Dear faculty colleagues,
In a summer that has featured far too many emails from me, I ask your indulgence for one final Monday letter from Waul House as the semester begins.
I hope you were able to spend some time with friends and loved ones over the last several months. Time away from campus helped remind me of what matters most and why we’re called, with a particular urgency, to teach and engage with our students---whether in person or remotely---this semester.
This is the 23rd first day of classes that I’ve been a part of as a member of the Boston College community, and it’s unlike any of my first 22. Masks, physical distancing, and all the new protocols of our 2020 campus life are going to take some getting used to. We’ll certainly run into some challenges in the coming days and weeks, but the hard work and commitment of so many across campus have put us in a good position to start the term.
Like so many of you, over the last few months I’ve been grappling with what this moment requires of us. Our work as educators this fall demands that we recognize the enormous historical forces that have upended our individual and collective lives over the past six months. The students we’re blessed to have in our classes are looking for models for how to respond to this ongoing pandemic with grace and humanity. All of us are called to engage in meaningful ways with the national reckoning regarding race and justice that has only intensified in recent days. This provost points proudly to the football team and coaches for their modeling last week a collective conversation about race and our responsibility to the common good. I hope that when our students someday look back on their experiences in our classrooms this semester, they will recognize the range of graceful, imaginative, and principled approaches their Boston College professors took in answering these demands of the moment.
I look forward to further in-person and virtual conversations with many of you as the semester unfolds. For now, let me note that after too many months of life on a quiet campus, it’s great to be back doing what we do best---teaching and learning in our vibrant community.
Good luck, and a sincere thank you for all that you are doing for our students and for one another.
BC University Health Services (UHS) conducts contact tracing for BC students according to guidelines established by the Massachusetts Department of Health and local municipalities (Boston, Newton, and Brookline). The names of any students who may be identified as positive for COVID-19, and those to be quarantined as close contacts of positive cases, must be kept confidential per federal privacy regulations (HIPAA and FERPA), except for notification to the Massachusetts Department of Health, local departments of health, UHS, and select administrators responsible for providing quarantine and isolation accommodations. This process leads to more rapid identification of close contacts for quarantine and potential further isolation.
Our announced academic calendar for the 2020 fall semester calls for classes to begin on August 31 and end on December 10, with the last final exam day scheduled for December 21. We intend to be flexible and prudent with regard to the semester schedule and make adjustments in late October if necessary, including the possibility of having students return home at Thanksgiving and complete their last two weeks of classes and final exams from home. Decisions will be guided by public health considerations, with the safety and well-being of our students and community members being our paramount concern.
The University will be following CDC guidance as we plan for classroom utilization. In line with that approach, recent guidance from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts for K-12 schools recommends all students and faculty wear masks at all times and a three-foot “desk-to-desk” distance be maintained, which is the guideline we will be using in most of our classrooms. In the majority of our rooms, we are able to achieve 50% capacity while following the K-12 guidelines. A major exception is some of our fixed-seat auditoriums --- those seats are too close together to allow for 50% utilization. For these rooms, the University has determined appropriate layouts that maintain safe distances: actual capacities depend on specific room conformation, but generally fall below 50%. This is one of the reasons we have moved most of our large lectures to an online delivery mode.
Additionally, we will be mandating a number of other practices to help ensure that our classrooms remain safe and healthy learning environments, starting with cleaning. Every classroom will be deep-cleaned each night prior to a teaching day. Sanitizing wipe dispensers will be installed in (or just outside of) every classroom as well, and faculty and students will be asked to disinfect their individual spaces before and after class to protect themselves and others in the community.
Within the classroom, masks or other face coverings will be required for all faculty and students at all times. Clear face shields may be worn, but only in combination with a regular mask – they are not considered an acceptable substitute. Additionally, desks will be placed in an optimized pattern determined to maximize distance, and should not be rearranged by students or faculty. The pattern will include an eight- to nine-foot “teaching zone” which will allow faculty members freedom of movement while maintaining a safe distance from students, all of whose desks will be facing forward (towards the teaching wall). We are working to ensure that all larger rooms are equipped with appropriate sound amplification as well, as trial runs this summer have shown that masks inhibit vocal production. Students will be assigned seats in each class and faculty members will take attendance in order to facilitate potential contact tracing should a person in the classroom test positive for the coronavirus.
Finally, we will be asking all faculty to record (and, where pedagogically appropriate, live-broadcast) their in-class lectures and activities using either the installed Lecture Capture system, laptop-based personal Lecture Capture, or other technologies like Zoom. We will also be asking every student, faculty, and staff member on campus to do a personal health self-assessment every day, using an app that the University will select. The combination of these self-assessments and the course recordings and/or broadcasts will help reinforce for students that, although class attendance remains as valuable and important as ever, they should only attend class in-person if they feel healthy and well that day.
We believe this combination of practices, combined with the University’s approach to testing, contact tracing, and quarantine/isolation, and investments in improved HVAC systems, should make BC’s classrooms—and campus—as safe as possible given the challenging conditions imposed by Covid-19.
Many of you have been asking for additional information about the classroom environment. We’ve prepared some resources to help you acclimate to teaching on-campus this fall:
- A classroom FAQ document, which describes the rigorous procedures and protocols which will need to be followed in order to ensure our learning environments remain safe for instructors and students;
- An accompanying classroom video walkthrough, which pairs descriptions of classroom procedures with pictures and video taken in two classrooms already set up as they will be in the fall; and
- A new classroom data website (requires login), which will provide an opportunity for you to get familiar with any new teaching locations. Please note that this was a project already underway in response to faculty requests for easier-to-access data about classrooms, and so most of the information there is “pre-Covid”. However, the pictures will still give you a sense of the classroom size and the layout of the boards and technology, and we have added a link to a spreadsheet that contains updated information on each room, including its current Covid capacity (typically around 50% of normal) as well as any upgraded technology, such as built-in Lecture Capture.
- Finally, the Center for Teaching Excellence (CTE) remains available to help you get your course ready for fall. In addition to their introductory Adaptable Blended Instruction (ABI) workshop (now a single 90-minute session), they’re also offering supplemental sessions on particular teaching questions and technologies. Log into MyBC to see the upcoming workshop schedule (if you don’t see any events, click “Sign In” in the upper right hand corner.) And if you haven’t yet, enroll yourself in the ABI Canvas course to get started. For more information, see the CTE's ABI Support page.
- Rather than a “one size fits all” approach, Boston College’s Space Planning group, in consultation with our Environmental Health & Safety team, individually analyzed each classroom or teaching space to determine a safe number of students. After setting aside a “teaching zone” in the front of the classroom, we are testing different layouts to maximize the number of seats while maintaining appropriate physical distance between students, and between faculty and the first row of students.
- Some classes will be assigned spaces large enough to accommodate the entire class; others may only be large enough to allow for a portion of the class to meet in-person at a time. Some very large classes will move on-line and have their rooms reassigned.
Students who were unable to be physically present on-campus were offered the opportunity to continue their studies remotely through a mix of synchronous remote and fully online, asynchronous courses. Students who are on-campus but unable to attend class in person due to sickness or quarantine, and fully remote students, may also elect to participate in select, on-campus courses synchronously.
Faculty should be flexible with respect to classroom attendance. Students who get quarantined because of illness or as a precaution should be allowed to make-up classes or attend them remotely. In addition, students attending class remotely may not be able to participate synchronously at all times.
Papers, projects, exams, and quizzes should be submitted in electronic format as much as possible to minimize handling of paper. The CTE and University Libraries can assist in identifying tools and best practices to reduce the use of paper in the classroom.
Yes. The bookstore will be open and operating this fall, and is prepared to support faculty in securing appropriate class materials. Because there may be delays in procuring books and other educational materials, please plan to get your order to the bookstore as early as possible. Students may face long lines accessing the bookstore during the first few weeks back on campus. We urge all instructors to consider alternate options for required materials - your librarians are available to assist with procuring electronic resources.
Yes. The libraries are planning to be open their usual hours this fall. For health reasons, library seating capacity will be somewhat more limited than usual—however, librarians will be available for faculty and student consultation through a number of in-person and electronic channels, many of which are already up and running.
During this emergency period, close to half of the books in the BC Libraries collection will be available digitally online in their entirety because of our participation in the HathiTrust Emergency Temporary Access Service. Access is from the usual Libraries search. Due to copyright restrictions, print books cannot be circulated if they are available via HathiTrust. See the Q&As for more information.
Every effort is being made to make all course reserves available digitally. In some cases, the libraries will license digital copies of books (ebooks). In others, portions may be digitized using Fair Use guidelines, and print materials will be taken out of circulation. Some cases will require that students purchase their own copies of books that in the past were placed on reserve in one of the libraries. More on Course Reserves.
Library Building Access
In late August, all libraries plan to reopen for the BC community, but some will have reduced hours. Libraries will require face coverings, and there will be reduced seating capacity to aid in social distancing.
Subject Liaisons are eager to assist faculty with online course content, content strategies, and customized library presentations for classes (e.g. how to use research databases, citation management). Students, now more than ever, should schedule online consultations with librarians or use our online reference services or subject specific research guides.
Faculty are invited to request Burns Library in-person and virtual class visits tailored to their syllabi using Burns Library materials.
As always, faculty should consider utilizing library resources to make their courses more affordable. More on Affordable Course Materials.
Digital Scholarship and Data
Online data creation, manipulation and visualization is well suited to the current hybrid learning environment. Our Digital Scholarship staff can assist with data and tools, provide computational spaces and instruction by appointment, and guide the creation of class websites and digital projects.
While library printers will remain online, the library has asked that all faculty minimize the amount of printing required to reduce congestion around the machines as well your need to handle papers. If you have any questions about how to shift from paper-based approaches to electronic formats, please consult your librarian or the CTE.
For health and safety reasons, the library is asking all faculty to minimize the use of physical course reserves this fall. They will be happy to work with you to identify electronic alternatives or provide scanned chapters (within copyright limitations).
Ventilation and filtration provided by heating, ventilating, and air-conditioning systems can reduce the airborne concentration of SARS-CoV-2 and thus the risk of transmission through the air.
Droplets are the primary method of COVID-19 transmission and building HVAC systems are a low-risk method of transmission. Increasing outside air ventilation can only be done based on system type and outside conditions. Building systems vary widely across campus and we have followed guidelines to increase the amount of fresh air, ventilation, and exhaust for buildings. Some buildings have no air conditioning and can only be ventilated by opening windows. Building security is essential so please do not prop exterior or fire doors open.
We are upgrading HVAC system filters based upon CDC guidelines and increasing filtration to MERV 13 or higher in buildings with central air systems. Our building HVAC systems are maintained on preventative maintenance schedules that include operational checks and filter changes. Prior to re-opening, building HVAC systems will be purged, checked and set to the normal operating settings for temperature and humidity, based on occupancy schedules.
Best practices for preventing the spread of COVID-19 remain to practice social distancing, hand hygiene, universal masking, and surface cleaning.
Facilities Services has been operating and flushing the water distribution lines, and flushing building water systems will be performed prior to occupancy. We have tested hot water temperatures to ensure they are the maximum allowed by law and have maximized push button faucet run times. In some cases you may need to push buttons more than once. We will not replace existing fixtures with automatic models. Please see CDC Guidelines for hand washing.
While current scientific literature suggests that genetic material associated with the virus can be found in close proximity to toilets, there is little evidence that this material is both viable and infectious. The most important aspects for preventing infection continue to be washing hands, avoiding touching your face and maintaining social distancing while in the bathroom. As part of BC’s safety protocols for COVID-19, the cleaning schedule of bathrooms in reopened buildings will be increased.
Custodial Services will continue to perform normal as well as enhanced cleaning and disinfecting tasks in all serviced buildings. Many tasks will be standardized and others specialized based upon the function of your building. Enhanced cleaning includes more frequent high touch point disinfecting, such as light switches, door knobs/handles, elevator buttons, handrails, water bottle fillers and in bathrooms. The bubbler part of all water fountains has been temporarily disabled. According to the CDC, there is no evidence suggesting you can be infected with COVID-19 through drinking water. All disinfectants we use are EPA registered.
Most custodial cleaning occurs during the overnight hours but some shifts have been adjusted to provide more visibility and coverage during the normal business day. In the event of a positive case, affected sites will be closed down, deep cleaned and disinfected before reopening.
All employees/departments have been asked to assist in the cleaning/disinfecting of individual work areas, keyboards, telephones, copiers, kitchens and other office areas and were provided with an initial stock of university required cleaning materials.
Additionally, department staff are responsible for disinfecting conference rooms between meetings. Please use only those materials as recommended by the manufacturer, especially on screens and electronics. Departments are being provided with an initial stock of cleaning supplies. Departments are responsible for maintaining an adequate stock of these supplies and reorder directions will be provided soon.
The feasibility of installing plexiglass shields in high-traffic areas has been explored. As a result of extended discussions and evaluations of pilot locations, installing plexiglass shields offers minimal additional protection beyond what is provided through BC’s masking, social distancing and symptom screening requirements. When combined with the fact that these shields would also require regular cleaning to maintain effectiveness against the potential transmission of illness, BC is recommending very limited installation of plexiglass shields at this time. Your departmental leadership and administrative staff have been instrumental partners in requesting and determining specific locations and needs. Any questions should be directed to them.
Cleaning is defined as using soap and water to remove dirt and impurities. Disinfecting is defined as killing germs on a surface. Routine cleaning is defined as our standard cleaning and disinfecting process. Enhanced cleaning is defined as disinfecting high-touch surfaces.
Clean commonly touched surfaces several times per day; this includes lab benches, lab equipment, desks, phones, remote controls, printers, fax machines, computer mouses, and keyboards. Always use cleaning products as recommended on manufacturer labels, including wearing disposable gloves where directed. University conference rooms will be cleaned and disinfected by Custodial Services once per day. Departments controlling conference rooms are responsible to clean table tops and high touch surfaces after each use.
To facilitate the return to work, the University has delivered more than 350 start-up kits to office locations throughout the campus. Each kit includes 12 quarts of disinfectant, a spray nozzle, and two packages of paper towels along with instructions for their use. Going forward, the University recommends that departments or units purchase EPA-registered disinfectants such as multi-surface spray cleaners or single-use disinfectant wipes through the standard office supply purchasing process. If your department didn't receive a start-up kit, please request one by submitting a Facilities Work Ticket.
Hand sanitizers have been placed in high traffic areas/lobbies where soap and water are not immediately convenient. Disposable wipe dispensers will be placed in select high volume building entry points and classrooms and are meant to be used to wipe down high touch surfaces before they are used, especially between classes. The sanitizer liquid and wipes both meet CDC guidelines for effectiveness.
These items have been placed in the highest need areas and Facilities Custodial Services will check/refill them daily. If you find anything empty, call Facilities Services Work Order Center at 2-3048 (between 6:00 a.m. 6:00 p.m. Monday through Friday). After hours, call Campus Police Non-Emergency at 2-4440. For immediate needs, please take wipes from an adjacent classroom and call in a refill request. Please remember there is no substitute for frequently washing your hands with soap and water.
Yes. Since BC’s COVID-19 response in March, Facilities Management has provided clear instructions to vendors and contractors regarding the required protocols for on-campus workers. These protocols are congruent with Commonwealth, City and University guidelines for symptom self-checks, hand-washing, masking and social distancing.
Campus Mail Services is continuing to provide mail service and distribution of mail and packages throughout the University. The schedule may change to less frequent deliveries per week based on volume and need. Departments should contact Campus Mail Services at 617-552-2368 or 617-552-3993 if they are planning to be closed or have all staff working from home. Departments who would like to place a hold on delivery of mail should provide their department name and delivery location to Campus Mail Services. BC Campus Mail Services is following all USPS and CDC guidelines.
We care about helping our Customers and Store Staff stay healthy, so, in addition to our regular practices, here are some of the changes we are implementing at our stores, distribution centers and online fulfillment centers:
- Store Staff are conducting daily health screening of themselves before entering the stores
- Protective shields at our cash registers in stores
- Enhanced cleaning throughout our stores including distribution and online fulfillment center.
- Face masks/coverings are mandatory for Store Staff in the workplace.
- Customers are required to wear face coverings per state guidelines, while at our stores.
- Dressing rooms are temporarily closed. No merchandise should be tried on in the store. Our return policy allows you to purchase, try on at home and return clothing within 30 days of purchase.
- Encouraging social distancing at stores. Please leave 6 feet between yourself and others while shopping and in our check-out line.
- Separate one way aisles, entry and exits for promoting social distancing
While many meetings may be effective over Zoom or other online platforms, there are times when it's important to be able to meet with students face-to-face. When doing so, please remember to maintain appropriate physical distance and wear masks at all times. To find a space, please start with your department: many departmental-controlled conference rooms and classrooms have been emptied this year, and so should be available to be booked for student meetings. While the weather remains nice, you might also consider meeting outside.
Additionally, you are welcome to meet in University classrooms when classes are not in session. Classrooms, and other spaces, can be booked through Event Management.
Yes. In addition to the many traditional spaces set up for studying,including lounges and BC libraries, the University has designated more than 350 additional seats around campus specifically for students who need to attend and participate in an online class, or the online portion of a hybrid class. The locations are listed below, and can also be found on the Find a Space page on the Student Affairs website. They are set up in a number of clusters around campus, so students should always be able to find one nearby.
Stokes Hall South: Eight classrooms—103S, 105S, 107S, 131S, 133S, 203S, 205S, and 207S, totaling 93 seats
Stokes Hall North: Three classrooms—117N, 121N, and 217N, totaling 33 seats
Fulton Hall: The second-floor Honors Library, as well as four classrooms: 210, 240, 310, and 423, totaling 94 seats. Fulton’s newest classroom, 260, will also be added to this list later in the fall.
McGuinn Hall: Five classrooms—011, 029, 030, 437, and 526, totaling approximately 57 seats
O'Neill Library: Four classrooms—246, 246A, 247, 248, totaling approximately 40 seats. 246 and 246A will be open 9:00am to 5:00pm only.
Devlin Hall: The Undergraduate Admissions Lounge, 25 seats. Please turn left after entering Devlin Hall and enter through one of the doors on the right along the hallway. Open 9:00am to 5:00pm only.
Gasson Hall: Gasson Commons, on the first floor across from Gasson 100, 20 seats
In general, these rooms have been set up as classrooms, and signage on or near the doors will indicate that they are to be used only for attending online class sessions, especially during the teaching day (9:00am to 5:00pm). After 5:00, please continue to give priority to any student needing a space to attend an online session.
The following rules will apply in all landing zones:
Masks must be worn at all times
Sign the visitor’s log when you enter the room (for contact tracing purposes)
No food or drinks allowed
Please do not move the furniture
As with any shared space, sanitize your desk and seat before using
Headphones must be used. There will be multiple students attending different classes in the same room simultaneously – please be respectful of others, use headphones, and speak at a reasonable volume when interacting with your online class.