• Emily Chua (GRS’22)

    Emily Chua (GRS’22) Profile

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There are 82 comments on POV: BU Should Go Fully Online This Fall

  1. BU is not just a name! It consists of Students and professors! Without US, BU is NOTHING! Protecting us is protecting yourself! We want SAFTY!

  2. Education and training are essential services. The next generation of scientists, engineers, occupational therapists and physicians need to be trained.

    Much of this training requires laboratory work and patient contact as well as lectures.

    The mission of BU is to meet these training and educational needs.

    If the nation’s grocery store workers, doctors, and nurses can find a way to safely meet societies needs so can those of us who teach the next generation.

    The one thing we do not want to teach them is to turn run in fear.

    Masks and plexiglass barriers reduce risks of exposure to a viral load great enough to cause an infection effectively; especially when these measures are combined with increased social distancing.

    1. So far we have not been told that we will be provided with masks and plexiglass barriers. We can bring our own masks but plexiglass barriers should not be the responsibility of the instructor. Additionally, while some classes benefit greatly from a hands-on laboratory, these are a small minority. It would be safer for these classes to meet in person if other classes, which can be taught entirely online, were not required to meet in person.

    2. Two things:
      1. Resuming offline teaching and research also means forcing people to commute. How would (and could) BU protect people and the whole Boston area from large-scale infection because of commute (and even just unavoidable contact in the hallway)?
      2. What about social science and humanities? There’s no need for many of us to conduct on-site experiments and stuff yet we are forced to risk our live just to change the location of using our computers. If your arguments are the main reasons behind the policies, then half of the university has been entirely ignored

  3. This article brings up many great points. Thank you. Additionally, how does BU expect teachers to enforce proper mask wearing? What happens if students show up to class without a mask? Are teachers expected to supply them or make the student leave? Why can’t BU supply masks to students and teachers as other universities are doing? How many lives is BU willing to lose for financial solvency?

    1. I have tried to be rational and look at all sides of this situation, and as someone who teaches in the Business area, I am very well aware of the financial implications of closing the campus. BU is essentially a private ‘profit generating’ business, even if all profits are re-invested.

      BU has thousands of dorm rooms, almost all of which are empty at present. Dorm income and food is a major part of BU’s revenue, and I can absolutely understand the imperative to get some income flowing, and to open the campus to head off the arguments about reduced tuition for ‘online’ offerings.

      However, opening the campus involves welcoming students from all 50 states, and from over 100 countries. Given the ‘spikes’ in infection just in parts of the US, COVID is going to come to the campus. Testing may help substantially, but false positives and more importantly, false negatives, are going to happen, and I do not see any amount of testing making the campus ‘absolutely’ safe.

      BU has bent over backwards to give students as many options as possible, but it is not doing the same for Faculty. I am also concerned for other staff, especially facilities workers.

      Whichever way you look at this, it appears that financial imperatives are driving this push to open.

  4. This article mentions the problems with 50 minute classes.

    In my Department, classes last 2 hours and 45 minutes… In full ‘protective’ mode…

    I am far from convinced that this is effective teaching… And – I am over 65 years old, so I am in the CDC ‘high risk’ category…

    To say that I am concerned about this would be a masterly understatement !!!

  5. I will have to disagree with the opinion expressed in this article. As the parent of a BU international student, I see first hand the struggles that my son goes through in taking the online classes during the current summer sessions. He needs to stay awake from 10pm till 8am to attend the classes. When he has questions to clarify on the subject, the professors are not easily accessible due to the time difference. Also, he is forced to learn in isolation as interaction with fellow students outside of class time is inhibited. It is indeed heartbreaking to see the sacrifices he has to put in just to attend these classes.

    When BU’s leadership announced the LfA approach for opening up the university in Fall, I applaud the genius of this decision. Similar to all corporations throughout the world, business continuity plans need to be activated to ensure business activities continue on without disruption and sacrifice in “quality and customer experience”. At the same time, safety of employees must be of utmost importance. Besides what have been outlined by BU, UV rays and better filters can be installed in the air conditioning systems of all buildings to ensure clean air; cleaning and sanitizing schedules can be increased; and temperature scanners and safe entry codes can be installed at all entrances to buildings.

    Many corporations have adopted the concept of split operations, where for example 50% of employees will work from home while 50% will work from the office. By reducing the number of people in the office, social distancing will naturally occur. Each department in the company will need to reorganise the roles for those who work from home vs those who work in the office. If this approach is adopted by BU, professors and teaching assistants in each department can decide who will go to campus to deliver the lectures and provide consultation, and who will take on the role to set and grade the exams. Instead of one professor doing A-Z for one course and another professor doing A-Z for another course, we can have one professor do A-M for both courses and the other professor do N-Z for both courses.

    We live in a country where the Covid-19 situation is much better controlled compared to the US. Yet I am comfortable to send my son to BU half the world away from home after reading in detail the safety measures BU will put in place. Which company or which country have in place a plan and the capability to test all of the people in its community on a regular basis? I take my hat off to the leadership at BU and am proud that my son has been accepted into BU and will be attending BU in Fall.

    1. As an international student I agree with you. BU is setting the best example of leadership and compromise during this hard times, I have no words to describe how proud and thankful I feel to be part of BU, at least they are trying. I trust BU 100% and I’m sure that the fall will be successful.

    2. “If this approach is adopted by BU, professors and teaching assistants in each department can decide who will go to campus to deliver the lectures and provide consultation, and who will take on the role to set and grade the exams. Instead of one professor doing A-Z for one course and another professor doing A-Z for another course, we can have one professor do A-M for both courses and the other professor do N-Z for both courses.”

      This is a great idea, but is not what BU is proposing. BU is currently saying all professors have to be in class at all times, while teaching to in-class and remote students. We we will all be commuting in (on public transportation) and many of us will be bringing our children in with us, as well, because schools will be in session no more than 2 days a week. Professors will teach behind PPE, while watching our young children at the same time, behind a podium in order to face a videocamera for remote students, not walking around or being interactive, with students spaced out in the classroom, unable to interact with each other. Even leaving aside the ethical issues and health risks for staff and faculty, this is a far worse pedagogical model than online, where you can at least see faces, hear words, do interactive simulations, work collaboratively on discussion boards or collaborative text or video annotation tools, and interact with classmates for discussion and group work. And real hybrid education with synchronous and asynchronous interaction is vastly different than the Spring 2020 emergency remote instruction.

  6. I just wanted to thank the writer for this piece. Air quality and lingering small particles are a big concern, especially in classrooms with poor ventilation. There are also problems in terms of where to eat and stay hydrated safely on campus, the problem of safe bathroom use (and the safety of nearby classrooms and faculty offices), and the problem of where students are supposed to go between classes if they don’t live on campus, among many other problems. I don’t doubt that Boston University can take significant action to reduce risk on campus, but I do doubt that risk can be reduced enough to justify in-person teaching and learning. Students may not be in the age group most likely to die from the virus, but new data is emerging about the potential for long-term continuing health consequences after even mild cases of the virus (respiratory, pulmonary, neurological). If student, faculty, and staff safety is paramount, then BU must primarily shift to online instruction and work.

  7. Since May, the views of the Online-or-Bust community have been replete across the opinion pages. Like Chua, they make a number of excellent and well-reasoned points, and quickly assume the moral high ground. They rarely, however, tackle the problem in full. In this instance, no mention is made of the financial consequences for an institution like BU (mission, size, business model) to go online. BU is not Harvard, which recently announced its online plan. BU is considerably larger, doesn’t have nearly 400 years of history, and certainly doesn’t have a $40 billion endowment. In fact, BU is already trying to plug a $264 million hole by canceling employer retirement contributions and issuing furlough and layoff notices to 250 employees (out of ~10,300 employees). Interestingly, the teaching faculty are some of the most vocal critics within the Online-or-Bust community, yet they will be spending only 3-6 (in some cases 9) contacts hours each week in the classroom while other essential employees, like our custodial staff, have been rolling up their sleeves and commuting in to work 40 hours/week since the crisis began in March. TT faculty, in particular, are virtually immune to the current budget cuts and can maintain a luxurious vantagepoint for dissent. But, again, no mention is made of the financial consequences for an institution like BU when it goes fully online, consequences that would see a drastic spike in the number of layoffs as BU deviates from its mission and business model. No mention is made of the job market that those employees would be cast into (e.g., United airlines is on the verge of cutting 36,000 from its workforce). And no mention is made of how those employees will survive outside the classroom. From atop the ivory tower, it’s hard to see the little people. So, read Chua’s viewpoint and others like it closely. Their views merit attention and offer important points, but they’re also myopic, awash in moral superiority, underestimate the length of time that concessions will be made, and hide the fuller picture.

      1. TT professors are not the people leading the resistance to this program–it is being led by graduate students, who have virtually no protection, no unionization, and very little pay already.

        It is not the responsibility of the “ivory tower” to prevent the economy from collapsing. Our government needs to implement a robust emergency welfare system, and they would be wise to spur job creation by implementing government programs like the Green New Deal (which would create nearly 30 million jobs).

    1. I feel like we will probably be putting others like custodial staff MORE at risk by doing this, as well as all the other folks we will encounter on public transport. In order to allow these folks to keep doing their jobs the rest of us should limit our interactions as far as possible- and having thousands of people commute to and from campus every day and mingle while there- that is not a way to keep a community safe. Also it’s easy to assume the moral high ground if you believe human lives are worth more than money.

    2. Dear JFP,
      The majority of instruction at BU is done by non-tenured instructors–grad students, adjuncts, lecturers, etc., who are far from the top of the ivory tower, and equally worried about their jobs yet still trying to make sure that everyone is safe. That’s why many faculty have signed the joint-union petition in support of staff. We know that BU doesn’t have an endowment the size of Harvard’s but it does have a considerable endowment as well as any number of budgetary fatted cows that could be trimmed down without layoffs or furloughs. No one wants to university to close, but the vast majority of classes can be done equally well online. Students can still receive first rate education for the coming academic year and still (with a little luck and God-willing a vaccine) enjoy three years of the fully residential in-person education that’s so formative and rewarding. I’ll close by saying that many of the faculty wanting to go online are in a very precarious situation simply because they are far less likely to receive unemployment benefits given the structure of unemployment law and how many institutions of higher-education historically challenge applications for unemployment by non-TT or Tenured or graduate student instructors–hardly the “luxurious vantage point for dissent” enjoyed by those with tenure.

  8. Compelling case. Although, I have mixed feelings on the matter, I understand the necessity to ‘go fully online this fall.’ With that said, tuition needs to reflect the new environment. Despite some professors best efforts (or what the university tirelessly regurgitates), the learning experience is not the same; it is degraded and inferior compared to in-person classes. We are paying for services and experiences that we are no longer receiving or using. Taking a gap year, as some have suggested, is for the privileged and not feasible for everyone; plus, the situation might be worse when you return.

    Bottom line: Tuition needs to reflect the ‘new normal’ – BU needs to decrease tuition if it goes fully online in the fall. It is criminal to pay ‘brick and mortar’ fees when we are online.

    1. And it would be criminal to pay brick and mortar salary and perks to faculty and PhD students. (By the way, why are you getting paid to be a PhD student?)

      Lets pay for teaching the way we do for most other work. By the hour. OK, you are smart, we may you $30/hr. Happy. Teach 3 hours a week, take home $90 a week. Go home. Be happy.

      That is how it works for me. Except, no one will pay me $30 an hour.

      1. Because not paying people for their labour is wrong. In my experience, I spend 3hrs a week teaching a class, 3hrs a week preparing the class, 3hrs or more (depending on class size) grading per week, 3hrs a week (or more again, depending on class size) doing administrative tasks and answering students emails- that’s 12 hours of a work week. Then I do my own research (which I deserve to be paid for because all labour is worth paying for and you actively benefit from things that folks with PhDs developed). I probably spend 50hrs a week working in total across teaching and researching, unless I have a particularly busy week where it could be closer to 60.

        Paying PhD students means that those of us who are immigrants, low income and working class, and disabled can pursue higher education. Your point of view would leave higher education as the domain of only the already wealthy and privileged. Everyone deserves to be paid for their labour and making $19k a year after tax for a 50/60 hour work week should not be where you are leveling your complaints.

        1. How I would love to have your job!!! You answer emails and get paid for it. You do ‘your own research’ and expect me to pay for that too!! Boy, o boy. Just how spoilt with privilege can you be… plus now you want not even to be doing that and still get paid. Can I get that job too?

          I spent half an hour on phone and message with my boss trying to rearrange my schedule, did NOT get paid for it and did not think of asking to be paid for it. I study at night for “my own” sometimes even research papers, do not expect to be paid for that. Actually, I usually end up PAYING, not being paid, for my ‘own work’ whether at school or home.

          By the way, I may work in a grocery store now, but please don’t abuse my intelligence. I was in college once and hung out with enough PHD students to know the sweet deal you get-remind everyone about the tuition windfall you get. What is that, another $50K, maybe more, not even counting junkets to fancy hotels for ‘research’ and conferences. Sorry, no tears for you as you ask to be paid for sitting at home and doing nothing, while I toil for a real living.

        2. Don’t want to sound mean, but here is my point: If life has given you a good break (and if you are a professor or PHD you got the greatest break of all), then be thankful. Because there are too many others who didn’t get that break. Have a heart. You are not a victim, you ARE the establishment.

          On one hand we have a crazy President in Washington and on other this fake anguish of privilege from our educated elites. No surprise why the rest of us cannot stand either.

        3. Don’t want to sound mean, but here is my point: If life has given you a good break (and if you are a professor or PHD you got the greatest break of all), then be thankful. Because there are too many others who didn’t get that break. Have a heart. You are not a victim, you ARE the establishment.

          On one hand we have a crazy President in Washington and on other this fake anguish of privilege from our educated elites. No surprise why the rest of us cannot stand either.

  9. The concern, of course, is that if BU does decide to go fully online, then as per the new ICE and SEVP ruling, a lot of international students would lose their visa status. So maybe a hybrid mode is for the best.

    1. I agree with the article but I am also concerned for international students like me. Without a visa, we risk deportation. Where I come from, mental health care is inaccessible, as people there do not believe in mental health. I think the hybrid mode is the best solution. If BU fully goes online, my mental health (as well as many others) will deteriorate. I have been suffering from depression and anxiety my whole life.

      But with accessible mental health care here, I’m finally getting better. So please, BU, please please keep the hybrid model. I cannot go back. I cannot heal in the place where I was hurt. Please.

      I know this is just a comment on an article and this probably won’t be seen. But I am scared to death of going back. In the off chance that a BU administrator or whoever makes these decisions reads this: please please I am begging you. Please don’t let BU go fully online.

  10. I like the article very much. It listed many hardship of instructors, which likely make the LfA model unfeaisible.

    But unfortunately there is an error with the following information:
    > Consider also the implications of false-positive results—if you test positive but aren’t actually sick. BU’s new testing facility can process 5,000 tests daily. While the false-positive rate for these tests is still unknown, let’s conservatively assume it is 1 percent, based on similar tests. At this rate, 50 people who aren’t even sick would be sent into quarantine per day. Let’s also not forget about false-negatives—or the cases the test misses.

    false positive rate is the percentage in positive test results, not the entire sample.

    Currently the positive test result is about 1/2 of all test result of all test result in the U.S. (1point3arc), and 1/50 in MA (mass.org, notice Mass recommends testing for mildly symptomatic individuals).

    But given BU seems to have mandatory testing for non-symptematic individuals, the positive rate is going to be much lower than MA. But even if it is 1/7 of Mass’s positive rate, that means, on average, every week there is one students tested false positive.

    Although 1 false positive per week seems scary, we need to also note, with this rate (which is an assumption), about 100 people will be tested positive every week, enough to disturb the entire learning experience on campus.

    So, all in all, if false positive are enough to disturb the learning experience, then the positive cases should already be very high and will contribute more to the negative learning experience.

    Therefore, false positives are likely not to be a major concern.

    1. False positives are highly unlikely. The data in this article are not reflective of the qPCR test we will be using. We expect our false positive rate to be near zero based on the millions of nearly identical tests conducting in high complexity labs like ours since the outbreak began. The higher number cited in this article includes a broader swath of tests being performed right now.

      If you would like more detailed info on the test we are using please email me.

  11. I totally agree with you. BU administration made a rushed decision not backed by sound scientific data. It is time the for administration to take the health of the community into consideration and listen to the experts. That said, I am very pessimistic as for over a decade now the experts have been silenced and overshadowed by BU apparatchiks who are only interested in preserving their jobs at any cost.

  12. Hi Emily — this is beautiful and well thought out. I agree that no educational campus should open for in-person operations until a vaccine is developed. However, with the current ICE student ban, it is important to have this in-person component to allow international students to maintain their student visa (it is extremely troublesome and expensive to get a visa re-issued). Until ICE amends their policies and allows international students to study from home and abroad with no penalty on their visa status, I would say that minimal in-person operations should be in place. I’m immunocompromised myself and don’t want this at all, but I want my degree too.

  13. Is it morally correct to expect all the people who provide you with food, necessitates and entertainment to take on risk that you are unwilling to take on? Your ethical argument seems only to apply to people with PhDs or who are on a path to obtain a PhD.

    People who make a lot less money than a PhD student at BU are going to work under much worse conditions with far fewer protections. And should we go 100% online what happens to all the service workers and staff at BU who will no longer be needed? Service workers who also make less on an hourly basis than a PhD student at BU. No undergrads, no BU.

    When those outside of academia complain about the ivory tower this is the kind of thing they mean. People getting paid a salary which would be the envy of literally billions of people to get a free world class education, while being protected by a system of testing and contact tracing, that is better than most frontline workers have , are going to battle for more privileges.

    Hundreds at BU are already losing their jobs, how many more will lose their jobs if students don’t come back as is expected if we were online only? And yet the PhD students would still get their free education and free healthcare.

    Newsflash, PhD students are not the downtrodden class, you are the privileged elites. You make more as tfs and rfs on an hourly basis than adjuncts and lecturers, and more than the service workers that keep this institution running. No matter what happens this year you will get your free education while people of less privilege lose their jobs. You want to fight for social justice? Wonderful! But fight for the truly vulnerable, it is no great thing for people of privilege to fight for more privileges.

    Have a little empathy for people outside of the PhD club. If you are too scared to teach in person, don’t, you still get your free education and there is nothing stopping you from finding another job except for a truth that you already know, your tf/rf position is cushy , and a “regular job” will pay less for harder work and more hours likely with more Covid risk. The rest of the world faces a different choice, figure out how to work during a pandemic or starve.

    I want to work , as do thousands of others with families to support and bills to pay. Yes I’m scared of Covid, but I’m also scared for the people that depend on me to teach classes for thier jobs as well. Your status is safe, ours is not. Consider the ethics of that.

    Commenting anonymously because I fear the PhD students wrath and I don’t enjoy their position of privilege.

    1. Just because people have a PhD doesn’t mean they are privileged!!!!! Many people with phd’s have worked just as hard as others if not harder to get where they are. You don’t know the sacrifice many make to obtain that degree. Try going to school as long as some PhD’s and then you’ll see what it really takes.

    2. I find it appalling that you would take this limited word-count article as evidence that PhD students are not fighting for social justice for the more vulnerable. We care about the impacts that Covid-19 could have on campus workers, some who are our friends who we stop and chat with at work. We are the ones who say hello to them when they come to our offices to clean them at 8 PM and we are the only ones still there.

      We know that some of them have older family members that they take care of, and that they, too, want to stay safe. When campus workers went on strike and protested two years ago, we marched with them. We want the same things they want – dignified and safe working conditions. Keeping as many people as possible off campus has been partly an effort to keep our campus workers safe.

      In addition to thinking about the low-wage workers at the university, I urge you to consider what would happen to workers Boston-wide if this virus was spread from the university. There are plenty of undocumented workers and lower-wage workers who have gone several months without pay and are behind on rent. Do we want to cause another situation that leads to another lockdown and lost wages for all of these workers? Consider the entire system of actors.

      Most people who like to comment on “PhD student privilege” do not understand how PhD students live. I don’t relish making this point because in many ways we needed some privilege to get to where we are – we are not people who have been left behind by the academic system. However, don’t forget that among us are people who still made it to their position as first-generation college students, international students, immigrants, refugees, and the working class.

      The “free education” you’re talking about usually consists of research credits in which we are teaching ourselves. Coursework is usually completed after the first two years, with a PhD lasting approximately five years. We are officially expected to work 20 hours for the university, but in reality that number is much higher. We get paid much less than our similarly-educated peers for work that is harder or just as hard. Our non-PhD peers get to stop working at the end of the day. During COVID times, most professionals are being allowed to work from home. While we do make more than some adjuncts are paid to teach a class (which is frankly a horrific practice on the part of the university), it is a reach to call a PhD TF or RF position cushy employment. Because of power dynamics at the university, we are vulnerable to exploitation and abuse by our superiors. And yes, our jobs are also at risk. Because we don’t have a contract, the university can decide how much they will pay us or whether they can employ us at any time. Unlike staff, if we are asked to take a leave of absence we do not qualify for unemployment.

      Do not assume that we are living plush, cushy lives. Most of us cannot have families because we cannot afford to, and those of us who do often struggle to make ends meet. We live with several roommates, we have student loans, we skip out on doctor’s visits because we are afraid of how much they will cost.

      Yes, it is definitely a privilege to get to spend five years of your life learning and bettering yourself. Yes, that is a privilege that many other people are not afforded. The life of the mind is a gift; and for that we are grateful. But knowing that other people in the world are worse off (and there always will be people who are worse off) does not mean that we should stop trying to make conditions better for ourselves and others.

    3. (1) The funding model for PhD students at BU means they don’t get to decide when they do TFships or RFships: they have to do them as part of the deal for receiving their living stipend. PhD at BU cannot simply walk away from their TFships if they’re not happy with their working conditions.

      (2) I agree with you that essential workers at BU are making great sacrifices, and that it’s terrible that the layoffs to come will fall upon them. But forcing faculty and PhD students onto campus does nothing to help those workers, and actually raises their risk, since it brings more bodies into their workplace.

    4. PhD students are paid, tops, $35,000/year (and that’s only in STEM fields; humanists make closer to $25,000), and the “free education” you mention is not and thus should not be considered part of our income for the year, as we never see a dime of it. These pay rates mean that PhD students are paid the same as, if not less, than most of the other employees atBU. Additionally, as most doctoral students in the humanities are not funded for the summer, their hourly rate of pay is actually far less than other hourly workers on campus, and decidedly less than adjuncts and full-time instructors.

      We fight for social justice across the board whenever we fight for our rights as an individual group. We fight for social justice in our work as researchers and instructors. And we do that with little money and huge risk to ourselves in the meantime.

      1. Yes 35k or 25k for 20 hours a week plus health insurance and 50k worth of tuition is privilege. People of privilege never like having their privilege pointed out to them, it shatters their illusion of being self made.

        That compensation is akin to a $120k a year job. You complain about a funding model, yet medical doctors, lawyers, masters students PAY tuition, their “funding model” is loans and jobs. Your work as a teaching fellow or researcher is also presumably doing what you love, if not a phd was a bad choice.

        You may not enjoy privilege in all dimensions of your life, no one does, but in this one you do.

        Go talk to any manual laborer about your troubles, see what they think of them.

        Adjuncts make about 7500 per class at bu, considerably less elsewhere. Lecturers make about 60k. How much per class is a teaching fellow making? 15k.

        I’ll say it again no one likes having their privilege pointed out.

        You want to provide online only education, undergrads who pay tuition don’t. So who gets fired so you don’t have to do lfa if there is less revenue from tuition? Adjuncts, lecturers and support staff that is who. You’ll get what you came for either way, that is privilege.

        I paid for my doctorate as many are doing right now.
        As a comment above said those working at grocery stores are managing to go to work why can’t teachers?

        1. Well then it sounds to me like you are privileged because you could pay for your doctorate, eh?

        2. I am not even a PhD student, I am an undergrad, but your argument angers me a lot. You sound like someone who doesn’t support free college just because they had to pay for theirs. Education is a privilege, but it became that way due to the high cost associated with higher learning, and that does not have to be the case anymore. If you are unhappy with your situation so much that you have to attack PhD students, change it. But as an adult, and presumably an educator, you more than anyone need to understand, empathize with, and support young people through their educational journey, not tear them down after their years of hard work. In addition, you claiming grocery store workers going back to work is not something to be proud of. They had no other choice. They are putting their own lives in danger because they need to pay rent or pay for their family to eat. Some want to work or choose to work, yes, but that does not negate from the dangers of the job, or the fact that their workplace and government can not provide them livable benefits if they chose their health over restocking shelves for the good of their community. Firing lectures, adjuncts, and support staff as you mentioned is a failure of the University, not PhD students. Your anger seems entirely displaced. BU is allowing students to choose whether or no to return to campus, as they should for all professors, and PhD students. Period.

    5. Also, many PhD students engage in decidedly NOT CUSHY fieldwork during their careers. PhD students do the dirty work that faculty no longer do – in the rain, under the sun, in the snow, etc. They have to manage all sorts of risks in their field sites. While yes it is a privilege to learn and discover, it requires a lot of grit and bravery to collect the kind of data that PhD students at this university obtain. These are not easy jobs.

  14. A calculation is incorrect. 1% of 5,000 is 50 (not 500 that was in the article ). So the conclusion from the paragraph about false positive in tests has to be adjusted.

  15. Clearly this is a very difficult issue, and I thank Emily for putting into writing the concerns that many of us share! It is essential that the individual risk tolerances of faculty, staff and students be respected, or else our entire endeavor is … well, merely academic.

    At the same time, the hope for a vaccine or treatment to save us from this mess is, in my opinion, foolish. Even if we were to get an effective vaccine in record time of 12-18 months (and we don’t have one for any other Coronavirus!), it is extremely unlikely to cover all population. Indeed, if it covers even 50% of the population, it would be considered a big win. So we’re left with the same problem, with perhaps only a smaller sample – 50% of the population may remain at risk.

    The next month or two will tell whether COVID-19 is dying off (as the falling death rates suggest) or continuing to propagate (as the increasing infection rates suggest).

    In the former case, BU either opens in the fall or it closes for good.
    In the latter case, the entirety of humanity is in danger.

    1. It looks like Harvard and MIT made their decision because they do not have the capability to do the testing that BU can. It has been shown in various countries in the world that testing and contact tracing are key to manage the Covid-19 situation.

      The Chinese word for “crisis” puts together the words “risk” and “opportunity”. My assessment is that through this crisis, BU being able to do what other universities cannot will pull ahead of the other universities in rankings. Online only universities will see the quality of their incoming students this Fall drop significantly while BU will see an increase in the quality of their incoming students. Some students who are accepted to Harvard, MIT and BU may actually choose BU this Fall. This may be shocking to all in the BU community as the notion of playing third fiddle to Harvard and MIT has been seared into the mindset of everyone in the BU community. This crisis may be the defining moment.

      Companies that have lasted centuries around the world have stories of how their employees risked their lives during WW1 and WW2 to safeguard physical legal documents to preserve the company assets and customer records. When the wars were over, these companies were able to rebound strongly when others collapsed.

      In the corporate world, management will tell employees who are unhappy and prefer the “greener pastures” over at the competitors to go ahead, quit and join the competitors. So go ahead and quit. Go join Harvard and MIT. It looks like when you graduate from your PhD, with this mindset, it is better you remain in academia rather than venture into the corporate world where competition determines the survival of the fittest. Or maybe this applies to universities as well… welcome to the real world.

  16. Thank you for this piece. It does feel like allowing large groups of undergraduates return to campus neglects the potential public health impacts on the healthcare system, immunocompromised, and elderly who live and work in Boston.

    As a health provider who is part of the BU Community, the plan for in-person classes being held doesn’t make me feel any safer about going to work.

  17. Thank you for this piece. You have brought up so many good points that have been on my mind.

    A lot of the students’ knee-jerk reaction to bad online learning was because of the rapid, unsupported transition to online learning last spring. Instructors were given hardly any warning and no support. Of course some classes were poor substitutes for in-person. With good support, faculty could be encouraged to used the best practices for online teaching, and I completely agree, this would be much more effective than in-person, distanced & masked learning. I, for one, will be gearing up in PPE and keeping my distance. Most of the classroom participation in my class will have to be through digital tools, because students in a large class can’t talk in small groups while distanced. They will likely have a better time participating from home.

    If we do have to do LfA it should only be for students who can justify needing to be on campus (i.e. international students or those who can’t live at home for other reasons, students with financial need), and at the very least it should be up to the individual instructor whether they want to teach online. It’s cruel to force people to risk their lives.

    1. The Henry M. Goldman School of Dental Medicine resumed in-person patient care on Monday. The reopening was a true celebration, as faculty, staff, students, residents, and patients were welcomed back with festive balloons and “Welcome Back!” signage. The resumption of in-person patient care marked the first day that students and residents were seeing patients in the School’s brand new patient treatment spaces, which were completed in late February just prior to the shutdown. The Patient Treatment Centers will be operating at 30 percent capacity overall (although exact capacity will vary from department to department) in this first phase of a planned four-phase reopening. The School will be seeing patients with emergent, urgent and elective conditions, although it will be prioritizing those patients with the most urgent needs. Dean Hutter has established a GSDM COVID-19 Compliance Working Group to evaluate and provide recommendations for progression from one phase to the next phase of capacity.

      Like I said, the students who depend on hands on training and the faculty who teach them have no choice but to return to work serving the greater good. It would appear that only those who teach in the humanities can get away with arguing that they should be allowed to work from home indefinitely while the rest of the world returns to work. Which begs the question, if they think they do not need to come into work, is what they do really necessary or can their jobs be permanently eliminated to offset the lost revenue due to the pandemic?

      1. Does the School of Dental Medicine, as a medical facility, provide its instructors and students with N95 masks and other PPE, enforce mask wearing by patients, and have adequate ventilation in its patient care facilities? I would hope so.

        But if so, it is reopening under very different circumstances than the rest of the university.

        The entire point of social distancing has been to minimize the risk to those who cannot do their work remotely by asking those who can to stay home. Staff, students, and faculty whose work requires them to be physically present, like those at the School of Dental Medicine, will be safer as well if others are not forced to return to in person classrooms unnecessarily.

        Note the words “forced” and “unnecessarily.” We may have different opinions about whether it is wise for those who wish to return to in person teaching or work as staff members to do so this semester as cases rise across the country, but certainly no one should be forced to if they can do their work just as well – or better – remotely. Note that this is not a question about the relative merits of well-designed online instruction (i.e., NOT the emergency transition that happened this Spring) vs in person instruction. We’re talking about LfA, which is an attempt to do both at once that is unlikely to be as effective as either.

        By the way, the idea that anyone who can do their work well remotely can be “permanently eliminated” to offset lost revenue is an astonishing sentiment in today’s economy. I expect President Brown and the various Vice Presidents would be surprised to learn that they must also come to campus and meet with each other face to face or have their salaries rolled back into the operating budget.

  18. Yes! Beautifully written.

    For international students, we can follow the lead of Harvard and MIT. Offer a select few classes in person for that purpose. There is a middle ground here that protects our faculty, staff, students and community while also protecting the status of international students.

    Also – LIFE and wellbeing matter more than degrees and timelines and visas, at the end of the day. That’s all there is to it.

    1. “Life matters more than a visa” well a visa to study here is our path to a better life — we escaped adversity in our home nations and came here for an education. Yes health is important but preserving health while discriminating against international students is a major problem in and of itself and no it’s not more important than health. Sometimes healthcare in our nations is so bad that we benefit from being students in the US by going to better hospitals.

  19. Sick and tired of people misrepresenting online learning as a sufficient alternative. We did it in the Spring as an emergency measure, but the University coming out to announce its LfA plan as the semester wrapped up demonstrates their understanding students refuse to be suckered into spending $50k for an education that doesn’t even come close to what they are paying for.

    Long story short, online learning is a farcical impersonation of what an authentic college and classroom experience should be. The professors show up weary, much time is wasted troubleshooting, the entire dynamic shifts entirely, certain students may contribute more but overall contribution is lessened to an extraordinary degree, and many friends confessed to simply logging in for attendance purposes and then going right back to sleep. Teachers can’t or don’t really get to look at their students’ body language to gauge how they are feeling. A vast majority of students don’t even bother to turn on their camera, and for good reason. How many times has your Zoom meeting been interrupted by someone forgetting they aren’t muted when a crisis goes down in their household? Anyone asserting that online learning even compares to an in-person experience and merits shelling out that astronomically high BU tuition (which is totally justified in a normal year) needs to re-evaluate their Spring experience.

    As another person in the comments section pointed out, lower-wage staff are expected to and HAVE BEEN coming to campus through the pandemic. They are at risk of being laid-off, so they put their heads down and suck it up and come to work. Sorry professors who aren’t at especially at risk, you’ll have to get up from your cushiony apartments in the North End and do the same as everyone else has which means trying to maintain a semblance of normality to make ends meet because let’s face it, the show must go on.

    1. Virtually no faculty member, including the writer of this article, is arguing that online learning is a sufficient alternative to what until this past spring was the normal classroom and campus experience. All the legitimate objections you have to the online learning we did in the spring apply equally to LfA.

      For example under LfA, I will be allowed to have only four of my students in the classroom at a time due to the room I have been assigned. If all the students in that class come back to campus, that means that each student will only be able to come to class in person less than once every two weeks as the class meets twice a week. If some of my students choose to remain at home and learn remotely, they will of course be online and the students who do come to campus will be able to come in person slightly more often. But whatever happens, there will ALWAYS be students who are accessing the course online, and thus there will be all the problems you mentioned. Given these limitations, we will be risking the lives of all students and all staff without resolving any of the issues with online learning you list.

      We want to go back to face-to-face just as much as students do, but LfA and the current situation of the world does not truly make it possible.

    2. If you are claiming that you log on an go back to sleep, it sounds like the problem in not with the online learning, but how much effort you are willing to put into it. I too am a student, and I too did 100% of my Zoom lectures from my bed minutes after waking up. I too, never turned my camera on because I was in bed, like I said, for every class. However, there is a pandemic going on, and forcing anyone to choose their job over their heath, no matter what their job is whether they are part of a custodial staff or are a professor is wrong. Next semester, when you inevitability have to spend some time taking online classes, try to turn on your camera and engage with the class. The professor, whether they are in person or online, is doing their best to give you an education. Don’t waste it because you don’t think online learning is the same. Either way, clearly you are spending the same amount of money on these classes, so you should engage with them with the same attentiveness. Online classes are not the same, but you can only get out of them what you put into them.

  20. The process BU is standing up is a sound one and Boston and the state of Massachusetts are doing a fabulous job of keeping the curve flat. BU might want to think about doing what the states of NY, NJ and CT are doing which is to mandate 14 day quarantine for anyone traveling from states/locations with infection rates > 10% or >10/10,000 residents. Presently, there are 19 states on the travel advisory list, with probably 3 more being added by next week.

    Also, for someone with an underlying health condition, there is the American with Disabilities Act which provides avenues for reasonable accommodation.

    1. There will a a quarantine required for students arriving from outside of New England, NY and NJ. They have even set aside some on campus apartments to isolate people if needed.

  21. There are two irrational approaches to the issue today: 1. one takes the pandemic too seriously and and does so occasionally 2. one does not take the pandemic seriously enough.

    This article clearly belongs to the first group and it is not difficult to find out: “until we have a vaccine or cure for COVID-19, that day [returning to school] cannot come.” There is no guarantee that that day will come at all as we still don’t have vaccine for other viruses. This is why this article is irrational and fearmongering.

    It is also irrational for other reasons. I wonder what the author, and those who disagree with the BU plan, say about recent protests. Was it safe and ethical to protest in a large number in the middle of a pandemic (for a just cause)? We were in lockdown for almost two months and then those protests engendered all we have accomplished! I’m not saying the protests were unjust; I’m saying where were the authors and other concerned people during that time to lecture us about ethics and safety?

    Furthermore, imagine the first irrational group win and BU does not open. Can they guarantee there won’t be any protest in a large number in future? We all have seen pictures from those protests in which large people gathered without social distancing, including here in Boston. It is very likely that there will be other protests in the city of Boston and in the country. So, what’s the point then? Why are we discussing safety and ethics if protests are allowed? I am not against protest, but


    However, there is a difference between those protests and BU: BU is doing all it can to provide safety.

    BU’s plan to return to school is not getting back to normal; the author’s article is misleading to say so. BU’s plan indeed is far from normal. Normal means what we had had before the pandemic. Nor is it a result of rush decision. BU has been thinking about this since the first day after the shutdown.

    There are two irrational approaches to the issue today: 1. one takes the pandemic too seriously and does so occasionally (no problem when there is protest) 2. one does not take the pandemic seriously enough. To which rational people can add a third approach: BU’s plan. BU’s plan is not perfect and still needs to be improved. But it is clearly a middle way between the two irrational positions.

    There are other reasons as to why schools must open: ICE recent rule which could seriously put international students in a tremendously dangerous situation. Many international students are from countries who have not been able to control the pandemic. If they return to their country, they will be in danger.

    BU and its community keep saying that international students are important part of the community. If you believe this, then you must protect them. If it is ethical to consider the safety of faculty and PhD student (as this article tries to do in an unconvincing way), then it is also ethical to protect international students. There is no guarantee lawsuits against ICE result in our favor.



    There is always a middle way. The middle way can be found and established by using reason and considering ALL aspects of the issue.

    1. The faux concern in this comment has no place in a discussion of the real stakes of the campus reopening addressed in this article. I suspect you already know this and want to obscure the true issues at hand (this you? https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/01/09/intellectuals-for-trump), but there has been no detectable spike in COVID-19 infections due to Black Lives Matter protests. This was well documented in a working paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research, for one: https://www.nber.org/papers/w27408.pdf.

      BU is not doing all it can to keep its community safe. It would be far safer for students, staff, and faculty to remain at home and reduce the risk of disease spread. Nonetheless, BU insists that we return to campus, despite no indication that disease prevalence is low enough to allow this to happen safely, and they have no plans to provide PPE. This places financial burdens on departments who are trying to provide for their members, and safety burdens on graduate students and faculty who will have to enforce mask-wearing while simultaneously attempting to teach in questionably ventilated classrooms. Chua’s excellent point about disease transmission to the wider Boston community is also relevant here; campus reopening is likely to make us poor neighbors.

      The changes to SEVP policies that ICE released on Monday are a transparently xenophobic effort to punish international students who have brought their valuable skills and knowledge to the US, using the pandemic as cover to discriminate against those we should be welcoming. Though I appreciate BU’s recent commitment to fighting this policy, it should not be used as justification for campus reopening initiatives.


        This is not about the President of the United States, Donald Trump. So please keep your politics to yourself.

        This is about a real issue, that is, BU’s plan to reopen. You did not provide any argument. Rather, you just supported my arguments.

        First, I, and many other rational people, doubt that protests (large gathering of people without social distancing and masks, like the picture you shared with us [thank you]) has nothing to do with spike in corona cases. Specially, when politics is involved: for instance, look at this article that says “NYC’s contact tracers have been told not to ask people if they’ve attended a protest” (https://www.businessinsider.com/nyc-contact-tracers-not-asking-people-attend-george-floyd-protest-2020-6).

        As I said before, I’m not against the protests: people had the freedom to choose to risk their lives and protest and with that, probably, (hopefully not but logically speaking) spread the virus. Why are you then so upset that BU is providing the same opportunity in a safer environment than streets for its community?

        Second, let’s give you the benefit of the doubt: let’s assume protests did not cause spike in COVID-19. Then:

        If experience has shown that large gathering of people WITHOUT social distancing and masks (aka protests) does not cause spikes in COVID-19, so there is no reason to think it does in classrooms WITH social distancing and masks. Thanks for providing us this evidence.

        Third, regarding ICE issue:I provided arguments: 1) if the safety of faculty and students matter, it should matter for ALL of them, including international students. 2) There is no guarantee that lawsuits results in our favor, and we should not put the fate of our international students in the hand of a couple of judges and ICE. 3) If international students are forced to return to their countries, they will be in a serious danger: many countries are still struggling to control the virus. 4) International students know perfectly how difficult it is to renew visas and get admitted at airports; BU should put its international students in such situations again: the safety of ALL BU COMMUNITY MATTERS.

        You did not address any of my arguments; I friendly suggest you to read my both comments to learn how to make arguments without accusing someone for belonging to any group!

        Thanks again for providing evidence for my arguments.

  22. Parent of BU Student

    I support BU’s LearnfromAnywhere program. But I believe less than 50% and international students should attend in-person to help mitigate contagion. The on-campus experience is going to be radically different, likely stressful for both students and faculty. Everyone needs to understand how strict health guidelines affect their daily life on campus before going back. So I wrote a narrative to help parents and students understand the reality.

    I wonder if the “new” campus experience will be worth full tuition and the risk of contracting coronavirus.I wondered what college would really look like under pandemic concerns. So I created such a place, and imagined this new world, a world on a campus called “Corona College”. “A Day in the Life at Corona College” is based on conversations with student/parent focus groups and a review of fall semester plans for a variety of colleges and universities: public, private, small to large. Together with students, we wrote a personal diary of a student on campus under the university’s strict guidelines and format.

    The following is a hypothetical narrative by a fictional character named Izzy, going through her day at “Corona College” in what could well be a non-fictional scenario.


    1. Everyone in the world have adjusted to strict health guidelines, except maybe those in some parts of the US. So there will be no issue living in “Corona College”. Learn from Anywhere is a brilliant idea, as it allows each student to choose their preferred mode of learning based on their individual risk tolerance.

      I will like to suggest that instead of complaining about the decision made by the BU leadership, the professors and PhD students should step up to come up with a workable Teach from Anywhere solution that meets the need of Learn from Anywhere. There could be 50% of professors who don’t mind or even prefer to teach in person. Can they work with the other 50% of professors who prefer to teach online to figure out how to jointly deliver the best Learn from Anywhere experience?

      The problem with professors, unlike employees in the corporate work, is that they tend to work individually and not in teams. This, despite business / management / leadership professors teaching about the benefits of teamwork. I have never seen 2 professors jointly teach a course. Why not?

      The new normal post Covid-19 demands the integration of online and offline. Fully online and fully offline models will not work. This is why Learn from Anywhere is such a brilliant idea. All other industries are adjusting to this new reality. When will BU professors realise and accept this? If BU professors cannot accept this new reality, how can they teach their students to survive and thrive in this new world?

      1. Setting aside whether “everyone in the world” has adjusted to the new health guidelines (and the severity of what is happening in other places in the US, and whether the university’s efforts to protect the community through testing, contract tracing, quarantine, etc. will be sufficient)–

        The part of LfA that simply allows for students to choose how to study and where to study from is excellent, as you point out. But that doesn’t mean that LfA is the best solution overall. LfA, as a form of hybrid instruction that has mostly been used in lecture formats, is not a great pedagogical fit for many classes at BU, particularly the smaller, interactive seminars which for some students will be the only classes in which they have significant personal interaction with peers and professors. Given the socially-distanced conditions we’d be working under, mostly- or all-remote instruction in those cases would allow for more productive small group/peer-to-peer work than LfA. LfA is also going to be challenging to implement considering infrastructural limitations. Some of the classrooms which we are assigned to (as noted in comments above) would allow only 3-5 students to be in the room with an instructor at one time–and those rooms are also not well-ventilated or safe for students or instructors. (As the writer of this article suggests, the traditional classroom–an enclosed space where people sit breathing and talking for extended periods of time– is a very problematic place post-Covid, and some of these classrooms are not workable at all, even with distancing and masks.)

        The assumption that BU faculty have not adjusted to the new reality or spent a lot of time thinking about creative ways to Teach from Anywhere in that new reality is false. It’s also untrue that teachers aren’t team players, especially in facing our current challenges. Teaching faculty (including grad students who teach) have constant contact not only with students but with colleagues on committees, in working groups, in seminars, in mentorships, and on other teams within and across departments and programs. They also create links to people/institutions outside the university/in the surrounding community and co-create and co-teach classes. BU is a collaborative place that encourages interdisciplinarity and creates opportunities for creative co-invention; there are so many excellent resources in the BU community that can address this crisis in ways that are more workable –if they are accepted as resources and not viewed as obstacles.

        The common critiques of arguments like the one in this piece–that they are narrow, selfish, economically naive, grounded only in privilege, or not “real-world”-based–all ignore the most real-world issue of our moment: public health and our responsibility to protect it. The message of this piece (and many of the other perspectives that have been expressed in the university community this summer as we move towards re-opening) is not one of complaint, not that we *don’t* want to do something, but that we *do*. The colleagues and peers I’ve worked with in many years at BU are driven, dedicated, hardworking and devoted to their teaching; in short, nothing like the negative characterizations in some of the comments on this article. These difficult times have not decreased their desire to connect with their students, support their learning, help them, and also learn with and from them. But no matter how much we might miss the classroom as a dynamic physical space, the case for (more) remote learning is both critical from a public health perspective and collective: We want to address the current crisis in ways that are innovative, just, pedagogically sound, and as safe as possible for all in the university community and the communities that surround it and are linked to it (including families, essential workers, and all those who will inevitably come into contact with people who teach, learn, and work on the BU campus). That is how we can teach our students to thrive in this new post-pandemic world.  

      2. The professors at BU have been fighting hard for a Teach from Anywhere model, this is the core issue. It is all over the Globe, etc.



        So before you go attacking BU professors for “not adjusting to new reality” and “not realizing or accepting” the situation, keep up with the facts.

  23. This article is naive, at best, and selfish, at worst. Hundreds of staff have already been laid off due to budgetary shortfalls in the pandemic’s wake. To suggest that going online will in fact be a more positive experience doesn’t take into account that if the university was to go fully online, the majority of students will take leaves of absences. And with that major loss of tuition, even more staff will lose their jobs. The University of Phoenix isn’t a substitute for the BU education people are paying for and you would be living in a fairy tale if you think the tuition would be adjusted for online classes.

    In the wake of the announcement that International Students will be deported if classes are online, pushing for online without so much as addressing this major caveat shows that it is not the benefit of all that you seek, but your own benefit. Additionally many students live in abusive households, struggle with mental health, and have learning disabilities which make online learning impossible. Most are still living out of the suitcase they brought home with them without access to their belongings.

    Others have addressed the privileged position PHD students live in. Whether or not it applies to all PHD students, it certainly applies to the author.

  24. Yes, Massachusetts are controlling COVID19 extremely well at the moment, but I am extremely concerned when most universities open again in September. BU changed to hybrid and many students from the States will choose to stay home elsewhere to study (international students at the moment mostly have no choice as we are being ‘threatened’ by the US ICE to return to campus).
    1. It is good to see that the university is actually trying to control COVID19 as we have seen plans announced by SHS, Housing, etc. But I fear we will have to get everyone in Boston to follow procedures made by us to actually get this efficiently working. Boston University is an open campus where literally anyone can come in and I see there might not be any point if we cannot control people who are not BU students/faculty/staff to enter places like Geroge-Sherman Union, Mugar, etc.
    I mean, it is better to not get infected than getting treated after getting infected, possibly giving people near you the virus. But I fear everthing that BU is focusing on is ‘how to treat people who are infected with COVID19’ rather than ‘how to protect BU members from COVID19’.

    2, Keeping distance with others is the most essential part of the scheme. However, I fear (I even doubt to myself if I do return to Boston) members will be able to do this. I heard that frat parties from other schools will go on as usual, which clearly is not ideal. I hope BU members will be more sensible than them when returned to campus. Yes, I could not agree that part of the college life is all about socializing and partying, but we all need to think what significance it will bring to people around as this will destroy all efforts put in by BU to prevent/stop COVID19 situation happening on campus.

    Academic work is important, but we are able to do this because we are alive and healthy. Young generations (students) have low probability of dying from COVID19 but it is not 0%. People do still die. I say this as I have some friends who was infected and was killed by the virus.
    Professors are in much more danger than us from COVID19 as I have seen far more people die from the virus.
    The school made the choice to go hybrid introducing LfA. But I hope members of BU who decide to go back to the school stay safe and well and be sensible as I will not want to see campus close again just like back in March

  25. I am totally agree with. If Boston become COVID-19 epic center again, who will take care students in the campus.

    If my son gets COVID-19, he may flight back to home immediately. Many people will carry COVID-19 on the plane in the fall.

    Also, if professors get COVID-19 and who will be the teacher for the remaining students.

  26. If you are going to rely on science- rely on all of it, not just selected facts. Death rates going down even as case numbers increase, due to better treatment options. Less than 1 % of the population has the virus, less than 1 % of those under the age of 65 succumb, and those who do typically have underlying health conditions. For those over 65, the majority of deaths occurred in senior care living facilities, where residents had compromised health. The media has scared us all into thinking this is the apocalypse- its clearly a serious health situation, but hyperfocusing on this virus without considering the effects of doing so- mental health conditions, economic stress and impact on health, loneliness, lack of treatment for other health conditions- is as potentially more dangerous and unethical than opening up a college campus with safety precautions. Flatten the fear and raise the rationality.

  27. There has been very interesting comments in the article and subsequent comments. Each have their own reasoning. I am not going to get into what is right and what is wrong. Now is not the time, these are unprecedented times that calls for unprecedented measures.

    The BU leadership must be complimented for creating the LfA module which is the need of the hour. As a parent of an international student, i am concerned about the 14hour flight to Boston from where we reside.. even if the airlines take all possible measures.

    I think the focus will be to reverse the ICE decision.

  28. I find it difficult read this. Probably the most tone deaf and inconsiderate and cruel thing I have read recently.

    I work in a grocery store. I work. You come in and I fill your bag. Even smile behind my mask. I am careful. I do not know if you are. Sometimes, you are not. I worry. I still smile. Because I need to work.

    My sister works at Supercuts. She has to work. You put her to work. She does not rant like you do. Because she does not have your privilege and position.

    Professors and graduate students are probably the MOST privileged and spoilt people I know. anywhere. More than corporate heads. More than bankers. More than tech companies.

    Remind me how many hours a week you actually teach? And I will remind you how many hours I have to work.

    But somehow its OK for me to mag your groceries. Its OK for my sister to give your son a haircut. But its not OK for you to teach my kid. Same kid we have to take a loan and a mortgage for to may your salaries. Meanwhile, you want me to keep taking that loan and mortgage so you can play with your cat at home.

    Shame on you.

    This saving of personal privileges must be exactly what bank execs must have been talking about when their banks were failing while they vexed about why their bonuses were so important.

    1. It saddens me that essential workers in our community feel so alienated from university instructors.

      Yes, the university is a space of privilege, and it can and must do much more to wield its privilege to the benefit of the entire community.

      However, those who want to stay home have more than their own interest in mind. I am a graduate student, and before I go anywhere that might increase my risk of infection, I think about the grocery store workers, the hospital workers, and every other person who my infection would put in danger.

      It is absolutely unjust that those who must work in person— people who already work long hours at thankless jobs with rude and inconsiderate customers—are not being adequately compensated. Many graduate students come from working class families and are trying to use their education to take care of and make proud their family members who weren’t afforded the same opportunities.

      Please remember that every person who stays home makes the world safer for those who cannot. Yes, it is a privilege to be able to work from home—one that should not be squandered by needless trips to the bar or crowded beaches or large gatherings. Those who can work from home have a responsibility to do so and to take extreme precaution when interacting with essential workers. This is how we take care of each other.

  29. This article is courageous and spot on. The rush to open with all the new info about COVID19 including aerosolS in the air up to 3 hours , 50% asymptomatic community spread, brain and other organ damage if one survives, cognitive impairments that linger, no effective treatment yet and vaccine would appear at the earliest in 2021, why are we not at least staggering???
    When I mentioned this in a BU Mom forum, I was personally attacked and told “ I am not paying 40,000 tuition for my kid to learn online. “
    It’s actually 70,000 but my son’s life and every staff member and student’s life is worth far more.
    I don’t want the incredible Boston medical system overwhelmed due to the bottom dollar.
    You have the endowment funds.
    Use them to cover loss.
    Students are feeling the pressure. Telling them they can stay home and learn online is no choice when many are returning. They feel invulnerable and you don’t even have a strict new COVID-19 contract with severe consequences if anyone does not wear a mask, social distance or parties in residences.
    Already students are figuring ways around the rules and sharing on social media which dorms have staff monitors who would prevent “ guests “ and which don’t. They are switching and transferring room assignments based on this as they can’t imagine not having guests.
    Open your eyes. Face facts. Consider the age of most students. Their brain development is still ongoing until age 25. Not all shine and care about being socially responsible as much as I love this age. My son does. He is extremely anxious about others complying because already they are posting how they will NOT.
    The few who do not care and feel too entitled, will be the ones to ruin it for everyone.
    Listen to your concerned staff with families and elders. Minority staff and students are 3x more likely to get infected and 2x as likely to die. How many deaths are worth it to open BU?

  30. What is BU doing for students so they can be safe? Really, Idk because they only offered students an option to be on campus, stay home or stay in dorm and do classes remotely. If BU is going to bring back students they need to require everyone to do COVID-19 and antibody testing one week before arrival and have proof of that. If they bring everyone back like that there is going to be a huge outbreak. Some people have this virus and do not know it. When everyone comes back there will be an outbreak definitely.

    Also what about students that are going to come from States that are now the EpicCenter of the virus? Please think on these things, yes life needs to move on but as safely as possible.

    Maybe they need to focus on the international students for now so they can be on campus that they don’t have to leave the US. As well as the students who has mandatory in person classes like Labs etc. They can have other students resume on campus for Spring semester.

    I hope BU comes up with something better before the due date on student accounts before Fall semester.

    Continue to stay safe & healthy!

  31. I work in education and my school is reopening with in person classes and opening its dormitories, too. Of course, I’m a little bit nervous, and I understand BU’s faculty and staff concerns .

    However, the argument that online is as good as in person Is a foolish one. It certainly is not for performing arts which my daughter is majoring in or a major that includes any type of lab work or international students to name a few examples.

    BU is not just opening without a plan. What I’ve read is there will be testing, contact tracing, required PPE, daily health reporting, support to quarantine, ventilation audits, reduced class size, Increased cleaning, fewer students on campus, flexibility for faculty, etc. You can do this.

  32. I commend the BU administration for developing the LfA approach. I am appalled at the administration’s continued encouragement of students to return to campus.

    There is a BIG difference between opening the campus to create a home for international students and those who may not have another place to live, and encouraging students to return to school in an attempt to “maintain the residential university experience”.

    As of this morning, COVID is on the rise in 36 states, including Massachusetts. That’s WITHOUT college students coming together from all over the country/world. BU is proposing to create “family living groups” for 18,000 18-22 year-olds living in shared rooms and surviving on takeout while “maintaining social distancing”. For 3+ months. Is there any scientist or public health expert who thinks this is a good idea?

    I’m not worried about the 2+ hours in the classroom, any more than I am worried about my interactions with people behind plexiglass shields in the grocery store or the post office. I am worried about the ventilation in dorm rooms, the shared germs and the mental stress of being in a small room with another human being 20 hours/day (where else are you going to go when classes are out, the gym and library are at reduced capacity, the dining halls are doing contactless takeout and it’s 40 degrees and raining outside).

    If the premise is that only those “with difficulties” stay away from campus, then there is pressure on every student, every faculty member and every staff member to return to campus. No one wants to be the person left out. The pressure of “If it’s open, I need to be there” is real. So, can we please get away from arguing about the exceptions and whose situation is more dire and start talking about the reality than most of the 18,000 students BU wants to bring back have no more business coming back to campus than they have in going on a cruise (which, by the way, is fewer people, for a shorter time, with more control over their immediate living environment).

    The learning experience this fall is going to be different no matter what we do. Full online, partial online, online only if you are quarantined…none of these are “learning as normal”. So let’s stop wringing our hands about something we can’t change and start engaging on something we can. Let’s move the conversation from “come back to campus” to “we’re here if you need us, but we’d encourage you to stay home if you can”. That alone will go a long way toward reduce the pressure on student and minimizing the risk to faculty and staff.

    And this doesn’t have to mean layoffs. I’m still paying tuition; presumably BU can use that tuition to pay faculty/administration, regardless of where they work. And presumably they can also repurpose the money they save from closing unused facilities (because fewer people are on campus) to supporting the salaries of the facilities/dining staff who would otherwise be unemployed.

    The goal here is to get through the next 3-6 months with minimal human suffering. Putting the BU community at unnecessary risk is not the way to do that.

  33. Not sure, if anyone has answers for my questions:

    1) How is Boston University going to take care of students getting infected by COVID-19?

    2) If a student gets sick and needs hospitalization, how is BU planning to support and coordinate with remote parents?

    3) Is option of in-person classes adding a risk to student’s health as long-term effects of COVID-19 are still unknown?

    4) As BU is taking all precautions, are all faculty members coming to in-person classes? Is it mandatory for all faculty members to show solidarity with all students showing up for in-person classes?

    5) As I am aware of “optional” in-person classes for students. Doesn’t it add a pressure to students to put their health at risk?

    6) What are the differences between “in-person” and “remote” classes? If there is any difference how BU is planning to fill-up the gap? If there are none, then why there are two options?

  34. As a parent of a freshman, I want to say BU has done an exceptional job trying to navigate these times and take all matters and issues into account. Communication has been clear, prompt and transparent. They too have had to absorb many costs as a result of the pandemic as well. I feel they have given students options to stay home, participate online, take a leave, etc. Additionally, BU has taken every precaution and measure to provide thoughtful guidelines. For my son, whom has been taking online classes since he left in March and has been in his room for an unhealthy amount of time, isolated from peers, professors as well as the overall experience and academic culture, he can hardly wait to get to back. It’s not the same, nor is the education. We are strongly in favor of school resuming in the fall.

  35. BU wishes to pretend that nothing is wrong. There are far more cases in the US now than there were when they deemed the university too dangerous to keep open in March. Yet they ask us to return?

    And please don’t take any solace in the university asking anyone who can successfully do their jobs from home while students are on campus to do so. Some Deans don’t like people working from home (which I’m sure is easy for them to say from behind the closed door of their personal office and not from the windowless cubefarm everyone else has to work in) and would rather endanger these workers and everyone else on campus by increasing the number of people having to commute to campus every day so that people can be in poorly ventilated buildings, risking their lives needlessly. This includes workers who only work with BU’s online programs and do not interact with on campus students in anyway. It is completely unnecessary for them to be on campus, yet they are not being told they should work from home in the fall for the safety of all.

    Do not let this promise of masks let you feel safe either. Go to campus right now, and you will find plenty of buildings with people working with no masks on. No one cares for your health or safety at BU, and they have no means of enforcing any of these guidelines they have put in place to “protect” you as they usher you in to class to happily take your dollars. Best case scenario you will be back at home before Thanksgiving, back online again like you were in spring. Worst case, you and loved ones will be dead.

  36. I’m a grandmother. When it comes to the health and safety of my grandchildren, I would prefer that the university not allow students and teachers on campus at this time. If a student gets sick then what? Does he get sent home? Are his parents allowed to visit him? How is this all going to be handled. It seems very naive to think that students can be protected on campus in the same way that they are in their homes. I’m sorry this is happening. I realize that people need to return to work and be employed and bring the money home. I’m most sorry that our president isn’t stepping up to the plate and helping the citizenry at this time. Small businesses are suffering terribly. Individuals are suffering terribly. Why isn’t he stepping up to the plate, admitting there’s a problem and taking action on behalf of the citizens of the United States in a time of crisis? Some sort of a package to sustain people should be forthcoming from our government. We don’t know how long this is going to last but those who are following this disease from a scientific perspective are saying that it’s going to be a while. And if we put our students back out there too soon it’s going to be making it worse. There’s something called patience and creativity. We are being called on to think outside the box of our fears and habitual ways of doing things. Take up the challenge.

  37. BU will be remote by the end of September I guarantee. Boston’s cases are already rising. It’s just going to get worse here until there’s a full remote option.

  38. There are already clusters of cases in more than 9 states, and it’s not tenable to hold in-person classes in a campus that’s not de-densified (where some students can take online classes on-campus). Thank you for this article, and shame on BU for not listening to the workers who keep the university functioning. When the school has to close in the middle of the semester, the damage done to community health will be irreparable but the university admin only cares about PR.

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