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FSU - Important Update and Action


Dear FSU Members, 

Yesterday the FSU held a Forum on safety and the campus Fall opening that was attended by about 90 members.  The meeting was clarifying on a number of levels, but perhaps most simply in the consensus that the university is not doing enough to protect the campus (and wider) community as we return in the midst of the ongoing challenge posed by Delta.  

Please continue to share your concerns directly with the Administration’s Return To Campus Planning Committee ( as well as the Chancellor and Provost (and feel free to cc   It is important that the Administration hear from a wide range of faculty.  It is also concerning that faculty and staff have not been at the table where decisions about campus safety and the Fall opening are being made.  Please make your voices heard. 

During the first half of yesterday’s Forum we heard from Rob Pomales, the Executive Director of University Health Services.  Rob generously shared a lot of important information (and we encouraged him to share it with everyone), including about the systems for testing and tracing that were developed and implemented since the first days of the pandemic until the present.  The University has developed significant expertise and experience in this area (as well as others).  Whether or not these systems have the capacity to ramp up as we move from a nearly empty campus to a full one remains to be seen. 

The second half of the meeting was an internal discussion among roughly 90 faculty and librarians.  Serious safety concerns about the Fall opening remain.  There was general agreement that the University has not sufficiently confronted the challenges posed by Delta.   

Given the reality of Delta, many faculty argued – and virtually everyone agreed -- that a gradualist approach to returning is key in order to reduce overall density on campus and potentially contain/slow the virus (which will help insure we are not forced to return to remote very quickly).  It no longer makes sense to bring 15,000-plus people to campus all at once – on packed subways and shuttles, into packed classes, etc.  If we are not going to reduce overall density, there should at the very least be measures in place to reduce density in key areas such as shuttles and highly trafficked areas, especially in older buildings where few people think ventilation is up to the task.  Given Delta, vaccine and mask mandates are not enough. 

Because the university is currently committed to a full campus, and is not making efforts to reduce density (either overall or in particular places), faculty and librarians suggested that more precautions should be taken, especially in the first two weeks when the campus is particularly packed and the trajectory of Covid uncertain.  This period will be not only key to our safety, but to determining the fate of the semester and our ability to keep the campus (relatively) open. In the absence of a more gradualist return, faculty and librarians maintained that we need a mandatory system of testing (of everyone on campus…frequently) if we are going to be able to get ahead of an inevitable spike – to know as soon as possible about increased cases before it is too late to slow a potential spread.   As Rob said, we can expect a lot of Covid cases.  It is inevitable given the university’s commitment to a full campus.  But what seems critical is getting a handle on the number (and location) of cases by testing everyone – that is, by having the info to act quickly.  People agreed that the current system of testing/tracing is not up to the challenges ahead. 

Although many faculty are willing to start the semester in-person, and are looking forward to getting (physically) back into the class with students, the vast majority believe – given different risk thresholds and so much uncertainty -- that faculty should have the flexibility/discretion to move their classes remote.  We heard this in the yesterday's Forum as well as in a recent poll of members.  This is not to say that most would opt to teach remotely immediately or even in the immediate future.  Faculty want to be in the classroom. But they see the need for flexibility. 

Faculty also would like to know how a universal “pivot” will be determined.  How will a decision be made for a campus-wide pivot to remote?  Will such a decision be made by the number of positive cases on campus, by the percentage of positive cases (relative to total campus community), by some other metric?  What is the process?  Who is deciding? 

As you would expect, there were and are many other concerns and questions.  But perhaps most fundamentally, the faculty and librarians at the Forum yesterday believe that faculty/staff should be at the table where these decisions are being made.  It’s not simply that our safety and well-being is on the line (as well as our students, staff colleagues, and greater Boston).  We have been and will be on the ground in the classrooms, shuttles, and campus spaces – and hence bring a lot of knowledge to any discussion that will make the campus safer for ourselves and the broader community.  

Please communicate your concerns to the Administration. 

More to come. 

Steve Striffler 

FSU President