Suffolk University to hold classes online, send home students for rest of semester due to coronavirus outbreak

The decision comes after Mass. Governor Charlie Baker declared a state of emergency Tuesday over the rising number of coronavirus cases in the state


Julia Ahaesy

Smith Hall at Suffolk University

Suffolk University will hold classes online or in “remote forms of learning” for the remainder of the semester due to the coronavirus outbreak, President Marisa Kelly announced via email to the Suffolk community on Tuesday evening. Spring Break will also be extended until Wednesday, March 18, according to the same email.

All students living on campus, with the exception of international students who cannot return to their home countries or students with special circumstances, will have to vacate their rooms, Kelly said.   

University officials have not yet said what “remote forms of learning” will entail. 

“Suffolk University is taking all necessary steps to protect the health and safety of our students and our University community in the face of the global spread of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19),” Kelly wrote in an email to students Tuesday night. 

“While there have been no reported cases of COVID-19 at Suffolk, we are focused on minimizing the health risks to our students, our employees and the broader community,” Kelly wrote. 

The university has not yet said when students will be able to remove their belongings from the residence halls. However, all students leaving the dorms will be refunded the housing cost for the remainder of the semester, Kelly said. 

An email with further instructions about move-out times, frequently asked questions and details for students seeking to petition to stay on campus will be sent out to on-campus residents at a later date, officials said. 

Despite the partial closures of the residence halls and shift to online classes, university services, such as Counseling, Health & Wellness and Academic Advising, will remain available and the campus will stay open. 

An information hotline for students and their families will be open starting at 10 a.m. Wednesday. The hotline, which can be called at 833-761-0115, will be staffed from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.

Kelly said the decision to partially shut-down the university for the remainder of the semester came after university officials had been meeting daily to discuss new developments with the virus. Emerson College, Tufts University and Harvard University announced this week that they will also move classes online for the rest of the semester due to the cornonavirus, according to The Boston Globe

“This is a major decision for the University, and it was not made lightly…” Kelly wrote. “We have carefully monitored guidance from public health agencies, and in the current environment health risks would be heightened by large numbers of students returning from spring break travels to gather in classrooms and residence halls.”

Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker declared a state of emergency Tuesday over the spread of coronavirus. The Globe reported Tuesday that 92 confirmed and presumptive cases of the coronavirus have been reported in Massachusetts. 

“I would have to say that the risk has increased,” Baker said at a press conference Tuesday. “Responding to this evolving health threat requires everyone to be vigilant and everyone to be part of this effort.”

An estimated 96.6% of those who come down with coronavirus survive, according to the World Health Organization. However, people who are older or have serious chronic medical conditions like heart disease, diabetes or lung disease, are most at risk for getting seriously sick due to the virus. 

“We also understand that there are members of our community who are more vulnerable to the health risks of the virus, and these steps may help protect their health and well-being,” Kelly wrote in the email. 

Kelly said the university will notify the Suffolk community of further updates on housing, classes, events and activities on campus via email.