Boston Globe, February 2021
In one video, an upbeat pop melody plays as an announcer declares, “Don’t miss the moments that matter.” In another video, titled “Treasured Moments” students and their professor, masked and socially distanced, extol the virtues of in-person classes and the lingering conversations that occur after the lecture is over.
Nearly a year after COVID-19 gripped the country and transformed higher education, forcing many colleges to transition to mostly remote classes, Northeastern University is trying to remind its students about that long-ago time when they learned in-person, and is urging them to come back to the class this spring.
In recent weeks, the university has released videos on social media and instructed its professors to give students a nudge to attend in-person classes, if they have the opportunity, by including it in their syllabus. The effort has angered some Northeastern faculty and students, who say the university is prioritizing an image of a bustling campus over public health.
Encouraging more students to attend classes when COVID-19 remains a deadly threat is unwise and some professors are wary of pressuring students if they feel safer taking classes remotely, said Ryan Cordell, a Northeastern English professor, who taught both in person and online last semester. “The reality for a lot of classes, I don’t know if in-person in a pandemic is the best option,” Cordell said. “A lot of schools want the optics of being in-person.”
Northeastern has said that it has spent millions of dollars on frequent COVID testing and on ensuring that buildings are safe, and that transmission has been low on campus. Coming to class allows students to engage with peers and gain more out of their educational experience, administrators said.