*Published on March 11, 2020*
To all members of the Northeastern Community:
Like everyone on our campuses and around the world, I have been closely following the latest news about the spread of the coronavirus disease known as COVID-19. It is truly an anxious time for all of humanity.
Last week, we announced our decision to transition to online and remote learning at our Seattle and San Francisco Bay Area campuses. These decisions were made in accordance with the best public health guidance and based on the troubling circumstances in those regions.
Today I am announcing that, beginning tomorrow morning, we will move to online and remote instruction on our Boston campus, the university’s largest and most complex operation. We arrived at this decision carefully and thoughtfully, not precipitously. We are seeking to preserve the essence of a Northeastern education—including current co-op placements—while also taking prudent steps to reduce the risk of infection within our community.
In addition to the guidance of public health authorities, some of the world’s leading experts on infectious disease spread are members of the Northeastern faculty. Even as the world has relentlessly sought their wisdom, these faculty members have been indispensable in shaping the university’s response to this unprecedented outbreak.
Over the past week, I have heard from many members of our community—students, parents, faculty, staff, alumni, and others. Not surprisingly, you have expressed every possible viewpoint on the idea of moving to online education. In the end, this decision was—and had to be—based on science, facts, and real circumstances. I am confident that this is the right decision for our university.
Let me be clear: as of today, we have no evidence that COVID-19 has infected a member of the Northeastern community. Nevertheless, we must focus on prevention, not just containment. We owe it to each other—and everyone in the Northeastern family and beyond—to take all practical steps to minimize the risk of infection and community transmission. We thank you for all of your support and understanding during this challenging time.
As we move to online instruction, we are not asking students in Northeastern residence halls to move out. While students may elect to do so, we are committed to maintaining continuity of campus life for those who elect to stay.
As outlined in prior messages to the community, we are maintaining the university’s current staffing levels, except for faculty and staff who are in groups deemed to be high-risk. All of the university’s messages—including FAQs and other resources—can be found at our dedicated COVID-19 website.
Additional updates will be forthcoming from the university’s COVID-19 task force. This group of professionals—from all facets of the university—has worked tirelessly for the past several weeks preparing for and executing measures to protect public health and preserve our mission. As part of this undertaking, our deans and faculty have been actively preparing for the move to online instruction and are prepared to make this change tomorrow. I thank the members of the task force for all they have done so far, and for all that they will do going forward.
In the coming days and weeks, we will continue to join together to support one another. Ultimately, the solution to all of society’s challenges—be they intolerance, climate change or infectious disease—is the learning and discovery of new knowledge. We are well positioned to take on this challenge.
Joseph E. Aoun