March 12, 2021
Dear Boston University Students and Parents,
It has been a long year in Boston with COVID-19, but Boston University has fared well as we move toward the halfway point of the spring semester. To ensure that our students could continue to make academic progress, we implemented extraordinary measures. Our campuses reopened last fall with stringent public health protocols in place, including our best-in-class COVID-19 community testing program by which all members of our community who were present on campus were tested weekly and undergraduate students were tested twice per week. To date we have performed nearly 800,000 PCR tests to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Our systems have worked; we are now planning for what we hope will be a more normal semester next fall.
I am writing you to describe how we envision life and learning on campus starting in September. This vision is offered with significant caveats because there are still unknowns, many outside the control of the University.
As vaccine distribution increases, we are assuming that by fall all members of our community (students, staff, and faculty) who wish to be vaccinated against COVID-19, either will have already been vaccinated or can be vaccinated at Boston University, once they arrive in Boston before the start of the semester. We are also assuming that the diminished presence of the disease worldwide will allow for the resumption of international travel and the more routine issuance of student visas so that our international students may return.
The expected efficacy of the vaccines and comprehensive immunization will make possible the full return to learning in our classrooms, studios, and laboratories without the social distancing protocols that have been in use since last September. We do not plan to continue to offer our classes in the Learn from Anywhere (LfA) format except in some very specific graduate programs; these will be announced in the coming weeks.
The return to more typical campus life will also include resumption of policies that enable students to move freely among residence halls, the return to operation of our dining halls at full capacity, and, more generally, the use of social and public spaces for their intended purposes. I expect the vibrant campus life that we cherish will fully return.
But as campus life resumes, we are mindful that COVID-19 will not have been eradicated. We will continue to be vigilant, recognizing the potential for new variants of the virus to reduce the efficacy of vaccines. Because of this possibility, we will continue our community testing program at some level. The details of this testing program and other public health protocols that may be needed will be announced during the summer as we get closer to the fall and as we learn more about the evolution of COVID-19.
We all yearn for a return to a post-COVID normalcy and for restoration of all elements of our wonderful living and learning campus environment at Boston University. This fall, we will take a giant step in that direction.
Robert A. Brown