As COVID-19 continues to spread across the globe, the number of cases has increased domestically, and Massachusetts has entered a state of emergency. It is imperative that we take steps as individuals and as a community to help limit the spread of the coronavirus. Our best opportunity to do so is to reduce the density of our population on our campuses, thereby decreasing the risk of community spread, especially in a residential community. This is particularly the case as we approach the onset of undergraduate spring break, when many students travel widely before returning to campus. As an institution committed to civic life, we must do our part to contain the spread of COVID-19, not only among our own community and campuses, but also among those with whom we come into contact externally.
As a result, and in the best interests of our community, we are making significant, immediate changes, some of which will be disappointing to you and create difficulties that together we will need to manage. Despite these challenges, I am confident that these are the right steps to take together. We are taking them after much deliberation and discussion, guided at all times by our commitment to protecting the health, well-being, and safety of our community members and informed by our close collaboration with national, state, and local public health authorities.
Classes moving online
Beginning March 25, University instruction will be conducted virtually for the remainder of the semester. You will receive additional information from your schools about the next steps to take in order to carry out this transition to distance learning. We appreciate your patience while your schools prepare this guidance over the next several days.
To prepare for this change, all AS&E classes will be canceled on Friday, March 13 and undergraduate spring break will be extended until March 25. This extra time will provide students with opportunity to pack their residence hall rooms and depart campus by Monday, March 16 and faculty with additional planning time to move to distance learning. We expect all students to make best efforts to comply with this move-out date and not return to campus except as noted below.
Students who are unable to return to their permanent residences at this time due to travel restrictions or other significant constraints will be allowed to remain in the dormitories. Registration with Residential Life is required but should be straightforward. Fletcher students residing within Blakely Hall will be required to register with Fletcher’s Office of Student Affairs. For those remaining on campus, services and resources on the Medford/Somerville and SMFA campuses will be adjusted accordingly.
The move to distance learning will not affect international students’ visa status; the Tufts International Center will be contacting you with more information.
Graduate and professional schools, some of whose academic calendars differ from the undergraduate schools, also will move predominantly to online instruction. You will receive guidance specific to your school from your deans and faculty, including direction on labs and clinical work.
At this point, the move to remote learning classes is limited to the spring semester. The Tufts summer session is not currently affected by this decision.
New travel and event restrictions
Effective immediately, all University-sponsored, connected, or funded domestic and international travel for students, faculty, and staff is prohibited. The University also strongly discourages all personal domestic and international travel by students, faculty, and staff, except for the purposes of students returning home.
On-campus events that include external visitors will be prohibited through the end of April. Tufts-sponsored off-campus events are prohibited through the end of April as well. No decision has been made about events following April 30, including Commencement and Senior Week.
As consistent with previous guidance and CDC guidelines, any faculty, students, staff, or visitors currently abroad and arriving from CDC Level 3 warning countries — currently China, South Korea, Iran, and Italy, though this situation could change quickly — are prohibited from coming to campus, even if symptom-free, for 14 days; you must self-quarantine in accordance with the guidance issued by the CDC. Additional requirements apply to inbound travelers who arrive on campus following this 14-day self-quarantine.
Athletic restrictions and cancellations
While winter season athletic teams will be allowed to complete their seasons, spectators will be prohibited from attending any events held at Tufts, including the NCAA tournament games being held at Cousens Gymnasium this weekend. Whenever possible, these events will be streamed online.
Following a decision of the NESCAC presidents, the NESCAC league and championship play are canceled. Further, Tufts, like many of our NESCAC colleagues, will not have any spring sports for the remainder of the semester. We await guidance from the NCAA about eligibility for spring post-season play. We realize this will be upsetting to our athletes and their supporters. We recognize the dedication and hard work of our student athletes, and we look forward to resumption of NESCAC competition in the future.
University offices to remain open
University offices will remain open, and faculty and staff will continue to report to work as regularly scheduled. Supervisors and staff will soon receive instructions regarding policies and procedures for working from home if necessary. Contingency planning is underway should it become necessary for the University to close and move its operations entirely online, outside of essential staff.
Clearly, the measures outlined above are serious, and we will feel their impact acutely. As a collegial and community-oriented University, we cherish each other’s company and the face-to-face interactions that make learning, teaching, and working here a privilege. It is in this spirit of caring for each other that I ask each of you to understand the need for these changes and to comply with them.
I also recognize that these decisions raise as many questions as they answer. If you have a question, please send it to firstname.lastname@example.org. I ask for your patience as we review and answer your inquiries. Meanwhile, we will continue to keep you informed as we have additional announcements. Please visit go.tufts.edu/coronavirus, where you also will find guidance on precautions, medical assistance, support, and mental health services, and links to reliable sources of information.
As we have deliberated these changes in recent days, I have been struck by the dedication and professionalism of our deans, faculty, and staff, who have met this challenge with poise, creativity and a can-do attitude that is heartening. Likewise, I thank our students for their understanding, patience, and resilience, both over the last few weeks and in the weeks to come. I appreciate each and every person’s efforts as we take these important and necessary steps.