By Grace Ferguson
The spring semester will look a lot like the fall semester.
That’s one key takeaway from last week’s Back2BU Virtual Meetings. University officials gathered via Zoom on Thursday and Saturday to answer questions about what to expect this spring.
BU officials revealed that they have already started to plan for COVID-19 vaccine distribution, if and when one becomes available. Officials did not provide any more details.
But even with a COVID-19 vaccine on the way, the pandemic will be far from over this January, and some students have expressed concern about BU transitioning to fully remote learning in response to rising case numbers on or off campus.
Judy Platt, Director of SHS, said that, in any decision like this, the university won’t depend on any single metric, like the positive rate or daily case numbers. This has been the university’s approach for the fall semester as well.
“So, there isn’t a set number to say, ‘At this point we will make a shift,’ but it’s really collectively looking at what’s going on within our own university and what’s going on within the city,” Platt said.
For the few weeks after Thanksgiving, Platt said that members of the BU community should increase their testing frequency. For example, students who usually take two tests a week should take three.
Platt expects that the risk COVID-19 transmission will be higher after Thanksgiving, when people will be gathering indoors for long and maskless meals with people outside their household.
Despite BU’s warnings of how dangerous these situations can be, about a quarter of BU students living on campus plan to travel for the Thanksgiving break and return before the end of the semester. The university has urged students to stay on campus through the break or go home and stay there until January.
One student asked about the potential for losing their belongings if the university doesn’t return to in-person classes in the spring. In March of this year, after BU switched to fully online instruction, the university contracted with outside companies to pack, store, and ship student belongings left in the dorms. But some students never got their belongings back, or found them damaged in poorly packed boxes.
Vice President for Auxiliary Services Peter Smokowski said that students who are concerned about losing belongings should pack up their room before they leave.
On the topic of spring housing, Smokowski said that about 800 students who weren’t living on campus for the fall have signed residence license agreements for the spring.
Meanwhile, he said that it is very likely that BU Housing will approve requests from students who lived on campus in the fall semester but want to move out for the spring.
Boxes and tape are available in residence life offices for those students who want to store or ship their belongings.
One part of spring semester that still isn’t clear is graduation.
“We are hopeful and we want to be able to make good on all of this,” said Dean of Students Kenneth Elmore. “But the times and what’s happening may matter. We’ve been silent on it for sure, but we don’t want to outright cancel anything just yet. You just don’t know. One thing I’ve learned with COVID is things change, and you just don’t know until you know. I wish we could be more definitive about that, but that’s the best we can do right now.”