It has been almost five months since we quickly transitioned to remote work. To date, the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak has unleashed considerable human suffering – 20 million cases, over 720,000 deaths, and major economic pain due to the global lockdown. Higher education has not been spared, and its leaders need to mitigate this once-in-a-century crisis by acting swiftly to ease revenue disruptions, build resilience within our institutions, and re-imagine the college experience by developing a stronger agenda that defines a new world.
While our D'Amore-McKim community has accomplished a lot through remote work over the past five months, interacting with people face-to-face in safe ways will signal a return to near-normalcy. If an effective vaccine is not possible before early 2021, it seems likely that we'll continue to live with the pandemic for a while longer. So, it's imperative that we learn to live with the virus, albeit with appropriate behavioral modifications to keep us all safe.
Our move away from residential instruction to remote learning in March 2020 disrupted more than just education at Northeastern; our students missed out on important extracurricular and socialization experiences as well. Many of them have been telling me how excited they are to come back for a true Northeastern education, and they are eager to engage with our faculty and staff. Hence, I'm eagerly looking forward to returning to campus and seeing everyone as we re-open the academic and administrative offices at D'Amore-McKim on August 17. In accordance with University guidelines to operate at 50 percent or less density, we have carefully prepared detailed staffing plans and invited select staff members to return to campus in order to fully meet our business objectives and goals.
But there's no denying that our campus will look and feel different this fall. Over the summer, we instituted health and safety requirements, invested in technology infrastructure to facilitate hybrid NUFlex learning, and implemented safety protocols in all campus buildings. Here are the specifics:
Campus health and safety requirements:
I cannot stress this enough – the health, safety, and well-being of our students, staff, and faculty is our utmost priority. Northeastern has instituted a number of health protocols to promote a safe campus environment for living, working, and learning. Wearing face masks is mandatory. To ensure this safe and healthy campus experience, Northeastern's testing protocols will exceed the requirements mandated by an executive order from the State of Massachusetts. A simpler anterior nasal swab method will be used; testing will be done using a state-of-the-art-technology that is widely considered to be the gold standard for viral testing.
Upon their return to campus, all students (both those living on-campus and off-campus) will be tested three times for COVID-19 (on days one, three, and five). Only after a third negative test will they be able to participate in all campus activities. All faculty and staff who will be working on campus will also be tested regularly (every seven days). If an on-campus student tests positive for the coronavirus, they will be isolated and moved into special units with private bathrooms where they will have medical support on a daily basis.
Northeastern's new hybrid NUFlex model is designed to maintain appropriate density on campus while also providing outstanding pedagogical experiences to students. Faculty will be able to deliver their courses safely to both on-campus students and remote learners at the same time. We have invested in classroom technology that will make navigating these hybrid modes as seamless as possible.
Safety protocols in classrooms and buildings:
Members of the Northeastern Facilities team have worked very hard to develop plans that promote safety in classrooms and campus buildings. Airflow and ventilation in our buildings are being enhanced to meet or exceed public health guidelines, and they will have a full cleaning and disinfecting nightly. The team will also disinfect frequented campus spaces like classrooms, common areas, restrooms, and “high touch” points (door handles, counter tops, elevator buttons, etc.) more often during the day than in the past. In addition, given that there may be concerns with using public transport, parking will be readily available on campus for people who will drive to campus or carpool with colleagues. Needless to say, investments in safety have been enormous in order to make the campus as safe as possible.
While I recognize that this is a difficult time for all of us, I believe we have done everything humanly possible to get back to campus this fall and do what we do best: educating impactful leaders. By working together as a community and supporting one another, I'm confident that we can provide a healthy and safe D'Amore-McKim experience while also fulfilling our educational mission.
Please visit the Reopening Northeastern/Coronavirus website for complete details about reopening and workplace safety measures. Thanks for your willingness to Protect the Pack while we return to the “new” normal. As always, I cannot thank our faculty and staff enough for being such wonderful ambassadors for D'Amore-McKim.
Dunton Family Dean
D'Amore-McKim School of Business