With this spring semester now drawing to a close, The Daily Free Press editorial board took a step back to evaluate the “State of the University” and look back on some of the issues and events that have shaped life at Boston University in what is — arguably — the first post-pandemic semester.
Going into the semester, one would’ve assumed that COVID-19 would continue to be a major piece of daily life. And while that’s still true for some people and in some situations, when compared to the recent semesters this spring has probably resembled the most “normal” college experience that most students have seen so far.
All things considered, BU’s administrators were able to navigate the transition from the pandemic semester to something resembling a normal period. They accomplished this transition while also maintaining some of the pandemic measures, like free testing and masking in classes.
Some things, though, were not handled nearly as well. Our isolation housing seemingly has never been fully thought out or properly executed. Students are forced into accepting zeroes on final exams because of the school’s lack of accommodations for those in isolation housing. This falls in line with BU’s insistence upon making all classes in-person.
While many other schools were forced to go remote at some point in the semester and some other schools decided to eliminate testing for students, the University has thus far walked the line between these two modes of thinking elsewhere in higher education.
The Daily Free Press has revealed multiple cases of alleged professor and faculty misconduct throughout this semester and last fall. In many cases documented this year, most recently and notably with the allegations raised against College of Communication assistant professor Christophor Cavalieri, results of internal investigations that may have revealed potential misconduct were not shared publicly.
Even if this is a common practice within higher education it’s one that maybe ought to be reconsidered.
In COM Dean Mariette DiChristina’s letter to students following the release of the investigation into Cavalieri, DiChristina explained how the school’s policies relating to confidentiality forbid them from revealing what the University found in its investigation of Cavalieri.
This is understandable but if a university potentially has information that reveals that some students may be in an unsafe environment, they have a moral obligation to disclose that information to their student body. It’s unknown what kind of information BU has found in its internal investigations, or if it has any knowledge of this sort, but its practices create a possibility for this to happen.
Students expect transparency from their university when dealing with allegations of sexual misconduct. When their university in turn behaves like Morgan Stanley, refusing to give up information, you can assume distrust will build.
These allegations brought to light by The Daily Free Press are not something unique to BU. All institutions of a certain age and a certain size will have skeletons in their closet. Many universities have dealt with these issues in the past, look to Harvard for a recent example.
Another high-profile event from the semester was the University’s struggles with over enrollment. That oversight has resulted in a multitude of headaches for students. It’s meant that fewer students have been allowed by BU Housing to change rooms as well as some other less-serious impacts like overcrowding on transportation and in common areas.
For the incoming freshman class in the fall of 2022, the university said that it’s employing “yield production models” to prevent it from happening again. But given that the university has allowed this to happen for three semesters in a row, it’s unclear whether they’ve gotten a handle on the situation yet or if these “models” will actually solve the problem.
Despite President Robert Brown saying publicly that over enrollment is “bad for the university,” there are some clear financial benefits to adding more to your student body, so who knows how committed they are to solving this problem.
Overall, the “State of the University” is good. BU certainly has room for improvement, but there’s signs that things will get better. Look to the Student Health Services for example, early in the year there were complaints about staffing shortages and high wait times. For the most part, students are now reporting more satisfactory experiences with SHS.
There are problems to solve and hopefully BU is listening and will work to solve them.
Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly quoted BU spokesperson Colin Riley as saying that the University was overenrolled by 4,000 students, this has been removed.