Staying safe and healthy, our shared responsibility

August 28, 2020

Dear Boston University Students,

The fall semester is about to start. Many of you have already moved back to your on- or off-campus residences over the last two weeks, and all will be here by the end of the coming weekend. You can feel the energy returning as we resume living and learning on campus. As you return to Boston or join us for the first time, you are entering a new and different environment.

Leveraging our resources as a research university, we have developed the systems and protocols to monitor and damp the spread of COVID-19 in our community. Our required practices for physical distancing, face covering, and hygiene are highly visible in our signage and daily communications. We have developed one of the most comprehensive testing and contact tracing systems in place at any university. These changes in our environment are readily evident.

The most important change—one that is less physically evident but absolutely critical—is in what each of us does to ensure we succeed in protecting our community and each other.

We all share a responsibility for the well-being of the Boston University community.

To keep the virus at bay, we all must do the following three things:

  1. We must adhere to the testing and daily symptom reporting processes. This is critical. Each test not taken, each attestation not filed or submitted with inaccurate responses, is a hole in the net we have built to catch the disease before it spreads. Each hole leaves us needlessly vulnerable.
  2. We must adhere to the protocols for face coverings and physical distancing at all gatherings, both on campus in our classrooms, laboratories, dining halls and residences, and off campus.
  3. We must follow these protocols outside the University. Attending parties or other gatherings without practicing physical distancing or wearing face coverings is behavior that endangers the entire academic community and threatens our ability to maintain our in-person learning and residential community.

We have all read of the failures at the University of North Carolina and Notre Dame last week. Our testing protocols are far more extensive than the protocols in place at these two universities and those of most other institutions. But testing is not enough. At both institutions, the starting points for the spread of COVID-19 were off-campus parties that are typically associated with the start of the fall semester on or near a college campus.

You have the power to prevent that from happening at BU. Please be wise. Avoid large parties, and when you do get together with people, stick to small groups, wear masks, and assume responsibility for your health and the health of everyone around you.

Our ability to maintain our residential university—and the fulfilling campus experience that goes with that—depend on you. At no time in the history of Boston University has our ability to accomplish our missions of teaching and research been so dependent on the actions of each and every member of our community. Our processes and protocols are in place. We are beginning to live in the new normal that will continue until an effective vaccine is widely available. Together, we can show others how a well-developed plan, based on science and implemented by a focused academic community, can overcome COVID-19 and reestablish the living and learning community that defines Boston University.

I am counting on all of you to be responsible members of the Boston University community. I look forward to seeing you on campus.


Robert A. Brown signature
Robert A. Brown