Photo Essay Captures How COVID-19 Has Transformed BU
A darkened hallway in the College of Arts & Sciences, March 18. BU buildings have been largely vacant since the University moved all teaching and learning remotely on March 16 in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Photo by Cydney Scott
Photo Essay Captures How COVID-19 Has Transformed BU
Images document the subtle—and not so subtle—ways the pandemic has altered campus
From the moment the University announced that starting March 16 it was moving to remote teaching and learning for the rest of the spring semester, then shuttered residences for most students as of March 22, BU campuses took on a startlingly different look, transformed overnight from bustling metropolises to a series of largely empty interior and exterior landscapes.
Staff photojournalists Cydney Scott and Jackie Ricciardi have continued to photograph the campuses since the pandemic caused the city of Boston to limit the normal operations of businesses, even as most students have returned home and most faculty and staff are working remotely.
“As a photographer for BU Today, the biggest danger I usually face at work is whether or not I’ll squeeze into a spot on the BU shuttle on my way to an assignment on a rainy day,” Scott says. “Photographing Comm Ave during the midst of a pandemic brings risks of a different, more frightening order.” The two maintain a safe social distance when shooting their subjects—which brings new challenges. “Where I would typically move around during a shoot, being a ‘fly on the wall,’ my movement now is largely limited,” she says.
“Photographing during the pandemic has been a struggle for me,” says Ricciardi. “As a photojournalist, my goal is to capture human connection, and I wonder how I can do that successfully when the streets are empty and we’re told we must stay away from people…yet one of the most significant events in history is happening in my lifetime and it’s my responsibility to try and capture that.”
Their images will serve to chronicle this moment in history for years to come.
Meredith Siegel (left) and Rachel Reiser, both Questrom assistant deans, practice social distancing while prepping for a “dean’s huddle” meeting via Zoom on March 16. Photo by Cydney Scott
A sign posted outside the College of Communication student lounge March 16. Photo by Cydney Scott
Bruno Rubio, a College of Arts & Sciences master lecturer in chemistry, holding remote office hours in a Metcalf Science Center lecture hall March 17. “I was old-school with my teaching,” says Rubio, “My clinging to traditional methods of learning and teaching? I’m paying for it now!” In fact, he mastered Zoom quickly and was able to assist the eight students who needed help that day. Photo by Cydney Scott
An eerily empty FitRec basketball court on March 17. FitRec closed that day. Photo by Cydney Scott
Paradise Rock Club assistant production manager Will Powell posting an encouraging message on the club’s marquee March 17. The Paradise is closed indefinitely because of the coronavirus pandemic, like all the commonwealth’s bars, restaurants, and entertainment spots. Photo by Cydney Scott
COM staff members on video screens in the school’s Zimmerman Social Media Activation Center during a Zoom meeting March 17. Photo by Cydney Scott
BU custodian Grace Araujo at work at StuVi I on March 17. BU’s custodial staff continues to clean and maintain BU’s 300 buildings during the pandemic. Photo by Jackie Ricciardi
Victory Innovations battery-operated electrostatic spray guns are prized by custodial workers for their deep cleaning ability. BU invested in about 20 of the spray guns, which are in such high demand now that they are almost impossible to get. Photo by Jackie Ricciardi
The first day of remote learning: a lone student studying at Mugar Memorial Library on March 16. The library is now closed to students, but staff continue to provide support and services remotely. Photo by Jackie Ricciardi
Entering the George Sherman Union on March 16 (left) and finding it almost empty on March 18 (right) must have been surreal experiences. Fewer than 450 students remain in BU housing at present. Photos by Jackie Ricciardi (left) and Cydney Scott (right)
Rev. Dr. Robert Allan Hill, dean of Marsh Chapel, on his way to the chapel’s first virtual Sunday service on March 22. The eight choral scholars on the altar are six feet apart during the service. Photos by Cydney Scott
A triage tent for intake of potential coronavirus patients set up outside Boston Medical Center March 20. BMC nurses Marisa McIntyre (left) and Maureen Shanahan-Frappie are among staff there who assess patients’ symptoms and determine whether they should be sent to BMC’s influenza-like illness clinic (ILI) for moderate symptoms or to the Emergency Department for more serious conditions. COVID-19 testing is done at both. Photo by Cydney Scott
Except for exceptional cases, most students living on campus had to be out of their rooms by March 22. Xing Hu (CAS’22) (left) waits with Abin George (ENG’23) outside Claflin Hall to be picked up March 20. Photo by Cydney Scott
Goodbyes: Northeastern freshman Nadhur Prashant (left) with his girlfriend, Anindita Lal (CAS’23), on West Campus March 20. Lal was returning home to Acton, Mass., and Prashant was leaving Boston to go home to India. Photo by Cydney Scott
Bicycles and strewn moving carts in the courtyard between 722 and 726 Comm Ave on March 25, after dorms were shuttered. Photo by Cydney Scott
Millyan Phillips of Piece by Piece Moving Company empties a room on the Fenway Campus’ Riverway House March 27. Students who had left belongings behind when they went on spring break were able to use an app to specify items they wanted stored, saved, or thrown out. Photo by Cydney Scott
An abandoned Fenway Campus Center, bereft of its usual throngs of students, on April 15. The 150 Riverway building houses the campus dining hall and common student spaces as well as student residences. Photo by Jackie Ricciardi
A flyer reminding residents to maintain social distance guidelines, left on a Fenway Campus Center table. Photo by Jackie Ricciardi
Left photo: Quarantine kits lined up in the GSU Ballroom on April 15. The kits, containing two weeks’ worth of cleaning supplies, paper goods, pillows, linens, and nonperishable snacks and meals, were available to students quarantined on campus because of exposure to COVID-19. Right photo: Jennifer Skikas (left), GSU catering sales manager, and Joann Flores, catering manager for Questrom, load up some of the items to be delivered to empty quarantine rooms across campus on April 21. Photos by Cydney Scott
Lead custodian Carlos Carreiro (left) and custodian Andres Lopez deliver paper goods to empty quarantine rooms at 580 Comm Ave April 21. The University reserved approximately 50 rooms across campus for students who needed to be quarantined during the pandemic. Photo by Cydney Scott
Jackie and Cydney, wonderful yet weird campus shots.
Thank you for being on site capturing this for us.
Thank you, Cydney and Jackie, for these images that capture so many elements of BU during this difficult time of grieving for the world, and caring for each other. You make us proud, even prouder, of BU people!
Thanks for Cydney and Jackie’s excellenct and memorable work with these capturing photos! my son is still in BU for his master degree study and will finish his study by May. Our family apprecaites all the work and effort by BU during this special and difficult period. We are proud my son is a student of BU!
Wow! Great images. Your photos tell a very moving story. You also managed to capture an image of my son studying in the library. He is the lone student at the Mugar Memorial Library. Can you please let me know how I can buy a copy of that image?
Great work. Is there a way that I can get a copy
Of one of the images. My son is in that photo.
Shoot me an email Dina and I’ll see what we can do. Cydney
Fantastic photography & story, thank you for sharing! Our son never had the chance to return to BU after spring break, so to see what BU looks like now is very moving. Our family is grateful to all the BU staff, faculty & students and look forward to the day we can visit Boston again!