Class During COVID

What College Could Look Like This Fall, According to a University President

Lasell University President Michael Alexander shared what his school has planned when students return to campus

NBCUniversal, Inc.

Colleges across the Commonwealth and the country are preparing for the return of students this fall. Some have already decided to go online-only, while others are welcoming students back to campus or attempting to find a blend of the two options.

But what will college truly look like for students in Massachusetts this fall?

Michael Alexander, president of Lasell University in Newton, joined NBC10 Boston Tuesday for the first installment in the new "Class During COVID" webinar series focused on answering some of the many questions that parents, teachers and students are grappling with right now.

"We're dealing with a period of incredible uncertainty," he said. "The uncertainty couldn't be greater."

But Alexander was able to provide a picture of what university life could look like during a pandemic based on what his school is planning.

How will they return?

"We think we've addressed it creatively and in some ways that are unusual compared to other institutions," Alexander said.

Back in April, when Lasell transitioned to remote learning, he said it became clear that they had to start planning for the fall. Faculty were challenged to be prepared to do everything remotely for the fall.

Lasell students are being given three options: residential, commuter or online.

"I think we were the first to do that," Alexander said, though others have since adopted similar approaches.

He said the university is also offering variable pricing depending on the option chosen.

"It was certainly unique at the time and may still be unique," Alexander said. "Not only no room and board, but lower tuition for people studying from home. It will cost less because they're not using campus resources."

How will testing work?

"We are going to have extensive testing," Alexander said.

He said the Broad Institute in Cambridge is offering to conduct testing for every higher education institution in Massachusetts.

Alexander said everyone on the Lasell campus will be tested twice a week -- once a week for those who aren't on campus as often. The Broad Institute is promising a 12 to 24 hour turnaround on test results, he said, and everyone will be tested again three to four days later.

"That, along with the normal safety protocols, really should allow us to keep the infection rate under control," he said.

Will masks be required?


Students will be required to wear masks when outside of their rooms, and faculty and staff will have to wear them all of the time, Alexander said.

He acknowledged that getting students to comply is a concern, so the school will be asking them to monitor each other.

"If you see somebody not complying, we expect you to go up and politely ask them to put a mask on," Alexander said. "We can't expect police and faculty to be enforcers. We all need to be enforcers. It's not just yourself you're putting at risk, but others as well."

What happens if a student tests positive?

"If there is a positive test, they will immediately be isolated and immediately retested," Alexander said.

If the student lives a reasonable distance away, as most Lasell students do, they will be sent home. Otherwise, residence halls have been set aside so that students who test positive can isolate themselves.

Alexander said the next step would be to contact Newton health officials, who will help conduct contact tracing to find out who else may have been exposed. Those people will be quarantined in a separate residence hall set aside for that purpose.

"We think the combination of frequent testing, immediate isolating and quarantine and following safety measures, we think there's a good chance we can keep things under control," Alexander said.

Contact Us