• Kat J. McAlpine

    Editor, The Brink Twitter Profile

    Kat J McAlpine

    Kat J. McAlpine is editor of The Brink, Boston University’s news site for scientific breakthroughs and pioneering research. Kat has been telling science stories for over a decade, and prior to joining BU’s editorial staff, publicized research at Boston Children’s Hospital, Harvard University’s Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering, and the University of Connecticut’s School of Engineering. Profile

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There are 6 comments on The Story, and the Science, behind BU’s COVID-19 Dashboard

  1. Why does the Dashboard report the statistics in an extremely misleading way? BU students are being tested twice a week but members of the public are usually only tested once. This means that it’s a mistake to compare positive tests / number of tests across BU students and the wider community. There is a much less misleading alternative: compare positive tests / number of people tested. Then the BU percentages won’t look so small. As the saying goes: there are lies, damned lies, and statistics. Will BU be correcting this mistake with its Dashboard as quickly as possible?

    1. Add to this that among Boston community members, only symptomatic people or close contacts get tested (as admitted in this article). So the comparison of BU to state statistics is misleading.

      I believe the right thing to do would be to open campus gradually and share resources with the community… We are all in the same pool, BU. How meaningful it is to say you will just urinate (or test the water) at your corner of it?..

    2. We have to consider that the statistics for the community will be lower because not everyone is tested. There will be many undetected cases in the community, whereas the BU statistics capture the entire population. It is also a lie in how you interpret the statistics.

  2. This is from the email President Brown sent to all faculty and staff on 6/29, explaining the budgetary shortfall and the cuts that had to be taken as a result, including the loss of our university retirement contribution, salary and hiring freezes, and layoffs.

    “The academic and administrative leadership has worked over the last month to revise our budgets using projections for fall and spring enrollments. Using these estimates, the total revenue shortfall in next year’s budget is $264 million. This amount is equal to approximately 16 percent of our expenditures, excluding those connected with research, student financial aid, and other costs such as debt service that cannot be reduced.

    Let me review the actions we have already taken for the coming fiscal year:
    Applied our undesignated reserves and budget contingencies to reduce the shortfall

    Frozen salaries for faculty and staff
    Reduced the salaries of University executives
    Frozen University contributions to the retirement program

    These actions and other savings amount to a decrease of $168 million in expenses in the FY2021 University budget and cover approximately 64 percent of the shortfall, leaving $96 million in budget cuts still to be identified. The academic and administrative leadership has been working over the last month to identify budget reductions to close this gap. This process has now been completed, and with these additional adjustments, we have a budget, although not quite in balance, that is a good starting point for beginning the fiscal year on July 1. You will hear from your unit head or academic dean about the specific elements of the plans for your units and schools/colleges.

    As part of the budget planning process, we are implementing significant cost reductions in expenses not connected to paying staff and faculty. We have also worked to minimize the number of current employees who will be affected by these budget reductions by eliminating or deferring hiring for approximately 200 open and unfilled positions. Regrettably, layoffs and furloughs (unpaid leaves of absence with benefits continuation) will be necessary in some units of the University as a consequence of the shortfalls we are predicting. How many employees will be affected? Based on our current assessments, we are anticipating that no more than 250 employees will be laid off or furloughed.

    With these decisions, we are now set to begin the budget year; however, I must reiterate the considerable uncertainty that still exists relative to what our enrollments will be in the fall, and thus, what actual revenue and expenses will be, compared to our revised budget. It is possible that further budget reductions will be necessary.

    We are all working and living with extraordinarily difficult circumstances as we attempt to define a new normal with COVID-19 in our midst. At this moment, I feel it is best to share the realities of our financial situation and to err on the side of transparency with you.
    I will continue to update you as the fall becomes clearer. Please stay safe and well.
    Sincerely,
    Robert A. Brown signature”

    Why did President Brown fail to include in this email the cost of this “state of the art” COVID testing center, including its staffing, a center that is, according to President Brown, “testing everyone” and is therefore superior to the State’s testing center (as the State, apparently, has actually limited financial resources)?

    It’s great to hear that they got “great pricing” on all this stuff. It would be even more wonderful to hear how much it all cost, especially considering the 96M shortfall that is the subject of this email and the reason for the cuts instituted univeristy-wide.

  3. Why is the dashboard only reporting student tests, and not also faculty and staff? I was tested on Thursday afternoon and still have not received my test results (Sat morning). The dashboard boasts a less than 24 hrs results turnaround.

  4. I have to admit, I agree fully that we need to learn how to do this, and how to do it well. I fear these super viruses will only become more common as we further damage Mother Earth.

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