Northeastern shares additional NUflex details on cleaning, visas, sports in Tuesday town hall

Sarah Olender, news staff

In a virtual town hall meeting Tuesday, both Senior Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Madeleine Estabrook and Chancellor and Senior Vice President for Learning Ken Henderson told students that safety is their top priority as they continue to modify the plan for students to return to campus in the fall. 

“Our planning, and every step we take, is focused around that principle of safety,” Estabrook said.

During the meeting, Henderson and Estabrook addressed questions regarding campus density, dining, student recreation and sanitation of popular campus locations. 

One heavily discussed topic was the NUflex plan that allows students to decide week-to-week whether they want to attend class in person. Since not all classrooms will be able to hold a full class, there will be a computer algorithm that assigns students to certain times to attend class. 

Students can opt out of in-person instruction for a day, period of time, or the whole semester, freeing up a slot for another student to attend that class in person in their place. 

“Not just the learning experience, but the overall experience should be an enjoyable one,” Henderson said. “When you’re in that class, you’ll have the ability to interact with students, not just students in the class, but students in Japan, China, Wyoming…”

Even if a student opts for remote learning for the entire semester, their tuition will remain the same as the regular in-person tuition. 

Students attending in-person classes will be required to wear a mask and practice social distancing. And some classes in particular need to be held in person, Henderson said.

“We will be running labs,” Henderson said. “We will be doing significantly more cleaning [in the labs].”

He added, “We are building the vast majority of lab classes so you will have the ability to do those remotely.”

In some cases, such as physical therapy and nursing, in-person attendance is necessary. These two majors require person-to-person interaction and are required to meet in person to get hands-on experience. These students will be provided with personal protective equipment. 

Some faculty members have increased risk factors, and it is not safe for them to host in-person classes. In those cases, classes would be fully remote, Henderson said.

The university has requested that the federal government deem NUflex compliant with the F-1 visa, so international students can return to campus. Henderson said that they will have more information in the next two weeks once they hear back about whether or not their request was approved. 

Estabrook and Henderson also said that University Health and Counseling Services, or UHCS, will be expanding. The university will add beds in a wellness center for students to quarantine and recover from the virus if they contract it, they said. 

“We need more people. We are hiring more people every day,” Estabrook said. “There are many people on campus who will be making sure that you have the best, and least disruptive, fall.”

She also said, “We are going to make sure that testing is widely available, not just if you are symptomatic.”

The plan for how students will dine on campus is not fully formed. Henderson and Estabrook said Northeastern researchers and faculty members are examining incoming research every day in order to create a dining plan, but plans may vary between dining locations.  

One thing is for sure: There will be no self-serve in any of Northeastern’s 31 dining locations.

“We are constrained by the rules of the city of Boston,” Estabrook said. “Some places will end up being takeout,” because they cannot handle the density.

One example she cited was that Rebecca’s will be “one of our biggest challenges.” 

Student recreation facilities will be open, however. While there is still no word on what will happen to varsity athletics, Estabrook said, “Marino will be open, Squashbusters will be open, the fields will be open.”

She also mentioned that intramural sports will still run, as well as club sports. Club sports may need to hold try-outs in a more untraditional way this year. She suggested that sports teams may have people send a tape of them playing the respective sport, instead of in-person tryouts. 

With this many changes occurring, students will have to establish a new norm as they return to campus in the fall. 

More touchless technology, such as the CBORD app, will be used so that students do not have to exchange their Husky IDs. Move-in dates will be shifted in order to avoid crowded elevators and to allow time for proper sanitation of moving hampers. 

“This is about community. This is about my helping you be healthy and you helping me be healthy,” Estabrook said. 

Estabrook and Henderson said the university is discussing new information about the virus, improvements to buildings’ air flow circulation, touch less technology, electrostatic hand sprayers and UV lighting to sanitize campus.

“We want to make this as good of a semester for everyone, but we also want to make it the safest semester for everyone,” Henderson said.