Northeastern shares further reopening details on dining, NUflex, sports in Thursday town hall


Chancellor Ken Henderson during the town hall Thursday night.

Deanna Schwartz and George Barker

Northeastern’s fall reopening will be “a puzzle,” Senior Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Madeleine Estabrook said Thursday evening in a town hall webinar for incoming freshmen and their families.

Estabrook was joined by Chancellor and Senior Vice President for Learning Ken Henderson to share updates on the university’s reopening and take questions from students and parents. 

“The most important message that I can get to you tonight is that the safety and well-being of our community — of your students, of all of our students, and our entire community — is at the forefront and the priority in all the work that we’re doing,” Estabrook said. 

Henderson emphasized three guiding principles of reopening Northeastern for the fall — securing the safety of students and staff, ensuring the highest quality learning experience for students and enabling students to have personalized experiences. 

Masks are required for all students and staff this fall, and according to Estabrook, the university is asking students to bring them to campus. Northeastern will provide reusable masks, but they also request students also bring their own reusable masks. 

To further accommodate immersive learning, the university is ensuring that students participating in classes remotely can still interact with students attending the lectures physically. Additionally, the school has put together an online portal, referred to by Henderson as “single pane of glass,” where students will have access to all their information like their schedule, email, myHusky and SAIL, coupled with community chat features. 

The university is installing uniform technology in classrooms across campus, including microphones in the ceiling and cameras to cover all angles of the room. Incoming students can sign up for a new platform, called Husky Connect, which will aim to connect students to their advisors, orientation leaders and “cohort.” 

Students will be assigned a schedule for in-person classes and will be informed of this schedule before the semester begins.

“Students will be scheduled for some in-class time and some out-of-class time,” Henderson said. “If you’re taking a Tuesday/Thursday class, it may mean that you’ll be in class on Tuesday and then outside taking the NUflex option on Thursday, while the second half of that cohort comes in and takes the class.”

However certain classes, like clinical studies and creative arts classes, will be required to be in person. 

“If [in-person classes] are something you don’t see yourself doing in terms of being able to be physically present, then that might not be the right option for you,” Henderson said.

In response to a question about tuition, Henderson said the university is not planning any changes to tuition for the upcoming semester.  

Northeastern is also planning on having its own lab dedicated to COVID-19 testing and has assembled a team of contact tracers to respond in the event of a confirmed case on campus. Estabrook said she is confident the university can support students who contract COVID-19 and are housed on campus.

Estabrook said University Health and Counseling Services, or UHCS, will be a key resource for students for both mental and physical ailments. It is unclear if UHCS will have any additional staffing or resources this fall; students have reported frustration and long wait times at the health center in the past.

“When it comes directly to clinical services, University Health and Counseling Services is on campus and houses both our medical clinicians and our behavioral health clinicians,” Estabrook said. “… the combined practice is pretty much the foundation of how we start to think about the holistic student and how we take care of them.”

Marino Recreation Center will be open, Estabrook said. Additionally, intramural sports will continue to be offered. Estabrook also said they are still planning for outdoor activities, such as concerts and movies. However, Estabrook said it is still unclear whether varsity sports are still on for the fall. The only sport Estabrook could confirm was esports

“I can tell you about varsity sports, we’re not quite there,” Estabrook said. “We aren’t ready yet under the NCAA, or Hockey East or CAA to have our teams practicing and ready for competition … I can tell you that our newest varsity sport, esports, has been competing all the way through this. They’ve been competing and winning both nationally and internationally. For anybody that’s interested, [there will be] those tryouts and the sign up fees as soon as possible.”

For incoming freshmen, the move-in process will look different than usual. Move-in dates will be staggered to maintain proper distancing, and assigned dates will be much more difficult to change than in years past. Boston students are expected to have access to all the same resources as other Northeastern students, although it is still unclear where they will be housed. 

“We look at Boston as a global site the same way we look at Dublin and London,” Henderson said. 

He said to expect further updates on Boston Friday and urged students to continue  checking Northeastern’s reopening website for details on the fall semester. 

Estabrook also addressed dining in the fall. Dining halls will not have any self serve stations or buffet-style selections, which normally make up a large portion of the dining at Northeastern. The soft-serve ice cream station, Estabrook said, will not be in use. Regardless, there will be at least 30 dining options. Dining halls will not be entirely takeout, and some spaces will still have seating available. 

However, nothing is set in stone, which is why administrators have been unable to provide full clarity to students yet, Henderson said. 

Henderson and Estabrook will hold similar town halls for current students on Tuesday and Wednesday next week.

“The university is committed to your safety and also a phenomenal student and learning experience for all. That’s our focus,” Henderson said to conclude the webinar.

Charlie Wolfson, Jessica Silverman and Lucy Gavin contributed to this article.