Harvard doesn't rule out closing campus until 2021

The Harvard University president said with summer courses now entirely online, the school is "focused on the fall."

Harvard University is not ruling out the possibility of closing campus until 2021.

Harvard University is not ruling out the possibility that it might not open its campus again to students until 2021.

The announcement comes as Harvard researchers have said that social distancing measures may be necessary until 2022. 

In a message to students on Monday, Harvard University President Lawrence Bacow wrote, “Many of you are concerned about plans for the fall. We are analyzing multiple scenarios, but, in the end, we will be guided by public health considerations—just as we were in deciding on March 10 to send students home and then to implement plans for remote work.” 

With Harvard’s summer courses now entirely online, Bacow says the university is now “focused on the fall” and determining the latest possible date by which a decision on fall courses will need to be made even amid a “tremendous amount of uncertainty,” the Harvard Crimson reported.

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Boston University, after announcing plans to prepare for a January 2021 reopening of campus, is now backtracking.

In a university news article, the school previously announced a coronavirus recovery plan and stated that “a January reopening may be necessary’: “The Recovery Plan recognizes the possibility that the beginning of the fall term may have to be delayed and that a January reopening may be necessary...in which case, summer 2021 academics would replace those now planned for fall 2020.”

Following widespread media coverage of the announcement in outlets like the Boston Herald and CNN, BU amended the article on plans to reopen campus and included an editor’s note to clarify the school’s outlook. 

The original statement on a January 2021 reopening can no longer be found in the news article.

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“Media reports that the University will not reopen in the fall, and will instead reopen in January 2021, are false,” Doug Most, executive editor of BU Today, wrote in an editor’s note. “The article that follows reports on the University’s fall 2020 planning efforts, as well as various contingencies in the event public health authorities limit or do not allow residential colleges to reopen in the fall.”

The article now includes different language, with BU citing the “unlikely event” of campus not opening until 2021. 

“The Recovery Plan recognizes that if, in the unlikely event that public health officials deem it unsafe to open in the fall of 2020, then the University’s contingency plan envisions the need to consider a later in-person return, perhaps in January 2021,” the new statement now reads. 

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BU’s plan, titled the COVID-19 Recovery Plan, is being led by BU President Robert Brown. 

“We’ve made the big decisions relating to the spring and summer,” Brown said. “We are now in a position to focus on the fall and the best and safest way in which to bring the residential teaching and research community back onto campus when time and public health considerations permit.”

Purdue University President Mitch Daniels expressed similar doubts that campus will re-open in fall 2020. 

In comments to News 18, Daniels said he hopes students can return to campus by August but offered no guarantees. 

“Let’s just hope that all the steps that are being taken, the pain that’s being inflicted right now, will pay off as a resumption of life as we know it, including an open and vibrant campus,” Daniels said. 

Steve Clark, a spokesperson at Oregon State University, told The Oregonian that hoping for a fall reopening is not a strategy. 

“Only the novel coronavirus will determine what happens,” Clark said. “We can hope for a full return in fall 2020, but hope is not a strategy. So that is why we are going to prepare as best we can for every possible contingency.”

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