Paul L. Caron

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Northeastern’s $50 Million COVID-19 Bet

Chronicle of Higher Education, Northeastern’s $50-Million Bet:

Northeastern UniversityThe university went big on its reopening gamble. Can it beat Covid-19? ...

Northeastern has spent more than $50 million planning for a safe re-entry, an investment that will be put to the test this weekend, when approximately 8,000 of the university’s undergraduates begin moving in to campus residence halls. The university has built its own labs for frequent testing with fast turnarounds, continually sanitizes buildings, and created a flexible-learning system that allows students to move back and forth between virtual and in-person classes in a richer, more interactive way than in a typical Zoom class.

Northeastern has booked nearly 1,500 hotel and apartment rooms to ensure that no more than two students share a room, and has leased a wing of Boston Symphony Hall for student dining and meal distribution.

What’s noteworthy about Northeastern’s reopening plans, said Christopher R. Marsicano, an assistant professor of the practice of higher education at Davidson College, is “the scale at which they’re doing it and the fact that they’re trying to pull off, in a major city, what the University of North Carolina couldn’t do in a suburb.”

In May, as many colleges were still hedging their bets on fall-reopening plans, Northeastern’s president, Joseph E. Aoun, went on national TV to announce, emphatically, that the university would open for in-person instruction. Epidemiologists and other public-health experts had convinced administrators that reopening was essential “not because the Covid-19 virus isn’t a serious, highly transmissible threat, but because it is,” Aoun wrote in an opinion piece in The Washington Post this month. The pandemic is likely to remain a problem for at least four years, he wrote, and keeping education remote for that long would devastate students and colleges.

Even a one-year delay in returning for face-to-face instruction, Aoun wrote, “would disproportionately hurt low-income students who spent the spring continuing their studies online, without adequate technology, sometimes in overcrowded and even traumatic living conditions. And it would impair universities’ ability to discover solutions that would make the world safer — from this pandemic, and from ones that are yet to come.”

But as other campuses have learned, the success of such efforts depends on everyone’s willingness to follow guidelines that require significant changes in behavior. Whether that’s too big an ask remains to be seen. ...

Northeastern’s plans to reopen in person have generated pushback from some students. They worry about the health hazards faced by members of the campus community. They also accuse Aoun of failing to acknowledge the danger reopening poses to low-income residents of neighborhoods surrounding Northeastern, said Deanna Schwartz, managing editor of The Huntington News.

Student activists, after garnering more than 1,500 signatures on a petition criticizing the vagueness of Northeastern’s reopening plans, last week staged a “day of action” to press a series of demands. Those included reduced tuition, flexibility to cancel housing, and transparency about what specific Covid-19-infection thresholds would lead administrators to shut down campus.

New York Times, Northeastern University Dismisses 11 Students for Breaking Virus Rules but Keeps Their Tuition:

In one of the harshest punishments imposed to date against students for violations of coronavirus safety protocols, Northeastern University dismissed 11 first-year students this week and declined to refund their $36,500 tuition after they were discovered crowded into a room at a Boston hotel serving as a temporary dormitory.

Northeastern News, Northeastern Dismissed 11 Students For Gathering in Violation of COVID-19 Policies

Coronavirus, Legal Ed News, Legal Education | Permalink


"They also accuse Aoun of failing to acknowledge the danger reopening poses to low-income residents of neighborhoods surrounding Northeastern, said Deanna Schwartz, managing editor of The Huntington News."

Shocking given that the university bought a ~$10 million townhouse in Beacon Hill when he came onboard, so he wouldn't have to live near the area's poor residents. Beacon Hill is on the other side of the city from campus. It is the most expensive part of the city, though, and I guess that's what matters.

Posted by: Unemployed Northeastern | Sep 9, 2020 8:44:29 AM

Bravo! Instead of cowering in fear, NE has stepped up to the plate and said, "Game on."

Posted by: Dale Spradling | Sep 9, 2020 6:42:36 AM