Boston University President Robert Brown announced in an email to students and parents Friday that the University plans to hold in-person classes this Fall, citing increased vaccination distribution.
The announcement comes less than six months before the Fall semester, and a year and one day after BU announced the transition to online learning last Spring.
“As vaccine distribution increases,” Brown wrote, “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.”
However, Brown cited a need for caution as the University plans for the future.
“As campus life resumes, we are mindful that COVID-19 will not have been eradicated,” he wrote. “We will continue to be vigilant, recognizing the potential for new variants of the virus to reduce the efficacy of vaccines.”
Because of the risks posed by COVID-19 variants, Brown noted BU’s COVID-19 testing program will continue to some degree.
Brown added the University’s Learn from Anywhere program will be suspended except for select graduate programs. Students will also be able to travel freely between BU residences, dining halls will operate at full capacity and social and public spaces can be used.
BU spokesperson Colin Riley said the decision was based on current projections for vaccinating the U.S. population.
“I think we’re recognizing that the vaccination rollout timeframe will reach the people who are most at risk of getting seriously ill or worse,” he said, “long before the Fall semester begins.”
Riley noted BU is planning for the Fall semester based on guidance from epidemiologists in the Medical Advisory Group on campus, as well as information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.
“We all want to get back to our pre-COVID lives,” Riley said, “where, as a human being, you are healthier and better for it to have daily social interactions.”
He added the University was also prioritizing students’ educational needs with the decision.
“Certainly from an academic perspective,” Riley said, “we know that the best way to continue your education is to be in a class with your peers, with your classmates and your faculty members.”
College of Arts and Sciences sophomore Puturen Sungti Amer said he was “a bit skeptical” after reading Brown’s email.
“I think it’s probably too ambitious,” Amer said.
Amer said although he is definitely looking forward to being more social, he thinks it will take a collective effort to make in-person learning successful.
“I think if people and if the students are responsible, and if we are more conscious about really moving forward and improving and eradicating the pandemic in general,” Amer said, “then I think it will be, in a way, successful.”
Gladys Vargas, a junior in the College of Communication, said she had anticipated the return in-person classes.
“I feel like I should have been more surprised than I was,” they said. “But for some reason it made a lot of sense to me because I know they have to make these decisions really far in advance.”
Vargas said she hopes the University will be mindful of the reopening, but based on the administration’s COVID-19 response this year, they have trust that the University can adjust its plans if need be.
“I just hope they’re careful,” Vargas said, “ I have a feeling they will be because of the way they have handled things, and they care capable of making quick changes if they need to.”
While Vargas said they appreciated a return to normalcy, they hope the changes toward inclusivity during the pandemic are not left behind.
“I’m glad that we’re back to ‘normal’ in a way for the Fall,” Vargas said, “but I really do want people to make the effort to keep a lot of the accommodations and accessibility stuff they might have learned over the pandemic.”
However, she added she was optimistic for the coming school year and welcomed a return to a traditional college experience.
“I want to believe in this and in a normal senior year,” Vargas said. “I have hope.”