State of the University, Spring 2021

May 24, 2021

Dear Colleagues,

Commencement on May 16 marked the end of the longest academic year in memory. Thank you again for everything you did under very difficult circumstances to make it a success. We should look back with satisfaction at how we—as a community—helped our students continue their educations. And we quickly regained and have sustained momentum on our research mission. Our pride is tempered by the reality that we have navigated through a period in which nearly 33 million Americans were afflicted with the COVID-19 virus and more than 560,000 people died. Each of us mourns for friends and relatives.

I believe that we can look forward with optimism. The abundance of effective vaccines and their broad distribution have translated into declining numbers of cases and hospitalizations. The University’s vaccine clinic is open. I hope those of you who have not yet been vaccinated will take advantage of this option.

Boston University has weathered the financial turbulence caused by COVID-19 as well as or better than we might have hoped. We expect to conclude the fiscal year with results well within the guidelines we established last summer. Our budget projections for next year are encouraging, as enrollments for both our undergraduate and graduate programs are strong.

This success is a result of the dedicated efforts of our faculty and staff to make learning and research possible while we worked to protect our campuses from COVID-19. All of you contributed to the budget reductions that were necessary as we prepared for a very challenging academic and fiscal year. As you know, there were no University contributions to retirement plans, and salaries were frozen for the year except for those staff and faculty covered by collective bargaining agreements. These significant financial sacrifices were painful for everyone, but they preserved jobs for many Boston University employees and made it possible for us to respond to emerging challenges.

Special Salary Increase

In recognition of the extraordinary effort of our faculty and staff and made possible by our better-than-anticipated financial performance, the University will implement a special across-the-board 2 percent salary and wage increase for all faculty and staff who are eligible to participate in the University’s annual merit process. The 2 percent increase for faculty will be administered through the annual faculty merit process for the 2020/2021 academic year and will be effective July 1, 2021. The 2 percent increase for staff will also be effective July 1, 2021. In addition, regular staff merit increases will be restored and granted effective January 1, 2022.

The special 2 percent merit increase applies generally to nonrepresented faculty and staff who received no increase last year as part of the hiring freeze, were employed as of January 1, 2021, and are still employed on July 1, 2021. More details about the program will be available soon from Human Resources.

We also are grateful for the significant contributions made by represented faculty and staff who received salary and wage increases last year or are currently in collective bargaining negotiations.

Planning for the Fall

Although COVID-19 will not be eradicated, high vaccination levels among members of the Boston University community (and others) will make possible a more typical fall semester. We are planning for relaxation of social distancing requirements and most other public health protocols, although we will likely continue to require mask-wearing in our classrooms as we begin the semester. Restrictions for students to move about on campus will be lifted, as will restrictions on visitors and guests.

We also are planning for a full complement of students, faculty, and staff. The undergraduate admissions deposit period concluded with a record yield. Nearly 32 percent of our offers of admission were accepted, with deposits up 34 percent from last year. We now expect a larger-than-planned freshman class, with the precise size dependent on the summer “melt” as other institutions accept students from their waitlists. The enrollments for the majority of our graduate programs also are on track to meet their targets. Of course, there is still concern over the ability of international students to obtain visas and travel to the United States to study.


Our success in restoring our campus to a new normal will depend on vaccination levels of our students, faculty, and staff. As you know, we have mandated vaccination for all our students returning to campus in the fall. I believe it is very important that our faculty and staff be vaccinated as well. We are holding walk-in vaccine clinics conveniently located right on campus this week and next week. Please see our COVID-19 Vaccination Information webpage for updated dates and times.

We also need to know your vaccination status in order to make reliable plans. The information is held in confidence by our medical staff and used only for statistical assessment of our progress in reaching vaccination goals. Your information is not shared with supervisors, colleagues, or management. If you have been vaccinated, please upload proof now in three easy steps through the Occupational Health Connect Portal.

As of this writing, we have 6,033 faculty and staff who have uploaded proof of full vaccination, just over 40 percent of our employee population. We need to raise this fraction very substantially.


We have lived through the worst pandemic in over a century. Because of your efforts, Boston University has navigated through it more successfully than we could have hoped. We are poised to move forward with confidence, as a leading residential research university with a Strategic Plan that defines our priorities and direction for the coming years.

Thank you for your unwavering support of our mission and each other during a time of high stress and many challenges. I hope you have a wonderful summer with your family and friends.


Robert A. Brown signature
Robert A. Brown