[UPDATED] Amid COVID-19 outbreak, Northeastern takes action

Mihiro Shimano, news correspondent

UPDATE: The Office of the Chancellor sent out an email to the university community Tuesday evening with updates on travel, large gatherings, Dialogues of Civilizations and flexibility for employees. Read it here.

Amid an increase of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Massachusetts, Northeastern University has yet to shut down its Boston campus. On March 8, Northeastern sent out an email to students announcing their updated policies on COVID-19.

Northeastern has closed its campuses in Seattle and the San Francisco Bay Area and has moved to online classes. The Boston campus has not yet received information on whether classes will be moved online.

In the Bay Area campuses, students and faculties are permitted to stay on campus if they are not considered to be at risk from COVID-19. However, older staff and faculty, those who are pregnant and those with existing health conditions were advised to work from home.

During spring break, Northeastern requested for students who had traveled to CDC Level 3 countries to self-quarantine themselves and to not return to campus for 14 days. 

According to Northeastern, self-quarantine has been defined as remaining within residence, not attending class, work or group gatherings and not inviting other people into their residence.

Students at Northeastern have begun to take matters into their own hands, creating a petition on change.org to close campus and start online classes as soon as possible.

The petition was popular amongst Northeastern students, receiving more than 3000 signatures in three days. The initial goal of 2500 signatures was reached last night and was changed to 5000 signatures. 

Some students say online classes would be optimal in terms of health concerns, but others are voicing that they may not have access to online resources at home. Furthermore, for many students, going home or taking online classes may not be an option due to complications such as transportation.

On March 6, President Joseph E. Aoun wrote a letter to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security asking for an exception for students on the F-1 visa to take part in online courses.

F-1 visa holders are only eligible to participate in one online class per academic term, thus leaving many students who are studying at Northeastern under the F-1 visa unable to continue their studies should the university move online. 

Faculty and staff have also been advised to begin preparing to teach online classes if needed. The Information Technology Services (ITS) at the university has provided ‘step-by-step’ information on how to conduct classes online. 

As other universities continue to cancel study abroad programs abroad, questions arise whether Northeastern will be cancelling their abroad programs. Currently, only Dialogues and study abroad programs in CDC Level 3 countries have been canceled. 

Students participating in Dialogues this summer were scheduled to attend a pre-departure orientation on March 10, but the Global Experience Office rescheduled the event in order to ensure they provided the most current information regarding the program.

Incoming first-year students attending the N.U.in program — who travel to a different country during their first semester in university — have been told that the program so far will continue to run next year. 

On Tuesday, Governor Charlie Baker declared a state of emergency in Massachusetts. With the rise of the number of cases in Massachusetts rising to 92, Amherst College and Harvard University have made the switch to online classes. Students were advised to attend online classes from home and to not return to class after spring break.

Students have been receiving regular email updates from the Office of the Chancellor and have also been able to access information through [email protected]

Northeastern has listed key contacts on their dedicated page for COVID-19 information. Students have been given contact information for WeCare, [email protected], as well as the Global Safety and Security Assessment Committee.

This is a developing story. Refer to huntnewsnu.com for updates. If you have any information regarding coronavirus at Northeastern, please contact The Huntington News at [email protected]

Updated March 10 at 8:00 p.m. to include a new email from the Office of the Chancellor.