April 9, 2020: Summer 2020 Semester
Dear Students, Faculty and Staff:
I write to share with you an important update regarding the Summer 2020 semester. The most important consideration for me in making the following decision is our ability to safeguard the health and safety of students, faculty and staff members. After carefully considering and assessing the risks in their totality, the University will deliver coursework by remote learning and will not be offering face-to-face learning or on-campus living this summer.
I can assure you that this is a well-considered decision. Over the last couple of weeks, I have worked closely with the COVID-19 Task Force in evaluating our options with regards to the summer semester. The Task Force includes Michael Malmberg, Director of Environmental Health and Safety, who has connected us with infectious disease expertise throughout this public health crisis and informed us on the projected course of this disease. Additionally, I have conferred with our academic leaders and faculty to understand the implications of teaching summer semester remotely. I have received thoughtful recommendations and suggestions from our students that have informed my thinking as well.
I share with you some key factors informing the decision-making process. If we had decided to offer coursework on campus, we would have had students coming from approximately 27 different states and several foreign countries. Each of these states and countries are currently under differing orders and advisories for staying at home and are experiencing dynamic and varying infection levels peaking at different points in time. At present, Massachusetts is urging all travelers coming into the state to self-quarantine for a period of 14 days upon entry, which adds another logistical hurdle. Most concerning to me, as much as we would all like to get back to a sense of normalcy, is that returning to campus over the next few months presents the substantial risk for spreading the COVID-19 infection on campus. We considered carefully a hybrid model of splitting the summer between distance and face-to-face learning, but the risk of potential infection for faculty, staff and students is too high to pursue this option. The prudent and safest course is to offer distance learning.
The Office of Housing and Residential Life will be in contact with affected students about planning next steps, including those who still need to retrieve personal belongings and those currently residing in housing due to extenuating circumstances who will need to move out of our residence halls by April 22, 2020. Summer housing down payments will be applied towards students’ next tuition bills.
Students scheduled to be on a mandatory co-op this summer should contact their co-op advisers with any immediate concerns or questions. We will send a communication in the next few days regarding the University’s commitment to ensure our students successfully fulfill their upcoming mandatory co-op requirement because we know this is concerning to our students.
International students with immigration questions should reach out to International Student Services at (617) 989-4391 or (617) 989-4680.
We have decided to extend the adjusted grading policy allowing students the option of choosing a Pass/No Credit grade for each course that we implemented this spring into the Summer 2020 semester. As we get closer to the semester’s start, we will send you another communication on the extension of the policy and key deadlines associated with the policy this summer.
I understand that the decision regarding remote learning for the summer semester will provide a sense a relief for some of you and will dismay others of you. We are all living through an unprecedented time experiencing significant health challenges. I have witnessed firsthand the resilience of this community and how you have all adapted so quickly to our need to move to remote learning. I know we will emerge from this together stronger than ever because of your strength and determination.
As things stand now, we are not planning any changes to hold August 15-16 commencements for our spring and summer graduates. We know how important the commencement ceremony is to you and your families. We will continue to monitor what is happening with the pandemic with the hope that we can go forward as planned.
I am grateful to our faculty and staff who have come together to ensure that our students’ needs are met during this challenging time. I am thankful to our students for your understanding and patience as we continue to do our best to support you. It is my sincere hope that all of you and your families are well.
Mark A. Thompson, Ph.D.