The Daily is following the developments associated with the outbreak of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, and its effect on the Tufts community. As the community adapts to these ongoing developments, the Daily will continue to update this article with more information as it is available.
Caleb Symons, Elie Levine, Alexander Thompson, Robert Kaplan, Ryan Shaffer, Austin Clementi, Alex Viveros and Jake Freudberg contributed reporting to this article.
Prohibition on university-related travel extended
Tufts extended its ban on university-related travel for faculty, staff and students, which Executive Vice President Mike Howard announced in an email to the Tufts community on Friday.
Faculty members and staff are prohibited from domestic and international travel that is either sponsored or funded by or otherwise connected to Tufts until June 30, according to Howard. Students are prohibited from such travel until August 20.
Howard explained in his email that the university will examine its travel restrictions at the beginning of each month.
“The situation will be reassessed at periodic intervals (May 1, June 1, July 1, August 1), based on international, national, state, and local guidance, to determine whether a revision or extension of the restrictions for students and for faculty and staff may be warranted,” he wrote.
The new travel guidance updates Tufts’ ban on all university-related travel, which University President Anthony Monaco announced in a March 10 email to the Tufts community. Monaco also discouraged personal travel, except for the purposes of returning home.
Tufts promises continued work-study compensation, adding to refund commitments
Student Financial Services unveiled new changes to work-study funding in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak, in an update emailed to students today and posted on the university’s coronavirus website.
Since the university required most students to move out of on-campus housing by March 16, it has been developing plans to provide for student employees’ financial needs, according to the email. Still, the email recognized that these changes will result in fewer earnings from on-campus employment this semester than many students anticipated.
- Undergraduates and graduates who receive federal work-study funding will continue to be paid for their regular hours through the last day of final exams, May 8, regardless of whether they will continue working remotely — where possible — for their on-campus employer.
- Undergraduates without work-study funding will be paid for their regular hours
- through April 4. After April 4, undergraduates without work-study will only be paid for hours they work remotely.
- Graduate students without work-study will only be paid for hours they are able to work remotely through May 8.
- Students will be paid for an averaged number of hours they normally work, either according to a set schedule, or based on past weeks throughout this semester.
The update advised that student employees should continue to submit hours when they work. Student employees are also responsible for contacting their supervisors to discuss how to adapt to working remotely, and student supervisors should continue to update the payroll system for their employees.
The email also stressed that the termination of any on-campus student job as a result of the university’s response to the coronavirus will not impact a student’s ability to reapply for any position when campus reopens.
Housing and meal plan fees will be prorated, effective March 16. The university will also refund JumboCash and RhinoBucks balances upon request, but students had to request refunds by Wednesday, March 25, according to an email Tufts Dining sent out on Monday.
The prorated refunds are adjusted for the amount of financial aid each student receives, relative to students’ out-of-pocket costs. The prorated reimbursements will be issued as credit to their accounts, which can be held for a future semester or refunded through Student Information Systems.
Students living in on-campus housing will automatically receive prorated credit for any housing and meal plan fees. Those living off campus with meal plans had to request credit for meal plans by Thursday at noon, according to Tufts’ coronavirus website.
Tufts Commencement ceremony to be conducted virtually
Tufts will hold its first-ever virtual Commencement ceremony on May 17, University President Anthony Monaco announced in an email to the Tufts community on Thursday.
Monaco attributed the decision to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has shuttered events around the world. The Commencement ceremony is scheduled to take place just after a two-month period during which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has advised against gatherings of 50 or more people.
“We are now working to design a unique and participatory virtual experience that will capture the spirit, positivity and fun of a traditional commencement ceremony for graduates, their families, alumni, and the entire Tufts community,” Monaco wrote. “We hope you will join us in thinking about how to create an impactful and memorable event.”
The announcement provoked considerable opposition among graduating students.
On Thursday afternoon, the Tufts Community Union (TCU) Senate members of the Class of 2020 demanded that the university organize an on-campus graduation ceremony after the risk of the coronavirus subsides. The TCU Senate members argued that a physical ceremony would be particularly meaningful for first-generation students and called on Tufts to help low-income and international students attend an on-campus ceremony.
A petition urging Tufts to reschedule the Commencement ceremony rather than host it virtually had more than 2,600 signatures as of Thursday afternoon.
Many Boston-area schools, including Harvard University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Northeastern University, have decided to conduct virtual commencement ceremonies. Harvard and MIT also plan to hold on-campus ceremonies at a later date, while students at Northeastern have circulated a petition asking administrators to do the same.
Tufts adopts optional, for-credit Pass/Fail grading system
Tufts faculty in the Schools of Arts and Sciences and Engineering (AS&E) voted today to allow several exceptions to their academic policies for the remainder of the spring semester, providing most undergraduates more academic flexibility as the COVID-19 pandemic disrupts traditional learning environments across the world.
- The Pass/Fail grading option is temporarily expanded with a new grade, called “Exceptional Pass” (EP). EP encompasses letter grades from D- to A+, satisfies all degree and distribution requirements and does not affect students’ grade point averages. EP will be awarded instead of any “Pass” grade for the remainder of the spring semester.
- The deadlines to select the Pass/Fail grading option and withdraw from a course were both extended from April 1 to April 27, the final day of classes.
- Tufts courses completed online over the spring and summer terms will not be counted toward a student’s limit on coursework completed online. Similarly, online courses completed at other institutions, including external study abroad programs, may now be considered for transfer of credit.
- Courses completed at other institutions that adopted a mandatory pass/fail grading system, in which students may only receive a “pass” or “fail” for courses taken, may be considered by the deans and Registrar for transfer of credit.
- For course registration for fall 2o20: No student will have an advising hold placed on them before their registration time and registration will remain open until late August, instead of closing in mid-April and reopening in June.
The policy changes, announced by the deans of the undergraduate schools along with the respective deans of academic advising and undergraduate studies, were explained in an email to AS&E students, faculty and staff on Monday evening after the faculty vote.
These changes do not apply to studio coursework taken by Bachelor of Fine Arts and Combined Degree students, whose grade is awarded on a “Credit” or “No Credit” system. According to the deans’ email, students at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts will be informed soon about changes to their review board process.
Numerous other colleges and universities have already adopted similar grading policies to address the disruptions to instruction, grading and academic performance caused by the departure of most students from their campuses and its implications. Harvard University and the University of Pennsylvania have adopted optional pass/fail policies, while the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Smith College have adopted versions of a mandatory pass/fail grading system.
The sweeping changes to academic policy were announced less than 48 hours before students reconvene online for the remainder of the spring semester. Classes, which were suspended in-person by the administration since March 13 in order to slow the rate of transmission of COVID-19, will still continue to their previously scheduled final day on April 27, as will final exams from May 1 to May 8.
Students who may have been exposed to a Tufts student who tested positive for COVID-19 will end their quarantines in the coming days, provided they have not displayed symptoms of the novel coronavirus.
In an email from the Office of the Dean of Student Affairs (DOSA) on March 20, the quarantined students were instructed to practice social distancing after their release. Students quarantined on campus were also told to expect additional information from the university about their housing situation.
The students went into self-quarantine after being informed by Tufts last week that they may have been exposed to the coronavirus by a student who tested positive for COVID-19. That student attended a party at Arts Haus on March 7 with several dozen individuals and also sat in two classes on March 9 before developing a fever the following day.
In an email from DOSA several days later, students who attended the party or the two classes were instructed to stay at home and to limit their contact with other people for 14 days. The two-week span is the virus’ maximum incubation period, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
That period will expire today for students who may have been exposed to the virus at the March 7 party and on Tuesday for students who attended March 9 classes with the infected student.
Tufts is prepared to accommodate patients from Boston-area hospitals and health centers in its residence halls, if necessary, University President Anthony Monaco wrote in a Boston Globe op-ed today.
In his op-ed, Monaco identified five measures that colleges can take to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on local health care systems.
- Identify residential units that can be used for patients in quarantine and prepare dining services to support these patients.
- Offer residential units to patients requiring non-essential medical rehabilitation services in order to free up inpatient hospital beds; provide hospitals with personal protective equipment, laboratory supplies and cleaning supplies.
- Establish triage centers for COVID-19 testing in university-owned parking lots and prepare to use open space and gymnasiums as field hospitals.
- Engage trained military personnel, retired executives and government leaders in the university community for operations and communications advice; establish an incident command structure to oversee management and communications.
- Engage alumni, faculty and students who can provide online assistance and financial support, if necessary.
Tufts informed the mayors of Somerville and Medford, as well as local health care leaders, that it is prepared to take these steps, according to Monaco.
The university has already offered to house Tufts Medical Center patients requiring non-essential medical rehabilitation services in its residence halls.
At least five Tufts students remain in their study abroad locations after their host countries suspended international flights and tightened their borders.
Three of the students were studying in Morocco and are currently in hotels — two in Rabat, one in Casablanca — as arranged by their study abroad programs. Two other students were studying in Peru and remain with their host families.
Four of the students, all of whom are juniors, were studying through School for International Training (SIT) programs. Tufts is working with the students and SIT to repatriate them, according to Senior Director of Study Abroad and Global Education Mala Ghosh.
As of Tuesday evening, the three students stranded in Morocco had tentatively booked flights to leave the country later this week.
This post was updated on March 17 to reflect new information.
Students told to register for meal times, dining operations moved to Dewick-MacPhie
Tufts Dining Services will provide takeout meals and require students to register for specific meal times in an effort to comply with Massachusetts’ social distancing recommendations, according to emails sent to members of the Tufts community by Director of Dining and Business Services Patti Klos on Monday.
Meal times will be available on a first-come, first-served basis and will be capped at 25 students per 15-minute slot, according to Klos. Students can register for specific meal times through the Office for Campus Life’s Tufts Tickets online system.
Students in self-quarantine or isolation will be able to order a continental breakfast from Tufts Dining through an online form. Breakfast will be delivered to those students with the previous night’s dinner.
Meals will be served takeout-style, in accordance with Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker’s directive on Sunday banning on-premise consumption, which will go into effect tomorrow.
Tufts Dining currently uses containers that are either compostable or disposable and will continue to source sustainable materials “wherever possible,” Klos wrote in an email to the Daily.
Klos also announced in an email that Tufts Dining will offer meal services at Dewick-MacPhie Dining Center for the rest of the semester. Brunch will be served from 10 a.m.–3 p.m., and dinner will be served from 4–8 p.m.
The university previously told students that Carmichael Dining Center would host Tufts’ dining operations until May 8 while other dining locations, including Dewick, would be closed, effective March 14. Instead, Carmichael Dining Center closed on March 15.
“The University decided to continue operations at Dewick rather than Carmichael to best effect social distancing, and provide services to students who may be unable to come to the dining centers for a period of time,” Klos told the Daily. “Dewick is also in closer proximity to where Tufts expects many students may be living after Spring Break.”
Klos added that the switch to Dewick is not connected to Tufts’ ongoing negotiations with Dining Services employees over their hours and compensation.
“The University is actively negotiating with the dining union about the impact these operational changes may have on employees’ hours and compensation, and remains committed to finding ways to ease this disruption wherever possible,” she wrote.
Commons Marketplace, in the Mayer Campus Center, will remain open with limited weekday hours, as Tufts previously announced. Students will be able to use one meal swipe each day at this location.
Exchange students in the Global Education program studying at Tufts learned on Saturday that they must depart campus and return to their home country by March 20, or risk violating the terms of their J-1 visa.
As part of Tufts’ response to the coronavirus pandemic, exchange students will be allowed to continue their Spring 2020 classes online but must leave their residence hall by March 16.
“[We] have determined, given worsening conditions arising from the COVID-19 pandemic, that it is in the interest of both the students themselves and Tufts to arrange for their return to their home countries and home universities,” Tufts Executive Director of Media Relations Patrick Collins wrote in an email to the Daily.
The decision by Tufts to suspend its Global Education program seems to contradict President Monaco’s initial commitment that international students’ visa status would not be affected by the move to online classes.
Other university affiliates with J-1 visas, including postdoctoral researchers and visiting professors, will not be affected by Tufts’ suspension of the Global Education program.
Tufts Dining workers await news from the university about how the campus closure will affect their employment, according to union officials.
Several UNITE HERE Local 26 shop stewards, who represent the dining workers, met with university officials, including Director of Dining and Business Services Patti Klos, and a number of top managers in Dowling Hall on Thursday afternoon.
The majority of Tufts Dining facilities closed on Saturday for the rest of the semester.
- Carmichael Dining Center and Commons Marketplace, however, will remain open with limited hours until May 8.The university’s central kitchen will also remain open, according to two union shop stewards.
Representatives from Local 26 will meet with university officials on Tuesday to work out an agreement, which may include worker proposals stipulating that Tufts pay all the Dining Services workers in full through April 30, bring workers back to campus to conduct a deep clean of dining facilities for a week after spring recess as well as considerations regarding insurance coverage for healthcare costs related to the COVID-19 pandemic and sick days.
Patrick Collins, Tufts’ executive director of media relations, confirmed that the university is in negotiations with Dining Services managers and representatives from Local 26.
“The University is actively reviewing its business continuity plans and will work with the Union and dining employees to prioritize the health and safety of all community members,” Collins wrote in an email to the Daily.
Tufts Labor Coalition posted a statement online on Thursday morning in support of the dining workers. The student group also demanded that the university pay workers through the end of the semester and ensure they have access to COVID-19 testing and unlimited sick days. As of Sunday afternoon, the post had garnered more than 700 signatures.
Arts Haus residents quarantined after student with COVID-19 attends party in house
Arts Haus residents are under quarantine as of today, according to its house manager, after the student who tested positive for COVID-19 attended a mixer involving several clubs in the house on Saturday evening. Around 80 students were in attendance.
Last night, Tufts notified the sick student’s peers who attended classes with them on Monday that they may have been at risk of contracting the virus.
Tufts sent a similar alert to students who attended the mixer at Arts Haus this morning. At this time, it is unclear how Tufts found the names of those who attended the party. In addition, leaders from the clubs encouraged students who attended the party to contact Student Affairs last night.
An email from the Student Affairs Office asked students enrolled in the classes to isolate themselves. Several students enrolled in the sick student’s Tuesday classes were also notified, but Tufts later issued a correction, saying the sick student did not attend their Tuesday classes.
At least one Arts Haus resident has already left campus for home.
Tufts and the student organization Tufts Mutual Aid are providing food and supplies to those left in Arts Haus, as well as to those who were asked to isolate themselves after coming into contact with the sick student.
Libraries close to Tufts community, general public
Tisch Library at the School of Arts and Sciences closed at noon today, according to an email sent to students at the Schools of Arts and Sciences and Engineering. The Lilly Music Library remains open until 3:00 p.m. today, as clarified in a follow-up to the initial email. The closure comes amid a series of announcements from the administration regarding university operations in response to COVID-19.
Tisch Library, alongside Lilly Music Library, will be closed to the general public and the Tufts community for an undetermined period. Only library staff can enter the building to continue business operations and assist with academic research via virtual chat.
The library at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts will remain open over the weekend, closing on Monday to the general public and the Tufts community.
NCAA cancels remaining postseason events
Tufts had six winter teams currently scheduled for NCAA postseason competition: women’s basketball, men’s basketball, women’s track and field, men’s track and field, women’s swim and dive and men’s swim and dive.
Currently, the only Tufts student-athletes that have traveled to postseason events are members of the track and field teams, which traveled to North Carolina. The NCAA and Tufts Athletics Department are currently working with Shorts Travel Management to book student-athletes and coaches on flights back to Boston so that student-athletes can collect their belongings and move off campus, according to Director of Athletics Communications Paul Sweeney.
“This decision is based on the evolving COVID-19 public health threat, our ability to ensure the events do not contribute to spread of the pandemic, and the impracticality of hosting such events at any time during this academic year given ongoing decisions by other entities,” the NCAA statement said.
Executive Vice President Mike Howard announced in an email to the Tufts community Thursday evening that a Tufts student has tested positive for COVID-19, becoming the first university affiliate with a presumptive positive case.
The student had been placed in quarantine by the university on Tuesday after coming down with a fever that morning. The student had traveled to the United Kingdom over the weekend, where they attended a high school reunion with alumni from several European countries, the student told the Daily.
The student attended an on-campus party with several dozen individuals, as well as two classes on Monday, after returning to Tufts.
Howard announced in the email that members of the Tufts community who may have had contact with the student will be contacted by the Medford Board of Health and will be given information on self-quarantine practices.
Four Tufts students who lived in an off-campus apartment with the quarantined student have not yet been tested for the virus but have been in self-isolation since Wednesday morning. Those students attended their classes on Monday and Tuesday and attended numerous university events.
- The student is one of 13 new presumptive positive cases announced by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health on Thursday, bringing the total number of cases in Massachusetts to 108.
Tufts study abroad programs in continental Europe suspended, students asked to return home
Tufts suspended on Thursday its study abroad programs in Madrid, Paris and Tübingen, Germany in an effort to protect the safety of its students and prevent the spread of COVID-19, according to Executive Director of Media Relations Patrick Collins.
Collins explained that students were asked to return to the United States or to their home country immediately and that Tufts will reimburse students for the cost of their travel.
“Our priority at this time is organizing the departures of our students,” Collins told the Daily in an email. “We will be in subsequent contact with them to provide updates on academic continuation and financial adjustments.”
Students returning from these study abroad programs will be required to self-isolate for at least 14 days upon their return to the United States or their home country in order to ensure they do not have the coronavirus. Students have also been asked not to return to Tufts’ Medford/Somerville campus.
Tufts’ decision to suspend its study abroad programs in continental Europe followed President Donald Trump’s announcement Wednesday night of new restrictions on travelers from Europe. Citizens from countries in the European Union’s Schengen Area — which does not include the United Kingdom — will be prohibited from entering the United States for 30 days.
Students on Tufts’ programs in London and at Oxford University have not yet been told to leave.
A grassroots effort by the Tufts community to support students who are scrambling to find storage and housing launched Tuesday evening and has grown significantly in recent days.
Junior Marley Hillman organized Tufts Mutual Aid following the announcement on Tuesday by University President Anthony Monaco that classes will be suspended and students will be asked to leave residence halls for the rest of the semester.
Tufts Mutual Aid has since garnered over 1,000 likes on its Facebook page, where people can submit via a Google form their storage and housing availability. Community members can also provide monetary aid to students in need.
Students soliciting assistance can view and request resources on a centralized spreadsheet. As of Thursday afternoon, the spreadsheet had over 600 entries.
- More than $5,000 had been distributed directly to students in need by Wednesday evening, according to Hillman.
- Tufts Mutual Aid has since begun encouraging people to donate to the FIRST Center’s Unexpected Hardship Fund for Student Needs, which has raised over $20,o00.
- Similar grassroots efforts have been taken at other schools sending students home, including Harvard University and Middlebury College.
The first presumptive positive case of COVID-19 in Medford was announced Tuesday, while Somerville learned of two residents with presumptive positive cases on Wednesday.
Both cities have been preparing to handle cases of the novel coronavirus and their impact on local health infrastructure, schools and municipal services.
In Somerville, one of the presumptive positives was the spouse of a West Somerville Neighborhood School teacher, as well as the parent of a student at the same school, which is located on Powderhouse Boulevard — a short walk from Tufts’ campus. All three members of the family are being quarantined, and the school was closed Thursday after receiving deep cleaning Wednesday evening.
Medford and Somerville received notice of the presumptive positive tests from the Massachusetts DPH. The preliminary tests must still be sent to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for verification.
- Somerville Mayor Joseph Curtatone announced on Wednesday that all events sponsored by the city with over 50 attendees will be postponed until after April 30, among other “social distancing measures.”
Tufts Executive Vice President Mike Howard announced in an email to the Tufts community on Wednesday afternoon that a student at the university is being tested for COVID-19, on advice from the Massachusetts DPH.
The student, who is now in quarantine, recently returned from travelling abroad, according to a source close to the quarantined student. Several students have been asked to self-isolate after having potentially been in close contact with the quarantined student.
Howard explained that the student has not yet been diagnosed with coronavirus and that Tufts will inform the university community if any of its affiliates receives a positive diagnosis.
Residents must demonstrate travel restrictions or extenuating personal circumstances to remain in dorms
Students living on Tufts’ Medford/Somerville campus and at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts (SMFA) must leave their residence hall by 3 p.m. on Monday, March 16, according to an email on Wednesday from the deans of several Tufts undergraduate and graduate schools.
The email offered details regarding students’ ability to petition Tufts for permission to stay in their residence hall past March 16. Students were required to demonstrate that they are unable to return to their permanent residences either due to travel restrictions or “extenuating financial or personal circumstances” by 5 p.m. on Thursday, March 12. Additionally, students from countries designated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention with a Level 3 travel warning will have the opportunity to stay on campus.
- In their email, the deans also announced that most Tufts Dining locations on the university’s Medford/Somerville and SMFA campuses will close for the semester. The Commons Marketplace and Carmichael Dining Center will remain open to students.
University President Anthony Monaco announced in an email to the Tufts community Tuesday evening that classes will be conducted online for the remainder of the semester in order to prevent an outbreak of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, on Tufts’ campuses.
In addition, Tufts will require students living on campus to leave their residence hall by Monday, March 16. Students who cannot return to their permanent residence due to travel restrictions or other obstacles will be allowed to remain, as long as they receive permission from the university.
Undergraduate spring break, previously scheduled for March 14–23, will now begin on March 13 in order to give students more time to pack their belongings. Students will resume classes, conducted remotely, on March 25.
- Monaco also announced that the move to remote learning will not affect international students’ visa status.The U. S. Department of Homeland Security told universities it would not enforce its policy preventing international students from taking more than one course online, according to the Stanford Daily.
- Tufts has suspended all university-supported domestic and international travel for students, faculty and staff. It also “strongly discourages” all non-essential travel by members of the Tufts community.
- No decision has been made about the status of events after April 30, which include Senior Week and Commencement.