May 6, 2021
We have reached May and the end of the Spring Semester. In just over a week, we will celebrate Commencement for our 2021 graduates and then turn the corner into Summer Term. I appreciate all your efforts, under very difficult circumstances, to advance the education of our students and keep our research programs running. The University has continued to move forward even during these trying times.
With the warmer spring weather and with a growing number of vaccinated people in our community and in the city and the state, the daily cases of COVID-19 on our campus have begun to decrease. We can see a new normal emerging in the not-too-distant future.
The state also is beginning to react to the falling infection rates. First, state officials relaxed the mask mandate beginning last week. Importantly, they have announced that by August 1 they plan to lift the state of emergency. Our Fall Semester begins in July with the return to campus of new medical and dental students and ramps up in August with the return of the rest of our student body.
It is time that we plan for a near normal Fall Semester and begin to have faculty and staff return to our campuses. I have asked the administrative and academic leadership to start the process of bringing our staff back to campus with the goal of achieving 50 percent staffing levels by June 14, in line with current state and city guidelines. We anticipate the public occupancy standards to be adjusted upward, allowing for more people to return to campus, with likely full population of the campus before the end of August.
Given the growing availability of vaccines, our setting this date approximately six weeks in the future should give everyone the time needed to be vaccinated. I am very pleased that the University is able to hold a vaccine clinic this week; please see the story in BU Today . I am hopeful that we will continue to be able to make vaccinations available on campus in the coming months.
I know that many who are vaccinated are still concerned about being in settings with unvaccinated coworkers, students, and visitors. As we have reported before, we have seen no evidence of disease spread in either offices or classrooms on campus. Although we will have increasing numbers of people in our buildings leading up to the fall, this impact will be offset by vaccination and our testing protocols. As you know, we are continuing our very successful protocols of testing and contact tracing through the summer, using the same testing cadence that we used during the academic year.
Except for those with religious and medical exemptions, we have mandated vaccination for all our students starting in the fall. While we have not mandated vaccination for faculty and staff, we strongly advise that you get vaccinated both to protect your health and to protect colleagues who will work in the same environment.
After you are vaccinated, please upload your vaccination information into the Healthway portal. It is essential as we plan for the summer and fall that we have accurate information about vaccination numbers for our community. As of May 1, we had over 7,200 community members reporting that they are fully vaccinated, including over 3,400 faculty, staff, and affiliates. We hope this number will grow substantially with the convenience of vaccination clinics on campus.
As we begin returning our staff to campus, I have asked our leaders to be sensitive to staff members with child care and senior care obligations that cannot be easily resolved by June 14 and to work with these employees to help them make the transition to on-campus work.
We will hold a livestreamed Town Meeting for faculty and staff on June 2 from 10:00 to 11:30 am during which we will describe our initiative to repopulate our campuses and answer questions. More information about the Town Meeting will be forthcoming as we get closer to this date.
In June, it will be 15 months since we vacated our campus in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. We started the repopulation last September as we brought back students and a fraction of our faculty and staff. Looking forward to next September, all our students will be back and in-person learning will fully resume on our campuses.
I hope you join in my excitement about seeing our residential University fully restored. I appreciate everything you are doing to continue to make Boston University a special place for learning, teaching, and research.
Robert A. Brown