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Boston University is shutting down its dorms

BU students learned Tuesday night that their dorms would be shut down Sunday in an effort to help stop the spread of coronavirus.
BU students learned Tuesday night that their dorms would be shut down Sunday in an effort to help stop the spread of coronavirus.The Boston Globe/Boston Globe

Boston University announced Tuesday night that it plans to shut down its dorms by Sunday, leaving undergraduates, many of whom were at home after spring break, rushing back to campus to collect their belongings.

The decision is a dramatic reversal of the university’s decision last week to keep the dorms and dining halls open at least until April 13, although officials urged students who were on spring break to remain home and take classes online. The university at that time told students that it would revisit its policy on April 13 and determine then whether to continue with remote learning.

But in a sign of how rapidly circumstances are changing, BU President Robert A. Brown wrote students to announce the change. He told them he had hoped the university could return to in-person instruction by mid-April. But he added, “This hope now seems to be unrealistic. ... We are living through unprecedented events requiring new levels of adaptation for all of us.”

BU’s spring break ended on Friday and many students cancelled their plans to return to Boston after Brown’s message last week. Students started taking online classes remotely Monday.

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Now, those who live out-of-state are scrambling to book last-minute flights to Boston and trying to determine whether it’s safe to come back when all the others students flood the campus.

“I’m so furious about it,” said Alessandra Kellermann, a parent of a Michigan junior. Her son booked a ticket on his credit card Tuesday night to return to Boston and clean out his room.

“Not everybody lives in Boston,” she said. “They weren’t thinking about the families who don’t have money growing on trees.”

Allison Pirog, a BU sophomore also from Michigan, was talking to her parents Tuesday night to determine whether it was worth making the 12-hour drive to Boston in the next few days to get her belongings, including her laptop.

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“It doesn’t seem super safe to all go there at the same time," Pirog said. " I do feel lucky to have an option of driving."

Pirog and other families, however, said they were pleased that BU had agreed to pro-rate their room and board expenses. The university had initially said it wouldn’t offer refunds, but would revisit the decision after April 13.

Universities across the United States and in Boston notified students in the past week of their plans to clear the dorms in an effort to contain the coronavirus. Institutions such as MIT, Harvard, the University of Massachusetts Amherst were fortunate because their spring breaks are scheduled for the second half of March, and students were already planning to leave campus and could pack up for a more permanent move.

BU’s spring break was last week, and some students left even earlier in March for vacation, but had every intention of returning.

BU said it will allow some exceptions to the move-out policy, but students must submit an appeal.

Instruction will continue online.

Brown said the university will offer more details for students who cannot return to campus and get their belongings. BU officials haven’t decided whether commencement will continue as scheduled on May 15.

Brown’s announcement comes as state and federal officials urge more people to limit public gatherings. Massachusetts has prohibited dining in restaurants and bars and limited gatherings to 25 people or fewer.

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“Our hope is that our virtual technology will allow us to stay connected as we study and interact remotely, but I know it will not be the same,” Brown said in his letter to students “I will feel this as I walk the empty Charles River Campus."



Deirdre Fernandes can be reached at deirdre.fernandes@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @fernandesglobe.