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Tufts, Suffolk, Emerson, and other Mass. colleges move classes online and require students to move out amid coronavirus concerns

Tufts University in Medford.
Tufts University in Medford.Emily Zilm for Tufts University

Emerson College in Boston announced Tuesday it would move all classes online for the rest of the semester and gave students the option to move out of on-campus housing.

The decision announced by President Lee Pelton came just hours after Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker declared a state of emergency Tuesday to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus. Tufts University in Medford, Suffolk University in Boston, Babson College in Wellesley and the Olin College of Engineering in Needham said Tuesday that they will transition to online learning and have students move off-campus.

Emerson’s campus will remain open for staff, faculty, and students who choose to remain on campus. Facilities like the campus dining center will remain open but with more restricted options, Pelton said in his statement.

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“I understand that transitioning to online courses will be a significant adjustment,” he said. “Please know that staff and faculty are committed to ensuring a positive and fulfilling learning experience for the remainder of the semester.”

Tufts announced Tuesday night that it will move to virtual learning for the rest of the semester and that spring break will be extended to allow students more time to move out of their dormitories.

“It is imperative that we take steps as individuals and as a community to help limit the spread of the coronavirus,” Tufts President Anthony Monaco said in a statement. “Our best opportunity to do so is to reduce the density of our population on our campuses, thereby decreasing the risk of community spread, especially in a residential community.”

The university will remain open, but starting March 25, Tufts will move to virtual learning for all classes. To prepare, classes will be canceled on Friday and undergraduate spring break will be extended until March 25, Monaco said.

Students must move out of campus housing by Monday, March 16, the statement said. If students are unable to return home because of travel restrictions or other circumstances, Monaco said they will be allowed to remain in housing.

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In his statement, Monaco also prohibited all university-sponsored domestic and international travel for students, faculty, and staff.

All of the winter-season sports at Tufts will be allowed finish their seasons but spectators will not be allowed to attend events held at the university. All spring-season sports have been cancelled.

Babson will move classes online for the remainder of the semester beginning March 13 and is requiring students to move off of campus by March 21, President Stephen Spinelli said in a statement.

Olin, located in Needham, will also move its classes online indefinitely and told students to not return to campus after spring break, President Richard Miller said in a statement. Miller said the college did not know when they would reopen campus so advised that students should take as many of their belongings as they need.

Suffolk is extending its spring break by two days and when classes resume on March 18, it will be done virtually until the end of the semester. University President Marisa Kelly announced that students will also be required to move out of campus housing with the exception of international students and domestic students “with special circumstances," the statement said.

In their statements, the college presidents indicated there would be options for students who could not move off campus, and provided resources for them to reach out to college officials with concerns.

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Baker announced a surge in COVID-19 cases in a press conference Tuesday afternoon. There are now 92 total cases, 70 of which are linked to the Biogen conference at the Marriott Longwharf. Six people have been hospitalized.

Spinelli said business operations at Babson would remain as scheduled but they would be significantly limiting larger events and activities on campus through March 31. Additionally, the college is banning all official, non-essential, out-of-state travel until further notice.

“Our community is global, understanding, and resilient, and I am proud of the way we have come together to address this concerning and evolving situation,” Spinelli said in his statement. “If there is ever a time to practice more love and care for one another, no matter the distance, now is that time.”

Although Olin is moving classes online, they are not closing the campus and are not requiring faculty and staff to work from home unless they meet the requirements for self-quarantine. Olin also banned all college-related, non essential travel and Miller discouraged the community from personal travel.

“I recognize that these measures will pose challenges for some of you and I want you to know that we are committed to providing everyone in the Olin community with the support they need to navigate these changes,” he said. “The well-being of our community is paramount and our goal in the end is to do what we can to keep our community safe and healthy.”

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Kelly said all Suffolk students who have to move out of residence halls would be eligible for a refund for housing costs. Suffolk will remain open for faculty and staff and services such as counseling, health & wellness and academic advising will remain available.

“I thank our students for their patience and willingness to adapt to changing circumstances in this challenging environment,” Kelly said in her statement Tuesday. “And I am grateful for the exceptional dedication of our faculty and staff, who are working tirelessly to ensure that teaching and learning at Suffolk University continue uninterrupted.”