• Ani Kodjabasheva

How to Reopen Campus this Autumn

What would it take to resume operations once Covid-19 is under control? One university has a plan.

What would it take to reopen a campus after it has been closed down for months? “This is not going to be as simple as flipping a switch and getting back to business as usual,” cautions Robert A. Brown, president of Boston University (US).


Many institutions are still scrambling to finish the spring semester, including exams and graduation. But others are thinking ahead. To make returning to campus this autumn possible, the time to act is now.


How to get from 0 to 60 this autumn

Boston University has shared details of their plan to re-launch campus operations next semester. The university appointed a number of working groups to tackle different aspects of this process simultaneously.


  • Academic and student life working groups investigate how teaching, research, and campus life need to adapt. For example, how can courses be scheduled if only small class gatherings are allowed? How can cafeterias operate in a safe manner?

  • A medical advisory group is “stress-testing” proposals to determine if they are feasible.

  • A budgetary committee calculates the financial implications of proposed actions.


As all groups brainstorm, research, and give each other feedback, the decision-making process is accelerated. Proposals can be implemented as soon as they are approved in terms of safety and cost.


What if you cannot reopen campus?

Boston University is not unusual in preferring to return to in-person operations in the autumn. While this is a likely outcome, it is not guaranteed.


The recovery plan takes into account different scenarios, including maintaining remote operations as late as January 2021. Staff are also preparing for ongoing interruptions to some programmes.


It is impossible to predict what will happen in autumn 2020. However, that is not a reason to delay preparing. Now is the time to engage faculty and staff in a campus-wide planning effort.


By using an agile decision-making process and anticipating different outcomes, you can make sure that, whatever happens, you will be ready.


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