Coronavirus Updates, Boston, Metro

Massachusetts Colleges Transition to Online Classes in Response to Coronavirus

Several Massachusetts colleges have moved to online classes due to rising concerns of the spread of the novel coronavirus. Governor Charlie Baker declared a state of emergency in Massachusetts, where there have been 92 reported cases, on Tuesday. 

Boston College has not instituted a University-wide move to online classes, although individual professors have shifted to online instruction or altered their course policies.

Northeastern University President Joseph Aoun said in a statement on Wednesday that the university will move its classes online, following its previous decision to transition to remote teaching at the Seattle and Bay Area campuses. Aoun also said that the college will not ask its students to move out of residence halls. 

“While students may elect to do so, we are committed to maintaining continuity of campus life for those who elect to stay,” Auon said in the statement.

Boston University also announced on Wednesday that it would be transitioning to online classes from Monday until April 13. The university advised students not to return to campus at the end of spring break. The residence and dining halls will be open for the students who choose to remain on campus.

The University of Massachusetts system will shift to virtual classes starting on Monday through at least April 3, according to The Boston Globe. Students are being asked not to return to campus after spring break. Students who are unable to return home will be allowed to remain on campus.

Tufts University also announced on Tuesday that instruction will be conducted virtually for the rest of the semester beginning March 25. The university has canceled classes that are scheduled for Friday and extended its upcoming spring break until March 25, according to its website. Students will be expected to leave campus by Monday unless they are unable to return to their homes.

“It is imperative that we take steps as individuals and as a community to help limit the spread of the coronavirus,” Tufts President Tony Monaco said in a statement to Tufts students, faculty, and staff. “Our best opportunity to do so is to reduce the density of our population on our campuses, thereby decreasing the risk of community spread, especially in a residential community.”

As of Wednesday, Massachusetts has 89 reported presumptive positive cases and six confirmed cases by the Centers for Disease Control, according to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.

MIT announced on Tuesday that the university has canceled classes for the week of March 16, and online instruction will begin on March 30 and continue for the rest of the semester. Undergraduate students have been instructed not to return to campus after spring break, which is the week of March 23. 

“We are taking this dramatic action to protect the health and safety of everyone at MIT—staff, students, postdocs and faculty,” MIT President L. Rafael Reif said in a statement to the MIT community.

Harvard announced on Tuesday that it would be transitioning to virtual classes for all courses, with a goal of completing the transition by March 23. The university has asked students not to return to campus after spring recess, according to its website. Students are expected to move out of their residence halls by Sunday.

“Our actions are consistent with the recommendations of leading health officials on how to limit the spread of COVID-19 and are also consistent with similar decisions made by a number of our peer institutions,” Harvard President Lawrene Bacow said in a statement to the Harvard community.

Amherst College was the first Massachusetts college to announce its plans to move online, doing so on Monday. Amherst College President Biddy Martin announced in a video that the institution will move to remote learning beginning March 23. Martin also asked students to leave campus by March 18.

Universities are making accommodations for students who are unable to return home. At Amherst, students can petition to maintain their on-campus residency. Harvard, while allowing students with needs to stay on campus, warned them to prepare for “severely limited on-campus activities and interactions.”

Other Massachusetts colleges and universities, including Smith College, Babson College, and Emerson College, have also moved to online classes, according to The Boston Globe.

Update (3/11/2020, 4:59 p.m.): The number of coronavirus cases was updated to reflect Wednesday’s totals.

Featured Image by Johnathan Ye/Heights Senior Staff

March 11, 2020