'The virus isn’t going away...Campuses need to reopen,' Northeastern University president warns

The president of Northeastern University, Joseph Aoun, believes the virus is here to stay for the long-run and there needs to be a push to open campuses.

With the new school year underway, many schools and universities across the nation are sticking to strictly online classes.

With many colleges and universities across the country shifting to remote learning for the fall semester, and even the spring semester, one college president is arguing that campuses need to reopen.

Joseph Aoun, president of Northeastern University in Boston wrote in a Washington Post op-ed titled, "The virus isn’t going away. That’s why campuses need to reopen," that he believes schools need to reopen, and explained why he himself worked tirelessly to ensure Northeastern students could return to their classrooms this fall. 

He argues that the coronavirus is going to be a constant threat, and states that the world cannot hit the pause button.

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“The pandemic, we realized, is going to be endemic: an ongoing threat to manage, not a brief blip in history, cleanly wiped out by a miracle vaccine. The science will take time. But the world cannot,” Aoun explains after consulting with various epidemiologists, biologists, and scientists from the Northeastern faculty.

“Manufacturing enough doses to vaccinate the entire country, let alone the world, will take many months. And we don’t yet know the strength and duration of the immunity that will be conferred, making it likely that the world will experience covid-19 outbreaks, albeit at lower levels, for years," Aoun continued.

Auon states that the coronavirus will likely be a "four-to-five-year problem" and explains that putting a pause on in-person learning would "be devastating to colleges and their students."
“This will likely make COVID-19 at least a four-to-five-year problem, epidemiologists say. Pausing in-person education that long would be devastating to colleges and their students. And even a one-year delay would be a substantial challenge. It would disproportionately hurt low-income students who spent the spring continuing their studies online, without adequate technology, sometimes in overcrowded and even traumatic living conditions. And it would impair universities’ ability to discover solutions that would make the world safer — from this pandemic, and from ones that are yet to come.”

Campus Reform reached out to Northeastern students to get their takes on Aoun’s stance.

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One student, Tess Dufour, a sophomore at Northeastern told Campus reform that she "absolutely" agrees with her university president.

“I absolutely agree with his push to reopen,” Dufour said. “I agree with the principle that this is an ‘endemic’ virus that will not be erased within one year. I acknowledge how serious and high risk the coronavirus is, however, I also acknowledge the importance of college students being able to thrive within a new normal. We have the benefit of seeing other colleges go back before us. We have learned from their mistakes and plan to handle this pandemic way better.”

Bernardo Costa is an international student about to embark on his second year at Northeastern. 

When asked whether he agrees with Aoun’s push to reopen schools this fall, he said that international students are disadvantaged by remote learning, stating that if they stay home, they risk losing their visas.

“Many international students have worked their whole lives towards studying in the U.S. Taking classes at home could be a very big time difference for them. Many times they cannot watch the classes live and it hurts their academic performance. We also risk losing visas, scholarships, and things like that.”

“These are things we can’t afford to lose,” Bernardo continued. “By reopening campuses, they’re giving people a choice on whether they’d prefer to come back and continue their educational journey where they intended to be from the beginning - in the United States.”

Follow the author of this article on Twitter @LeanaDippie