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Reopening Northeastern

Frequently Asked Questions


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Will Northeastern reopen in the fall?

Northeastern President Joseph Aoun announced on May 8th that the university intends to reopen for classroom instruction and a residential student experience in the fall. The university is actively planning for a multitude of scenarios and will continue updating the campus community on a frequent basis. All of the university’s decisions are driven by the need to promote the health and safety of the university community.

Does the university have a plan to have its own testing program?

Yes, Northeastern will launch and maintain its own viral testing operation with the capacity to administer thousands of tests per day. The university is currently working to secure a large number of testing kits and the necessary federal, state, and local certifications to conduct testing and determine test results. All students, faculty, and staff returning to campus will be required to undergo viral testing regularly.

What happens if a member of the campus community tests positive for COVID-19?

In accordance with public health protocols, all positive test results will be reported to the appropriate public health authorities. Next, the university will activate its internal and professionally trained contact tracing team to determine and notify individuals who may be at risk. Students who live in on-campus housing and test positive will be asked to isolate for 14 days in a residence hall dedicated for this purpose. Faculty and staff who test positive will be expected to isolate at home or somewhere else off campus. Students, faculty, and staff who test positive can return to the campus community only after all of the proper public health protocols have been followed.

How will you protect privacy while conducting contact tracing?

The university will treat information related to symptoms, potential exposure, and test results confidentially, consistent with local, state, and federal requirements.

Will campus buildings be cleaned more frequently?

Yes, our Facilities team will disinfect campus spaces including offices, residence halls, classrooms, common areas, restrooms, and doorknobs four times as frequently as in the past. In some cases, based on use patterns, even more than this. Facilities will also install and maintain hand-sanitizer stations at building entrances, offices, classrooms, labs, and other high-traffic areas.

Will masks be required on campus?

Yes, until further notice face masks or cloth face coverings must be worn at all times inside campus buildings and in outdoor spaces on campus.

When will faculty and staff return to campus?

Beginning on June 1, a selected group of faculty and staff, approved by the university’s leadership team, returned to campus. This initial group—not to exceed 25 percent of the faculty/staff population—was primarily made up of faculty researchers and staff whose work is best performed on campus. As part of Northeastern’s phased reopening, additional faculty and staff will return throughout the summer and fall. Academic and administrative departments across the university are expected to be ready to enter Stage V and reopen by August 17 with staffing plans that enable senior managers to fully meet their respective business goals and objectives.

The university welcomes questions and requests from those who may have specific challenges related to returning to campus in the fall. Temporary policies and procedures were announced on June 29, allowing faculty and staff to request a continuation of remote work. Any reasonable request will be honored. The goal is that returning faculty and staff feel comfortable doing so.

Will move-in plans be adjusted to allow for healthy distancing?

Move-in will take place over the course of twelve days instead of the typical five in order to facilitate healthy distancing. Students can expect to receive their housing assignments and assigned day and time for move-in in late July and early August. We will ask that students limit the number of move-in helpers they bring, to reduce density and promote healthy distancing. Hampers will be limited to one per student and sanitized between use. We will be sharing detailed information about the new move-in process in the coming days.

Will visitors to dorm rooms be restricted?

Yes, access to residence halls will be restricted to only those who reside in that hall.

Will there be changes to how dining halls function and when or how students can access meals?

Yes, student access to dining halls will be staggered and, in some cases, may be limited to take-out only. A number of changes to dining facilities will be made to mitigate transmission and promote healthy distancing, including plexiglass installation and outside seating where possible.

Can the university accommodate campus events?

According to public health guidance, all conferences scheduled to be held on Northeastern’s campuses have been cancelled. Reservations for space have been cancelled as well. No new campus events will be scheduled until further notice. Event planning on each campus will resume in accordance with local public health guidance.

How will Northeastern change its residence halls to allow for healthy distancing?

Northeastern has secured a significant number of additional beds close to its Boston campus that will allow the university to reduce density in our residence halls and reserve a wellness space for students who may need to undergo isolation or quarantine. All additional beds are a combination of leased properties, apartments, individual bedrooms, and hotels that will be managed by Northeastern housing operations with residential directors and student residential assistants on site. To promote healthy distancing and safety, Northeastern will eliminate triples and quad rooms, will reconfigure its space to have minimal furniture in common space, and will offer contactless check-in and self check-in. Face masks will be required in the residence halls in any spaces outside of personal rooms, and visitors will not be allowed. To allow additional time to reconfigure housing arrangements, housing assignments will be released in late July and early August.

How will Northeastern conduct contact tracing if a member of the community tests positive for COVID-19?

If a member of the Northeastern community in Boston tests positive for COVID-19, we have an established internal contact tracing team trained through Johns Hopkins that will provide contact tracing for our residential population in cooperation with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health and Boston Public Health Commission. Contact tracers will personally reach out and act as case workers for anyone who receives a positive diagnosis, helping the person to understand next steps and to access care. They will identify close contacts of anyone who has received a positive COVID-19 test and help close contacts take next steps for their own safety and the safety of the community.



Teaching and Learning

What is the academic calendar for the fall term?

The fall term will begin and end as scheduled by the 2020-2021 University-Wide Academic Calendar.

  • Undergraduate (UG):

Classes begin September 9 and end December 9

Final exams begin December 11 and end December 18

Will international students be able to arrive in the United States later than September 9?

For international students, the latest arrival date under current SEVP policy is within 30 days of the academic term start date to be eligible for F-1 status and accumulation of benefits (e.g., one academic year of study prior to CPT eligibility). We are currently seeking clarification from the Department of Homeland Security about any potential changes to that policy in light of the current visa and travel considerations. In addition, we are seeking guidance about how Hybrid NUflex will be treated in terms of a teaching modality, and whether international students could start and/or end their semester learning remotely in Hybrid NUflex classes and maintain their F-1 status.

What are the major differences between Hybrid NUflex and NU Start?

Hybrid NUflex is an instructional delivery method for most of our undergraduate courses that will allow students to opt for either in-person or remote instruction, with healthy distancing guidelines applied in the classroom. It is synchronous, meaning that students “attend” class in real time, either physically in a classroom or remotely using online technology. NU Start is an optional program for first-year students enrolling in the fall or through the Program. We designed it specifically for those students who choose to complete their first semester remotely or for whom travel to campus is not feasible. It includes remote learning classes plus an experiential learning component based on themed learning communities.

Who is NU Start for?

NU Start is a program for first-year students enrolling in the Fall or through the Program who will not be able to travel to campus for the Fall semester and will complete their first semester remotely. The program is designed to connect students from across the globe to Northeastern’s first year experience. NU Start provides an opportunity for students to enter Northeastern’s global network and see the impact of experiential learning from anywhere in the world.

What are challenge exams?

Challenge exams are assessments being designed by our faculty to allow entering first year students to place out of some introductory courses, much like the AP exam, or International Baccalaureate (IB) or transfer credit currently allow.

Why did we decide to offer challenge exams?

Challenge exams are being offered as a courtesy to our incoming students for two reasons. First, the disruption in the spring may have prevented students from doing as well on advanced standing exams such as AP as they would have normally. We wanted to provide an alternative mechanism for those who may want to the opportunity to place out of courses after having taken one or more AP classes. The second reason is that many students who didn’t take AP classes may have the ability to place out of classes based on work in honors courses, self-preparation or other means of preparing – we wanted to provide those students with a chance to place out.

What are the subject areas of the challenge exams?

Subject areas are: English, History, Macro- and Microeconomics, Statistics, Calculus 1 and 2, Psychology, Chemistry, Biology, and Physics 1 and 2.

When will the challenge exams be available?

The exams are currently under development and will be administered remotely in the last two weeks of July. Security is being optimized using a web browser lock, and students will have to agree to an honor code prior to taking the exams.

What is the Student Hub?

The Student Hub, which will be available to students at is a hyper-personalized collection of integrated web applications. This platform will provide students with direct and immediate access to the tools, services, and information that are accessed and utilized most often. The Student Hub will provide instant access to email, calendars, course information, advisor information and scheduling, financial information, the new Communities at Northeastern that connect them to affinity groups, SAIL, recommended activities, and COVID-related education and information.

In addition, the Student Hub will integrate the authenticated “My Husky,” an AI-powered chat interface that students can use to ask personal questions on a host of topics across 17 different information sources. This will vastly improve their ability to quickly gain answers to the most frequently asked questions that would have otherwise required them to log into various places across the Northeastern web to get direct and accurate answers.

The Student Hub will be the central starting page of all student digital activities for the fall, including the home of the new “Dynamic Scheduling Platform.” This new application will enable much of the logic behind the Hybrid NUflex classroom scheduling. Students will be able to, on a weekly basis, indicate their preference for being face-to-face or in a remote location for their classes that week. The platform will then work against an algorithm that will dynamically assign access to seats in classes with density restrictions to those who have indicated a desire to be face-to-face. Schedules will be updated the weekend prior to each week of classes so students have advanced notice of their in-class rotations. Additionally, a face-to-face class roster will automatically be delivered to faculty. Additional student success metrics can be utilized to help instructors understand the potential impact of face to face versus remote participation.

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