*Published on June 25, 2020*
To the Northeastern University community:
As Northeastern plans for the reopening of its campuses across our global network, we continue to be guided by the central priority of the health and wellbeing of our community. We are committed to delivering the highest-quality Northeastern experience for each one of our students, in a way that gives each student flexible options that serve their educational goals. As we move toward reopening the university this fall, the information below provides a summary of the planning, decisions, and actions to date.
Our overarching goal is to create an environment where Northeastern is undertaking significant measures to protect its community, and each person in our community is taking individual responsibility to protect themselves and each other.
Classes and NUflex. Classroom density will be reduced as low as one-third capacity to maintain healthy distancing. At each of our campus locations, and for both undergraduate and graduate populations, Northeastern will use NUflex, a model that allows Northeastern to reduce density and offer flexibility to faculty and students. Some students will be present in the classroom and others will be participating remotely via videoconferencing at the same time. Remote students will be continuously connected to the classroom conversation and able to participate by chat or by video. A dynamic scheduling tool, integrated into the Student Hub described below, will also allow students to indicate and inform faculty whether they will be participating face-to-face in-class in a given week, or whether they’ll attend remotely. In one of the largest and most ambitious classroom technology projects Northeastern has undertaken, classrooms will be equipped with advanced cameras and microphones and with monitors to share screens.
Academic Calendar. The decision to use the planned 2020-2021 academic calendar, instead of altering the calendar, came after careful consideration. We examined multiple factors, including the difficulties our international students might have in arriving early, the problems that off-campus students might have in securing housing leases that start before September 1, and the challenge of decreasing classroom density while shortening the academic term. Because of these considerations—and also because adopting the NUflex model will give students the flexibility to adjust the day they arrive on campus or the day they depart—the university has decided to maintain its planned academic calendar.
The Student Hub. The Student Hub, which you may heard referred to as the “single pane of glass” in town halls, will be available to students at https://me.northeastern.edu as a highly personalized collection of integrated web applications, including email, calendars, course information, advisor information and scheduling, financial information, access to affinity groups, SAIL, recommended activities, and COVID-related education and information. Combining new and existing applications into one integrated platform will provide students with immediate access to the tools, services, and information they access and use most often.
Usage of Face Masks. Face masks or cloth face coverings must be worn at all times outdoors and inside all buildings across our campus network, including in classrooms, in research labs and associated spaces, in administrative offices, and in the common spaces of residence halls. We understand there may be concerns about students having difficulties in understanding and hearing instructors who are wearing face masks. A group is exploring whether alternatives, such as face shields or Plexiglass barriers in the classroom, might be equally effective. Students, faculty, and staff will be asked to provide their own face masks or face coverings, but face masks will be available if needed. Note: At our Seattle campus we are required to provide cloth face coverings to our staff, which we will supply at time of return to campus. Detailed information is available in the COVID-19 face covering protocol.
Cleaning and Sanitation. Currently, 250 cleaners are working around the clock to disinfect more than 28 research-active buildings on our Boston campus. Facilities staff members and vendors will disinfect and clean offices and workstations, common areas, and restrooms on a frequent, recurring basis. For any buildings that are open and occupied, our cleaning crews will disinfect commonly touched surfaces 3 to 4 times in a 24-hour period and will follow all CDC guidelines using EPA-registered and approved disinfectants. Facilities staff will also install and maintain hand-sanitizer stations at building entrances, classrooms, labs, and other high-traffic areas. Cleaning kits and instructions will be available for shared bathrooms and kitchens in residence halls. The university is also examining the circulation of air in its buildings—taking steps to increase the intake of fresh air from outdoors and to promote air circulation. All air filters have been cleaned and changed to ensure clean airflow for all returning students and staff. Equally rigorous cleaning measures will be instituted on all of our campus locations across the global network. Detailed information is available in the COVID-19 cleaning and sanitizing protocol.
Space Planning. The space planning team is examining each space across our campus locations to ensure that we can maintain healthy distancing. There will be one-way directional signage posted in large open workspaces. Entrances and exits will be marked to provide one-way circulation routes. Elevators will show capacity limits. We will be reconfiguring furniture and installing barriers and shields anywhere six-foot distancing cannot be maintained. Detailed information is available through the space planning recommendations for managers and in the COVID-19 campus healthy distancing protocol.
Student Life, Clubs, and Organizations. A vibrant and community-focused student life is central to the Northeastern experience. In planning for safety, the importance of student life and community-building is integral to our planning. Following healthy distancing guidelines may lead to a change in the delivery of programming, where it is held, and to the types of events offered, but we fully expect student clubs and organizations to continue programming. Our student organizations have continued to build community and offer creative and popular events, including online concerts, even with students dispersed around the world. On our Boston campus, we anticipate that fitness centers such as Squashbusters and Marino Recreation Center will be open, with changes made to increase sanitation measures and preserve healthy distancing.
Events. Any protocols and guidance on larger events will follow federal, state and local public health guidance. More information will be forthcoming as public health officials across our global network announce guidance on large events. At all events, the Northeastern community will be asked to practice healthy distancing, use face masks, and follow all public health measures.
Dining. Detailed guidance on dining will be forthcoming, and each of our campus locations will follow all state and city guidelines for dining. A group of university leaders is actively considering options like extended hours, increased takeout, our breadth of menus, sustainability considerations, and healthy distancing. Guidance will include rules about eating in common areas on campus.
Return to Campuses. Within the coming week, the university will share detailed guidance for developing staffing plans, and related space planning, for the fall. All faculty and staff returning to campus are asked to follow the workplace entry and exit protocols and workplace safety protocols, including completing a health and safety attestation form and following the COVID-19 hygiene protocol. These protocols will likely evolve based on public health guidelines.
Requesting Remote Work. We understand that some faculty and staff may be apprehensive about returning to campus. Our goal is to provide a safe environment for students, faculty and staff—including following guidance from public health authorities—and to support creative and flexible work arrangements. We strongly encourage supervisors, chairs, deans, etc. to explore common sense flexible arrangements.
For those faculty and staff with a preference to work fully remotely, at least at the start of the fall semester, there are two routes to pursue. Faculty and staff who have a medical or mental health-related concern, diagnosis, or illness, or who are in a high-risk category per the CDC guidelines, and wish to request to work remotely, should contact Shana Feggins at HRM_ADA@northeastern.edu in Human Resources Management. For faculty and staff wishing to work remotely for another COVID-19 related reason, requests will be considered on a case-by-case basis, and any reasonable request will be honored. The goal is that returning faculty and staff feel comfortable doing so. We will share detailed guidance on how to submit these requests within the coming week. For faculty and staff members that start the semester working remotely and later would prefer to be back working on campus, please contact your supervisor/manager/chair/dean and we will do everything we can to enable a return.
The Global Network. Each location across our global network is fully included in Northeastern’s planning. In addition to following Northeastern’s protocols on face mask usage, healthy distancing, and safety protocols, each of our locations will follow the specific public health guidelines required by local officials.
In addition to the above, our campus in Boston will be enacting the following plans.
Research. The university’s research enterprise has been active. Among the critical projects across the university’s research labs, research to combat and respond to the COVID–19 pandemic remains a top priority. A few weeks ago, researchers working on critical projects have started to return to laboratories while adhering to rigorous health and safety protocols that maintain healthy distancing and promote the safety of our researchers.
Testing. Northeastern will launch and maintain its own certified viral testing operation with the capacity to administer thousands of tests per day. Currently, Northeastern plans to employ frontal nose swabs and to focus on statistically valid sampling methodology, so that we are able to scale our testing and limit transmission of the virus. Baseline testing will be available at the beginning of the fall, symptomatic testing will be available throughout the term, and routine testing will be conducted as well. At present, the university is not planning to use antibody testing because of uncertainty around the accuracy and because it is not yet known if the presence of antibodies indicates immunity from future infection. As researchers gain new knowledge about COVID-19 testing and transmission each day, we will continually monitor new developments in testing and will learn from the latest models and research. For our locations across the global network, Northeastern is reviewing local public health and health care provider options to offer guidance on access to testing. More information on testing protocols and frequency will be shared as plans are finalized.
Contact Tracing. 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.
Residence Halls. Northeastern has secured a significant number of additional beds close to the 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 spaces, 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.
Move-in. 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.
Parking. Parking at the Boston Campus is currently available and managed by MasParc. For those returning to campus this summer without an active parking permit, summer session permits are available. In addition, daily parking coupons are available this summer for $21.00 per coupon for parking in the Renaissance Park or Gainsborough parking garages. For the upcoming academic year, annual, semester, and monthly parking permit options will be available for faculty & staff. Permit options and prices will be posted on MasParc’s website in late July. Parking coupons will be available for $23.00 per day. MasParc will provide updated information as it becomes available or you may reach MasParc Customer Service with questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Future Planning. As you review the information we have shared, we know you will have many questions about the options we might have chosen, the decisions and the planning still to come, and the details of how each decision and plan will be implemented. Our reopening implementation team continues to meet each day to plan our return to on-ground classes this fall, with hundreds of staff working tirelessly to plan for the fall and to make the fall term a success for our learners. The planning, the implementation, and the communication will continue in the days and weeks ahead. As always, we encourage you to monitor your email, the COVID-19 reopening website, and the COVID-19 faculty and staff FAQ site for updates.
Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs
Chancellor and Senior Vice President for Learning