Campus, Coronavirus, News

University announces temporary switch to online classes

In an email to the Boston University community Wednesday, President Robert Brown announced that classes will be held online from March 16 to April 13 as a result of the ongoing coronavirus outbreak.

In addition to moving classes online, the university advised students to not return to campus if possible. Dining halls and residence halls will remain open for students who are not able to travel home.

The announcement comes in the wake of the closure of several other Boston-area universities such as Harvard University, Tufts University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

“Our first priority is to ensure the health and well-being of our community, while also making sure that our students are able to complete their courses and advance their progress toward graduation, while preparing contingencies to ensure the functioning of our campus operations,” Brown wrote in the email. 

In a letter by Jean Morrison, provost and chief academic officer for BU, students will be continuing classes online in accordance with the university’s remote teaching plan, which was sent to university faculty and staff Monday.

“If the University were required to close or otherwise cease all in-person meetings, it is our expectation that faculty will find the best approach to continue offering course content,” Morrison wrote in her letter. “The goal of this plan is to ensure awareness of the core technological tools we have in place for remote teaching, and to ensure that each school and college has the resources and knowledge required to support faculty in using these tools.”

No guests will be allowed in dorms, and students will only have swipe access to their own buildings. The university discourages all “informal gatherings in student rooms, suites, and apartments,” according to an email sent to the BU Community by Director of BU Housing Nishmin Kashyap.

Dining halls will be open but no self-service options will be available, and all meals will be served on and with disposable items.

Colin Riley, a BU spokesperson, said the decision made by the university is the best protocol at the moment.

“It’s the right decision by BU, at least at this point,” Riley said. “It gives us an opportunity to be flexible and see what happens in the next couple of weeks.”

Riley also said that the university will notify students of any changes in their policy sometime in the beginning of April, if not sooner. Setting the date of April 13 as the return to campus and in-person classes was intentional, Riley said, as it gives the university more time to monitor the spread of the virus.

As for the complaints from students regarding their susceptibility to the virus, Riley said this caution exercised on the university’s part is in students’ best interest and that BU will continue to put students’ well-being first.

“I was young once and I probably would have felt the same way,” Riley said. “I understand those [students] and at same time we have the responsibility of watching out for student safety, and that’s our highest priority and we’ll continue to make decisions based on that.”

In accordance with previous announcements regarding travel, “domestic and international travel by faculty, staff, and students, supported by funds administered by the University, is suspended,” according to Brown’s email. Additionally, all non-academic gatherings on campus will be canceled, with exceptions for research activities with fewer than 10 individuals.

Currently, there are no reported cases of coronavirus among BU students. However, one student at BU Academy has contracted the virus and is currently quarantined. 

Each undergraduate college has a faculty member designated to help facilitate the transition to online teaching, according to a BU Today article. The continuation of classes such as labs, which require hands-on teaching and learning, will be handled on a case-by-case basis.

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