University President Anthony Monaco expressed cautious optimism about Tufts’ reopening plan and thanked students, faculty and staff for following health guidelines during a virtual town hall with other university administrators on Sept. 25.
Monaco noted that, as of Friday, the university’s seven-day COVID-19 positivity rate in all campuses is 0.01%, in comparison to Massachusetts’ seven-day positivity rate of 0.80%.
He explained that more than 6,300 students followed arrival protocol and that, currently, 3,100 undergraduates are on campus.
Monaco praised community members for following university procedures and guidelines related to COVID-19.
“You have distinguished yourselves and are really examples for your peers,” Monaco said. “However, we know with [COVID-19] you must remain vigilant and cannot let our guard down.”
In reference to a university policy banning singing and wind instruments on campus, Monaco said that administrators are “evaluating alternative spaces” for music majors and minors and New England Conservatory (NEC) combined-degree students to practice their instruments or vocals. The university is working to ensure that the spaces adhere to health and safety regulations.
He also urged students to stay on campus for Thanksgiving break, after an off-campus travel policy was released in a university-wide email earlier that day. The policy gave students the choice of staying on campus or traveling home and staying home for the remainder of the term.
Camille Lizarríbar, dean of student affairs, indicated that planning is already underway to celebrate the holiday on campus.
“Our goal is really to make this a meaningful way of marking the holiday that can both recognize all of the difficulties we have been going through and also celebrate resilience and celebrate our sense of being a Tufts community,” she said.
Lizarríbar added that the university will not be reimbursing those who decide not to return to campus after Thanksgiving break.
Like Monaco, James Glaser, dean of the School of Arts and Sciences, commended staff and others in the community for following COVID-19 guidelines.
“The dedication of our staff as we prepared this summer has been remarkable, and I’m really just in awe of those people around me who made it possible to bring students back to campus this fall,” he said.
He also explained that 55% of courses in the School of Arts and Sciences and the School of Engineering this semester have an in-person component.
Glaser, who is teaching Introduction to American Politics in person this year, said that he has seen firsthand students’ enthusiasm for being back in the classroom.
“As students are leaving the class, they are all thanking me,” Glaser said. “I’ve taught here for almost 30 years, sometimes that happens on the last day of class, but every class ends with a chorus of thank you’s from students.”
In response to a submitted question, Glaser said that planning continues for the spring semester. However, he noted that the university anticipates offering students the option of studying on campus or remotely again in the spring, and that spring break may be canceled.
Patti Klos, director of dining and business services at Tufts Dining, addressed continuing concerns about lines at dining centers during peak hours. Dining employees have also expressed concerns about understaffing.
She said that one problem lies in the change from self-service to staff service.
Tufts Dining will add a takeout service to the Dewick-MacPhie Dining Center on Sept. 28 called “Dewick 2,” which is similar to “Carm 2,” where students will have the opportunity to preorder breakfast and lunch and pick it up.
Klos also announced that students will be permitted to sit in groups, no larger than six, inside Dewick, beginning this week. Carmichael Dining Center will open to indoor dining a few days later. She said that Tufts Dining may increase the seating cap to 10 people per table in the coming months.
Michelle Bowdler, the executive director of health and wellness services, addressed Massachusetts’ influenza vaccination requirement.
“The flu shots are on their way,” she said.
Bowdler encouraged students to receive the vaccination at a local pharmacy to reduce the burden on Health Service.