continue to monitor the rapidly unfolding situation with the current public health crisis and we will keep you informed of any developments, decisions, and initiatives we may undertake, in as timely a manner as possible.

These are challenging times for the world and for all of us. Thank you for your support and I wish you well.

Jorge Delva

Dean, BUSSW