Boston University President Robert A. Brown announces that the University will be back in the fall, with flexible learning, a testing lab for COVID-19, and health and safety measures to make campus as safe as possible.
BU Campuses to Reopen, In-Person Classes Will Resume This Fall
President Brown says new norms to include coronavirus testing, flexible learning, masks, and social distancing
The residential experience of Boston University will resume this fall, Robert A. Brown, president of BU, announced Tuesday in letters to new and returning students. But, he wrote, it will be a “very different campus,” than what students, faculty, and staff are accustomed to—with COVID-19 testing and tracing, a blend of in-person and remote teaching and learning, redesigned experiences inside campus residences, dining halls, classrooms, and labs, and daily activities where masks and social distancing are expected.
“I very much appreciate all the effort you put into the completion of the spring semester with the unprecedented disruption caused by moving all of Boston University’s classes to remote learning mode on very short notice,” Brown wrote. “Your adaptability and the extraordinary effort, flexibility, and resourcefulness of our faculty, teaching staff, and students were the critical elements for the successful completion of the semester.”
The University has launched a website, Back2BU, that it will update throughout the summer as details about campus life in the fall are worked out.
We are well on our way to creating a campus environment where our students can study and learn with our faculty and staff in as safe an environment as possible.
In his letters, Brown said his announcement hinged on two key elements that were necessary in order to bring BU’s community back, both of which are now coming together: a testing center on campus that will allow the University to perform its own COVID-19 tests on students, faculty, and staff and get results quickly to determine if a person needs to be isolated or requires further treatment, and a strategy BU is calling Learn from Anywhere, or LfA, that will allow students flexibility in choosing whether to take classes in person or remotely.
To create an on-campus experience for students that allows for personal, yet socially safe, interactions, BU officials say they anticipate that students would build smaller communities for themselves. As the Back2BU website explains: “In residences, for example, students will need to work together to manage ‘a household’—a shared room, apartment, or suite—within a community of other ‘households’ with shared spaces such as bathrooms, elevators, and entryways.”
It’s also likely that campus experiences like dining halls and the BU Shuttle will be different, with rules about which doors to use while exiting the bus, and slimmed down menus for dining that encourage a more “grab and go” approach, rather than congregating at tables.
BU, like colleges and universities across the country, was forced by the spread of the coronavirus to shutter its campus in mid-March and pivot quickly to remote classes. The changes were all made in an effort to protect the 40,000 members of the BU community from a virus that has now claimed more than 112,000 lives in the United States.
What had been a typical spring semester saw students and faculty forced to quickly adapt to classes on Zoom and canceled sports seasons, arts events, and daily life without those personal interactions that give a campus vibrancy and a sense of a community. The semester ended on May 17 with a virtual send-off for the Class of 2020.
In his letter to members of the incoming class of 2024, Brown offered these words: “The COVID-19 pandemic has created uncertainty for all of us; the uncertainty is especially pronounced for students (and their parents) as you head off for your first year at Boston University.”
He acknowledged in his letters that he does not yet have all the answers to what the fall semester will look like. “We will communicate with you about the exact timing in August for the opening of our residential campus,” he wrote. Other questions still being explored include the official start and end dates of the fall semester, when Move-in will begin, whether BU Athletics events will take place, and how dining halls will operate.
“The unprecedented disruption caused by COVID-19 has caused us to pivot and rethink almost every aspect of our academic community and the operation of the University,” he wrote. “We are well on our way to creating a campus environment where our students can study and learn with our faculty and staff in as safe an environment as possible.”
Key to that environment is the approach the University is calling Learn from Anywhere, or LfA.
By providing students with the option to attend classes in person or remotely, depending on their circumstances, their preferences, and the course the coronavirus takes later this year, the hope is that flexibility and students’ ability to choose will go a long way toward making the campus feel safer for everyone. Under LfA, students can choose to learn in the classroom or to participate remotely from their dorm rooms or off-campus housing.
“LfA will give you the choice you need to continue your studies toward a degree,” Brown wrote. “It will also give your professors a way to manage and limit the number of students in classroom and laboratory spaces at any one time.”
Brown’s letters about BU’s return came a month after Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker unveiled a plan to gradually reopen the Massachusetts economy. Just as Baker’s plan includes four phases, tied to different segments of the economy and workforce, Brown said the University has its own four-phase approach.
- Phase 1 (which began on May 25): Gradually resume research and clinical services in strict accordance with public health guidelines. Most faculty and staff will continue to work remotely, and the only residential students on campus will be those who cannot go home.
- Phase 2 (planned to begin by July): The return to campus of very specific student cohorts, such as first-year medical and dental students, with very limited classroom instruction. Additional staff and faculty who are actively involved in these programs will begin to come back to campus, also under strict public health guidelines.
- Phase 3 (planned for throughout August): Repopulating our residential campus and preparing for classes in the fall as described in this letter.
- Phase 4 (in the fall): Begin classroom teaching, research, and other residential community activities, all substantially reshaped by COVID-19 public health and safety protocols.
“Boston University will be back in the fall,” Brown wrote, “and I look forward to welcoming you back to campus.”
I’m withdrawing from Boston University because of this. Thanks for wasting my student loans.
I don’t know what you are so upset about? This school, more than so many others, has done everything it can to be upfront and honest with its students, faculty, and staff. These are times like no other and in a matter of mere weeks, the University has a plan in place for a safe return.
Additionally, those of you scared or concerned with returning, I get it. However, I think everyone needs to remember that a positive test is not a death sentence. Far from it. The mortality rate for ages 18-22 is under .2%. Perceptive is everything. Commonwealth Ave is more dangerous than this virus.
I don’t even know where to start with this comment.
BU’s communication has, at its very best, been mediocre for a matter so important. BU Today is faster than–almost acting as a substitute for–formal announcements to students and staff. This is also a very loose “plan” with very little specifics in addressing concrete safety concerns. I really don’t think there’s realistically a lot to be impressed with here. Also, I can’t help but feel that having people return to campus in the fall–AND charging full, increased tuition–is more of a method for BU to recover from its short-term financial losses and not really a plan that is in the best interest for everyone’s safety.
Also, underestimating the danger of covid-19 is never, ever a good idea. Look at South Korea as an example. They did an impressive job as a country cutting down the virus. But as soon as schools reopened, even with safety protocols in place, students started to catch covid-19 and there was widespread administrative chaos. We really need to be more careful. The pandemic is not over until it’s over. “A positive test is not a death sentence” is not really a reasonable outlook on the danger of catching covid-19.
And if someone has contracted the virus, what happens? Mortality rates are low, especially for young people. Millions and millions get the flu every year but we don’t know because we don’t test everyone. Should we abide by smart guidelines? Yes. Should we remove ourselves from every possible scenario that might make us sick….well, that is impossible. What is there is never a vaccine? What then? We live like this for ever? Do we then shutter the entire entertainment, hospitality, higher education, and restaurant industries? We are well on our way to doing that and putting over 40 million people permanently out of work.
I don’t underestimate the virus but I am so tired of us overestimating the virus. We are in “abstinence only” mode now and everyone thinks they will die if they get it because that is what they are told. Maybe some better education on the virus, a clear plan from one source, and an understanding that with life comes risk. Mitigating to the point of destruction is not an okay way of life.
On the BU Today end, who cares if that is the primary source of information? It is a daily update. Why does this generation feel so entitled to hearing everything instantly. Information comes out in spurts because it changes constantly. Get over it. At least BU is making plans. Are they fair for everyone? Of course not but again, that’s impossible.
“Mortality rates are low”. I’ve lost two people under 30 to the virus. You are not immune to death by covid beause you are young and healthy. There are still so many patients and administrative faults that resources to help people in need are scarce. So no, you should never “overestimate” the virus. You should be more aware of the reality at hand.
No, BU will never be able to be fair to EVERYONE with whatever decision they make, but they can try harder to.
Also, you really think that BU Today should be acting as a substitute to formalised announcements? This is kind of an important matter, you do realise, that requires formal widespread announcement.
Also, “Why does this generation feel so entitled to hearing everything instantly”? Maybe because it’s an important thing and students have a lot at stake (a lot of us are leaving our home countries and spending over 70k a year for a good education). I don’t understand why you are so upset about students holding the school accountable for their safety on campus and the value of their education.
I applauded BUs initial transparent communication around the pandemic. However, with the rolling out of more specifics, I believe they are not being entirely upfront or transparent. A BU spokesperson was quoted yesterday in wbur as saying “no plans are finalized” with regards to faculty needing to be ON CAMPUS in relation to hearing from concerned faculty. As soon as one professor is able to teach his/her course remotely (and justifiably), their Learn From Anywhere platform in regards to in person opportunity is diluted. This should have been transparent as well as the “platoon” concept that was not mentioned in the president’s email to the accepted new class of 2024.
Only one test is helpful: antibodies testing.
Other testing absolutely not informative .
Medical personnel should be aware why.
You know that 0.2% is not that low. Let’s say only 10% of the student body (32,551) contracts it. That means 6 students will die. But given how contagious COVID-19 is, and how college students interact with one another, more than 10% will get COVID-19. If 20% of the students get it, then 12 will die. 12 of your friends. Yes, sure, that’s not a lot at all.
BU appears to be taking a very safe and conscientious approach. You cannot think of the virus and issues in terms of how it affects you in a self-centered way – you have to think about the greater community and doing things for the greater good (larger than self). The virus is not just about you. Even if BU is able to contain the virus within BU it’s still not about you, the virus or school loans. I know 11 people who had the virus but three died. Two of them were vibrant hard working people and it’s very sad, especially for their loved ones. I am almost positive that there will be vaccine – it’s just a matter of time and in the meantime it’s important to think about other people – more than yourself. So do your part, wear a mask, social distance and make the best of a bad situation – the likes of which we have never known in any of our lifetimes.
Ah yes—the idea that the death rate is ONLY 2% for college aged people—and yet they can give it to others who have a higher rate of death. Incidentally, do YOU want to be one of the 2%?
Will the tuition be different? Does this mean international students can stay home and take classes online?
From what I understand, international students, or any students for that matter, can stay at home and do the classes online. We wont have to pay for room and board obviously, but they haven’t said so far whether the tuition will be different
ISSO website says that we have to be physically on campus. But I hope that’s not the case. What will happen to our visa?
Actually, even if you choose to do entirely online, they will still be charging full housing since you have the ‘option’ to return to campus. We assumed we could save on housing at least since we didn’t feel safe coming to campus, but not.
Wow. I wish staff (and faculty?) had been alerted to this, in any form, before reading it in BU today…
I truly don’t understand why BU’s administration is not communicating these details in letters sent directly to their community. As a grad student who will be teaching this fall, finding out about institutional changes through BU Today and not directly from the groups and admin making these decisions is beyond frustrating.
I’m a current student and staff member and they have sent letters from the Deans, President Brown and others to the community every few weeks. Maybe check your email?
to be fair, BUToday updated the plan for the next semester before the letter was sent to everyone by the president.
President Brown sent us an email couple of days after the news was published…so ye..
I completely agree! It is disheartening to continue reading this information in BU Today for the first time. I will echo what I have previously written, which is that while I appreciate BU giving students supportive options and choice, I don’t understand why they won’t give faculty and staff those same supportive options. Students will be looking to faculty and staff to feel safe and reassured. So if we don’t feel good, I bet they don’t feel great either. BU admin should probably invest in us feeling confident and onboard with a solution.
All of this was communicated to the various colleges in advance. In our college the Dean and department chairs communicated directly with faculty and staff so I’m not sure the fault rests with the BU administration in this instance.
Perhaps there should also be an article describing the strong objections that BU faculty and grad students assigned teaching duties have with not being given the option to choose whether to return to campus or not. While students are afforded the ability to make decisions regarding their health and well-being grad students and faculty members do not have that luxury.
I write to second Taylor Thomas’ suggestion that BUToday — a journal that, according to the words it carries on its banner, is committed to “News, Opinion, and Community” — devote some attention to the dissenting views that have been expressed (and, in at least one case, submitted to BUToday) by those members of the BU community who will be responsible for executing the plans outlined in the various statements that have appeared from members of the administration. Faculty, after all, are also members of the “BU community.” And if the expression of such opinions is in some way inconsistent with the mission of BUToday, would it be possible, at least, to remove the word “community” from the banner?
Professor of History, Philosophy, and Political Science
As a student, I don’t have as much realistic flexibility as others make it out to be, either. Many students are concerned that they are going to miss out on vital learning aspects if they don’t attend in-person classes, leaving them with realistically no choice but to return, despite safety concerns.
I absolutely agree with this. We need to
I fully agree and a lot of staff share these concerns as well. All of these safety concerns are valid and need to be treated as such and discussed in an inclusive way. All of us value, and are fully committed to, the mission to deliver the best possible education to the students, but it needs to be done in a manner that is safe for everyone. Faculty, staff and students need to feel supported.
For graduate students who are teaching fellows, how is their dual role as students and teachers being taken into consideration under the Learn from Anywhere model? On the Back2BU website under FAQs for undergraduate students, this scenario is proposed: “Likewise, large fall classes might be divided into small groups, and large lectures might be delivered fully remotely/asynchonously, with the discussion sections meeting in person.” This scenario seems to put a disproportionate burden of the risk of in-person teaching on TFs, who may be required to lead discussion sections in person even if lectures are conducted remotely.
Hi! I have the same question as someone else. If for traveling reasons we decide to take classes online, will tuition be lower?
Can I ask why tuition should be lower for online classes taught by professors at a major university? A significant amount of work goes into creating a course for online. Having done this now, I can see that when done correctly it does not have to be an inferior experience.
I’m not asking this to be snarky. I’m really trying to understand this from the student’s perspective. What do you feel like you’re missing?
Does it really matter that much for everyone to be in the same room if we’re covering the same material?
Note, I realize that this doesn’t apply to certain classes which require hands on work or specific types of team interactions. In other cases, how much difference do you see between online and in person?
I think as an international student firstly, the time differences require us to stay up at unearthly hours to attend class. There is indeed a choice to watch recordings, however, in discussion-based classes, you lose the opportunity to ask spontaneous questions and be a part of a spontaneous discussion- which a lot of the time is where most of the learning happens. Further, learning online leaves a lot of room for distractions versus being in-class. Not everyone has a living situation with permits them to be in a personal private space to take their classes from. Please be sensitive to this as many of us struggled through the fall semester and were taking classes from 9pm to 4am 5 times a week.
I completely agree. I was attending class from 11 PM to 5 AM five times a week because of mandatory attendance (which I don’t understand either. Why would anyone make remote classes mandatory attendance? Does anyone care for people who learn from the other side of the globe?). Definitely not an experience I signed up to pay 70k for.
I strongly disagree with you. Tuition should definitely be lower for online courses. The learning experience is definitely inferior when it is delivered in an online format. Further, as an employer in the future in an interview process, I would be more confident about the learning achieved by students in traditional, in-person educational programs than online programs. I associate online learning with for-profit, inferior universities that are diploma mills. In contrast, I associate in-person learning with prestigious universities that offer a full-breadth of on-campus, residential learning experiences.
Being able to talk to students in-person before and after class enriches the learning experience. Having a dialogue with professors about the course topic in-person also enriches the learning process. Being able to use the chalkboard to illustrate concepts further enriches the learning experience. Online learning is robotic. In-person learning is natural to humans. Your countless hours creating an online course does not change a robotic process into a natural learning process. I strongly believe that online learning is junk and too expensive at any price.
Further, the learning process is also enriched by being able to use the university libraries and computer labs as well as by reaching out to librarians and support staff to discuss research strategies. Learning also occurs through the socialization process that occurs in the hallways as students engage in casual conversations about academic and social topics after class. You could spend enormous amounts of time designing online courses and you still could not substitute the natural learning process of in-person learning. Online courses are robotic and inferior irrespective of how you design and implement it. Prestigious universities have been reluctant to transition to online teaching and there is a reason for that. If a health crisis has forced universities to deliver online courses only, tuition should be lowered to reflect the inferior educational experience that students receive.
Online learning is indeed more difficult for students but it incurs additional costs regarding teaching and so I don’t see a problem with charging the same price given that these costs favor online students. I’ve previously taken/TAed at a major university that supported in-person and online students in the same class and we had to use specific classrooms with boards that were easy to film and rooms equipped with multiple cameras. In addition, we needed dedicated staff to record the lectures live and solve tech issues regarding the editing, upload, and download of lectures. Curriculum development also had to be modified as to not unfairly favor in-person students which included forums for online students with TAs available at all hours and also special office hours for online students only.
It’s also important to note that although many diploma mills use online teaching, not only diploma mills use online teaching. My previous program administered graduate courses online and were not afraid to fail students. Employers wouldn’t be so stupid to think that your degree was less valuable because you took one online semester during a global, historic pandemic.
BU can’t make the coronavirus magically disappear and it’s your choice whether to attend in-person or not. You are paying for the services rendered (which is higher for online students) rather than perceived quality of education.
I agree it’s fair for teachers to be compensated the same as before, but there’s a laundry list of items now unavailable to or unused by tuition-payers.
BU Main Campus, BU Medical Campus, all physical libraries, all gyms, dining options, meeting rooms, lounges, office space, student clubs and activities, in-person learning, in-person social opportunities, BU shuttles, desks, tables, and the list goes on and on. All of these things and many more are baked into the price of attending the university.
The problem here is that this has been framed as Learn From Anywhere, but not Teach from Anywhere. Read this piece by two BU ethics professors for an alternate view: http://www.daniel-star.net/fallteaching.html
So…if international students cannot get back to the US due to travel bans or health concerns, would that mean our I20 and visa will become invalid after the fall semester??
During my son’s first semester which started January of 20/20 He roomed with 3 other people. One of them was who he originally was paired with before they put them in a quad. We paid and locked down the same room for the fall. Given that you will be changing things around because of covid will they still keep their room and will it still be a quad?
being able to be tested is part 1, to prove that the test kit is the most efficient ones to use is part 2, and the quality of the treatment for those who get infected by COVID is step 3.
Until these are guaranteed, I feel like many people, including myself, will hesitate to return to school even if that means I have to request leave of absence for the semester or two.
But thank you BU for doing everything you can to keep us safe.
I just wish someone would talk about the reality that faculty and graduate teaching assistants are going to have absolutely no say in whether they return to campus to teach. They don’t get the same luxury that students do in making what could constitute a life or death decision on our part. Whatever resentment students are feeling, imagine what it is like to be forced by the administration to show up to campus during a pandemic just so the school doesn’t lose tuition money. If we did not have the means to supply instruction remotely it would be a different story, but the risks are largely unnecessary and are primarily motivated by economic interests.
I don’t understand the comments by faculty complaining that they should have the same choice as students whether or not to return to campus in the fall. Presumably you have a paid position. My husband works at a hospital (not as a physician, but in IT) and as such has had to work as usual during the crises. That means wearing a mask, of course, but there is only so much social distancing he can do, and did I mention he works in a hospital? The rest of the family is at home; I go out only to shop for groceries. I worry all the time that he will catch it and bring it home. But that’s life. He has a job; he brings home a salary, and he cannot just say, I don’t want to go to work because I am scared. We all are.