Northeastern announces plans to reopen for ‘normal fall semester’


File photo by Deanna Schwartz

Northeastern announced in a March 9 email that the university plans to reopen for a “normal” fall semester.

Marta Hill, deputy campus editor

Almost exactly one year after the closure of Northeastern’s North American campuses, Provost and Senior Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs David Madigan announced in an email March 9 that the university plans to return “to a normal fall semester with regular campus activities.”

“While Covid-19 will not be eliminated (it will likely be with us for years to come) the vast majority of scientific forecasts anticipate that the virus will be well under control by September,” the email read.

The email did not include specifics about the program. 

One year ago this week, Northeastern announced the closure of the Seattle and San Francisco Bay Area campuses, followed closely by the closure of the Boston campus amid rising COVID-19 cases. Many changes were implemented to allow some reopening of campuses, including large COVID-19 testing centers, mandated face coverings and strict social distancing requirements. 

Other local colleges and universities, including Boston College, Boston University and Harvard University, have not announced plans for the fall 2021 semester. 

While many precautions, such as face coverings and COVID-19 testing, may still be in place on Northeastern campuses, Madigan said the university is expecting “a normal fall semester to commence on the first week in September.”

“As the fall approaches—and as we have done throughout the pandemic—we will continue to follow the science, including the expertise of our own faculty, and adhere to public health guidelines in each of the regions where Northeastern maintains campuses,” the email read. 

As of March 9, Northeastern’s seven-day average of positive test results is 0.19% and the city of Boston has an estimated 27,369 active cases of COVID-19. According to the March 8 vaccination report for Massachusetts, 2,143,793 doses have been administered in the state, making up 88.1% of the vaccines Massachusetts has received. 

Madigan said the likelihood of high vaccination rates contributes to Northeastern’s ability to reopen safely. President Joe Biden announced March 2 that the United States will have vaccines for all adults by May. Northeastern was administering vaccines at the Cabot Testing Center until a vaccine dose shortage led the state to instruct Northeastern to no longer administer first doses. 

Madigan said the changes Northeastern implemented have “reinforced the importance of our physical campuses for teaching, learning, research, and work.” 

“The safety of our community will remain at the forefront of our planning,” Madigan said. “We will remain agile and prepared to pivot in the event that conditions change beyond our control. If we need to make a shift in plans, we will inform the community immediately.”

The university’s intent with this early announcement is to reduce uncertainty for families and students, Madigan said. 

 “The university’s leadership is well aware of how difficult the past year has been on faculty, staff, students, and families,” Madigan said. “It is our hope that a full reopening in the fall will not only enhance our ability to achieve our mission, but also serve as a beacon of hope that a brighter future is within our grasp.”