After Boston College announced it would proceed with an in-person fall semester at the end of August, the administration told students in July that it would make a decision about Thanksgiving Break sometime in late October. It said that it was impossible to predict the conditions of the pandemic, being 20 weeks out, and that it would consider the possibility of sending students home at Thanksgiving to complete the rest of the semester online.
Some universities, such as the University of Notre Dame and Creighton University, started their fall semesters early so courses would end before Thanksgiving Break. Others such as Providence College, the University of South Carolina, and Regis University will have all-remote learning and exams following the break.
Gonzaga University told students they can choose to stay at school for Thanksgiving Break and finish out the semester on campus, or finish the semester online if they leave Spokane County, where the university is. If students leave, they won’t be allowed to return for the rest of the semester, but they will be reimbursed for the rest of fall 2020’s room and board, with that credit going toward expenses for students’ spring 2021 semester.
Gonzaga’s plan is sufficient for a variety of reasons. It helps ensure that students won’t leave and bring the virus back to campus with them right before the end of the semester. To make sure that those who say they will leave actually stay away from campus after Thanksgiving, students are incentivized by the room and board reimbursement to follow guidelines. Further, it ensures that students who are low-income or have unstable home lives aren’t forced out of the residence halls on short notice, and will still have access to the dining halls during December.
Having students go back home for the holiday and then return, from all corners of the country, is not feasible amid a pandemic. There’s the risk of students bringing the virus back upon their return to campus. Until they could get tested, a substantial number of students would need to quarantine upon return, per Massachusetts law. When students moved into residence halls in August, containing the spread of COVID-19 was a large and coordinated effort on the part of the University that was spread over the course of more than a week. With less than two weeks of classes after Thanksgiving, it would not make sense to attempt to match this effort until the spring semester.
Though we encourage the University to make a plan akin to Gonzaga University’s, no matter what BC decides, it needs to announce its plan soon. Students and their families need the ability to start planning now, whether it be to book a flight home or to find housing in Boston if returning home is impossible.
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Members: Colleen Martin, Abby Hunt, Maddie Haddix, Brooke Kaiserman, Meegan Minahan, Jillian Ran, Danny Flynn, and Rachel Phelan.