Suffolk announces big changes to how classes, housing will look in the fall


Julia Ahaesy

Smith Hall at Suffolk University

Suffolk University unveiled its plans for the fall 2020 semester Monday, and student life is set to look drastically different due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The university has been planning for the fall semester since early spring, Suffolk officials said in an email sent to students Monday. 

“We have done that planning with public health recommendations and guidelines in mind, and with the health and safety of our students and our community always as our top priority,” officials said in the email. “In the midst of a tragic and fluid global COVID-19 pandemic, we realize that public health guidelines can change quickly, and we will be ready to adjust as well.” 

The plan includes measures that will help keep students and teachers safe during the COVID-19 pandemic, both in the classroom and in campus-sponsored housing. 

The fall semester will start on Sept. 3 as originally planned. On-campus students will move into residence halls on Sept. 2, officials said. 

Suffolk will have a combination of face-to-face and online classes, with most face-to-face classes being “HyFlex.” In these classes, the instructor and some students will be in the classroom while other students participate online. 

The university will also have hybrid classes that will switch off between being held in person and online. A small number of classes will be held in person only, and over half of all classes will be entirely online, according to the email. 

Student organizations will continue both online and on campus, with large groups encouraged to meet via Zoom or other virtual platforms. Gatherings of more than 10 people will not be permitted, and all members must practice social distancing and wear face coverings when they are together.

Campus services will continue to be available to students, university officials said. Computer labs, the bookstore and libraries will remain open for students to visit in person.

“Advising, tutoring, academic coaching, psychological counseling, health care and support programs will be in place. However, most student-facing operations and all support services will also be available virtually,” officials said in the email.

As for housing, university residence halls will have one first-year student per room with either a minimally shared or private bathroom. For returning students, the university will have rooms available in local  hotels that are “within walking distance to campus,” according to the email. These will be private rooms with a private bathroom. 

The university will attempt to place students in close proximity to roommates they initially requested to be assigned with, but officials said they cannot guarantee that this will be the case. Gatherings in the hotels can not exceed 10 people and must follow social distancing guidelines. Students must also wear face coverings in public and around other students.

This is not the first time Suffolk has worked with local hotels, as the university contracted with The Wyndham Hotel on Beacon Hill in 2016, according to The Suffolk Journal. Eighty spaces in the hotel were occupied by Suffolk students after the university did not have enough room on its main campus to house every first-year student who requested housing that year.

Students can expect to be notified by July 15 of their housing assignment, and will be charged a double room rate if they are living at a hotel. 

Returning students who have applied for housing, even if they have all of their classes online, will be allowed to live in the hotels, officials said.

The university will implement new safety precautions for all students once they return to campus. Since Massachusetts guidelines recommend that all out-of-state travelers self-quarantine for 14 days once they arrive in the state, Suffolk will ask international and out-of-state students to self-quarantine before classes start. For those living in hotels, no additional charge will be added for students who request room and board while quarantining. 

Students will also be required to get a flu shot in the fall. 

“ALL students without a medically-documented exception during this period of COVID-19 will be required to obtain a flu shot during the month of October when the flu shot becomes available to the public. More information regarding this will be shared in the fall,” officials said. 

To minimize community exposure within buildings, only one family member or friend who is wearing a face covering, passes an on-site temperature check and gives a self-attestation to being symptom free will be permitted to help a student move into their assigned hotel room on move-in day.  

Until further notice, no guests, including friends from other residence areas, will be allowed in the hotels after 6 p.m. on move-in day.

The residence halls and hotels will remain open during Thanksgiving Recess and Winter Break to assist students who may not wish to travel home.

The university has yet to announce if fall sports teams will be allowed to play, and will send an update to student athletes over the summer. 

“As of today, plans have not yet been solidified regarding fall intercollegiate sports, but for programs that do take place, plans will include testing, greater social distancing for transportation to away games, etc,” officials said.