June 15, 2020
Dear Members of the Boston College Community:
We write to you today to provide an update on planning efforts related to the fall reopening of campus and the return of faculty, staff, and students. As indicated in Fr. Leahy’s May 19 letter to the community, the University intends to return to on-campus instruction beginning August 31. Significant planning efforts have been underway since earlier this spring. Within the past two weeks, deans of our eight schools and colleges and vice presidents have weighed in with their emerging plans for the fall, and we have shared updates with our Board of Trustees. While we don’t have all of the details finalized, it is important to provide an update on how we intend to operate this fall.
The Reopening BC website will be the primary source of information for all members of the BC community. To keep you informed of the University’s latest plans, we will also provide a weekly Monday afternoon update via email from now through August. These emails, combined with regular updates on this website and additional communications from deans, vice presidents, and others during the next several weeks, will provide important information about our developing plans for a safe and successful reopening later this summer.
Recognizing that there are questions regarding University operations that can’t be answered in a single email, we will focus today on a few key areas with more to come in the following weeks.
Community Expectations and Personal Commitments
Education is a shared enterprise and requires a personal commitment from each community member to do their part in helping to limit the potential spread of COVID-19. Consistent with federal, state, and local guidelines, and as outlined more fully in the Boston College Guide for Returning to the Workplace, we anticipate that the University will operate under the following working guidelines for the fall.
Masks or Face Coverings
Each member of the community is expected to supply their own mask or face covering, which should be worn at all times outside of private offices or residence hall rooms where proper physical distancing cannot be maintained. Reusable masks should be cleaned daily.
All community members, including vendors and visitors, should follow recommendations regarding physical distancing, both inside and outside of buildings.
Each community member is expected to wash their hands frequently and properly (e.g. for 20 seconds with soap and water) or use hand sanitizer (with at least 60% alcohol content). Further, coughs and sneezes should be covered by a tissue or the inside of an elbow if a tissue is not available.
Testing and Contact Tracing
Testing and contact tracing will be a central component of our on-campus experience this fall. Further details will be released in the coming weeks as plans are finalized.
Each community member is expected to monitor themselves for symptoms of COVID-19 on a daily basis. Any individual who is symptomatic should not come to school or work and should contact their primary care provider (faculty, staff, and graduate students) or University Health Services (undergraduate students).
Given that all international travel destinations are considered Level 3 by the CDC, University-sponsored international travel continues to be prohibited. Domestic travel should be limited and requires the approval of the Provost, EVP, or President.
Meetings and Gatherings
Outside of in-person class sessions, meetings that can be held virtually should continue to be held virtually, and large gatherings should be avoided.
We look forward to beginning the school year in late August with on-campus, in-class instruction, which supports the formative educational experience that is central to Boston College’s mission. Faculty, deans, and colleagues across campus are hard at work this summer preparing courses for the fall semester. To accommodate those students who will be unable to return to campus, and those faculty who are at higher risk for infection due to preexisting health issues, age, or pregnancy, we will offer–in addition to our on-campus, in-class courses–a mix of synchronous remote and fully online, asynchronous courses. Additional details will be shared later in the summer.
The classroom environment will be somewhat different this fall in order to reduce the risk to students and faculty. Changes that will impact the daily experience include:
- Classrooms that will seat fewer students – In consultation with professionals from our Environmental Health & Safety and Space Planning teams, we are working on options for de-densifying classrooms. Additional details will be shared in the coming weeks.
- Teaching zones at the front of each class – This space will provide sufficient room for faculty to move about while maintaining a safe distance from the front row of students.
- Cleaning and sanitizing classrooms – Classrooms will be cleaned and sanitized every night, and cleaning materials such as disinfecting wipes will be made available for students and faculty to use in sanitizing their own work areas.
- Face coverings – Students and faculty will be expected to wear face coverings during class and while travelling between classes.
Fall Study Abroad
After much consideration, Boston College has made the difficult decision to cancel all fall 2020 study abroad programs, including both internal and external programs. This decision was based on a firm commitment to student health and safety, and took into account travel and visa restrictions, ongoing CDC guidance related to limiting international travel, and the likelihood that COVID-19 would prevent our international partners from offering a truly immersive experience.
Personal Protective Equipment
As mentioned, the University expects faculty, staff, and students to bring their own face coverings to campus. Students will be able to purchase replacement face coverings in the BC Bookstore. Additionally, masks are being procured for use by students in clinical placements and for individuals working in research labs.
Guidance has been provided to vice presidents, deans, and vice provosts about requests to modify work areas to accommodate physical distancing. A working group has been assembled to review these requests and prioritize them in light of other potential mitigating options.
Enhanced Cleaning Protocols
In compliance with guidelines from the CDC and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, the University has been and will continue to implement enhanced cleaning and sanitizing protocols across campus. Classrooms, restrooms, and common areas will be cleaned and disinfected daily. In addition, high-touch services such as door handles, elevator buttons, railings, and public bathroom fixtures will be cleaned frequently throughout the day.
The BC Facilities team has begun installing hand sanitizing stations in public areas around campus, and will continue this effort throughout the summer. In addition, sanitizing wipe dispensers will be installed in classroom buildings and high traffic/touch areas.
We look forward to providing additional information in the coming weeks.
In the meantime, thank you for your patience and understanding as we work to provide the best teaching and learning environments for our students and faculty on a campus committed to the health and well-being of all members of the BC community.