Northeastern moves classes online due to COVID-19 outbreak

File photo by Brian Bae

Deanna Schwartz, campus editor

All Northeastern classes will be moved online as a result of the coronavirus outbreak, Northeastern announced Wednesday afternoon in an email to all students. The transition will begin Thursday morning, and it is unclear when and if in-person classes will resume.

“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,” President Joseph E. Aoun wrote in the email. 

Residence halls and dining facilities will remain open. “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,” Aoun wrote.

On Tuesday, Governor Charlie Baker declared a state of emergency in Massachusetts. The current number of confirmed cases in the state is 92, Baker said in a press conference

This decision comes after speculation from the university community about if and when this action would be taken. A petition encouraging NU to move to online classes amassed over 5,000 signatures in less than a week, and student social media groups have been abuzz with discussion about the virus. 

The university has been preparing faculty for the move to online classes, according to the university’s dedicated COVID-19 website. Northeastern has been regularly updating the community about the virus, and has already taken actions such as closing the satellite campuses in Seattle and the San Francisco Bay Area.

Other local colleges, including the University of Massachusetts system, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Harvard University and Emerson College, have all moved classes online in the past week. Harvard and MIT are requiring students to move out, while Emerson’s decision to leave residence and dining facilities open aligns with Northeastern’s.

Graphic by: Avery Bleichfeld

This move raises concerns about students residing in the country on F-1 student visas. These students are only eligible to participate in one online class per semester, creating confusion under the new online learning system. Following the closure of the Seattle and San Francisco Bay Area campuses, President Joseph E. Aoun wrote a letter to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security on March 6 asking for an exception for these students to participate in online courses. 

According to The New York Times, “the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency said it would allow foreign students to take online courses, as long as their university notifies ICE of the change within 10 days, said Carissa Cutrell, a spokeswoman for the agency, which runs the student visa program.”

Aoun wrote in the email that there is no evidence that COVID-19 has impacted any 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,” Aoun wrote. “We thank you for all of your support and understanding during this challenging time.”

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