• Doug Most

    Assistant VP, Executive Editor, Editorial Department Twitter Profile

    Doug Most is a lifelong journalist and author whose career has spanned newspapers and magazines up and down the East Coast, with stops in Washington, D.C., South Carolina, New Jersey, and Boston. He was named Journalist of the Year while at The Record in Bergen County, N.J., for his coverage of a tragic story about two teens charged with killing their newborn. After a stint at Boston Magazine, he worked for more than a decade at the Boston Globe in various roles, including magazine editor and deputy managing editor/special projects. His 2014 nonfiction book, The Race Underground, tells the story of the birth of subways in America and was made into a PBS/American Experience documentary. He has a BA in political communication from George Washington University. Profile

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There are 10 comments on President Brown on BU’s Lessons Learned from the Fall, Hopes for Spring

  1. Thank you Dr. Brown for all you and the administration and staff have done for the BU community. BU is such a forward thinking and visionary institution and a definite leader in higher education.

    As parents of a senior and athlete, we thank you for allowing our daughter to have a different, unique, and actually an extremely good experience under the circumstances. While you can’t be perfect, BU is definitely a model for handling this pandemic. Our daughter has had such a tremendous experience during her years at BU. She has told us this was the best decision she has ever made.

    We hope there will be an in person graduation for the Class of 2021 even if it is “different” from the past graduations. Again, thank you for everything you do.

  2. I’m glad that parents are happy with President Brown. I wish that more staff and faculty members were. Being forced back into our offices and the classroom when infection rates are sky high, with all that we have learned about airborne transmission and the increasingly concerning news about the new variant of COVID, is not making many of us happy with President Brown. It is–or should be–a no brainer under the circumstances to allow everyone to work from home who can. I continue to be appalled that the University is making it impossible for most people to do so.

  3. Wowzy-dowzy! What an articulate and well-considered speaker our President is! Certainly he evinces a “bird’s-eye view” only many issues I am only peripherally invested in, and one gets the sense he has a larger view of the whole as well. Second, I commend him for deciding to have his views and plans known through interview format as it puts a much more human touch to the issues and how they affect us. Clearly, President Brown is punching from the gut here, he believes in our community, its potential, and more than just aligned with that he is a part. The laurels thus far are well earned but agree not time to stop and drink it all in. Sincerely,

  4. Philippe, I agree: I appreciate the perspective, scope, candor, and format of this piece.

    You and I are fortunate to work in a corner of Sargent College where support for the health and wellbeing of staff is never in question. The previous commenter’s point about staff not being allowed to work remotely, whenever possible, is concerning. I’d like to better understand the dynamics in play in those decisions, which I’m sure are terribly painful to make.

    I hope the university administration will remain open-minded about the pros and cons of remote learning, as well as delivering services and conducting research, going forward.

    I’ll share something I’ve observed consistently in conducting research interviews, facilitating activities (e.g. an open mic), and meetings to discuss BU resources with students and adults in the community living with various mental health challenges and conditions: folks, particularly those struggling with anxiety disorders, tend to be more comfortable, forthcoming, and engaged over Zoom from the comfort and safety of their homes and dorm rooms. While in-person interaction is certainly invaluable, the ability to interact with us remotely has removed a significant barrier for many. Something to consider as we strive to become a more inclusive and welcoming institution.

    Thank you. Wishing all a healthy, rewarding semester.

  5. I am genuinely puzzled by people’s enthusiasm for this piece. While President Brown said a lot here, he also left out a lot. In particular, he did not address the very real public health concerns about his plan to physically repopulate campus. It is much harder this semester than it was in the fall to get permission to work remotely. Just one example: for some reason that I’m not aware of, the University has decided to strike breast-feeding mothers off the list of people allowed to do their jobs from home. Why is this the case, given where we are with the virus right now? If he has scientific evidence that the consensus about aerosol spread is wrong, or that the current rate of infections is not a problem, it would be helpful if he would provide it. If he’s asking people to put themselves and their families at real risk for financial considerations, it would be helpful if he would say so clearly. I would have been more interested in seeing that kind of explanatory statement than the nice things he had to say about Marty Walsh.

  6. Thank you, Dr. Brown, for your fair assessment of why international students are coming to study at BU. The possibility of staying is definitely a big factor here. That said, I would hope that in a time of growing economic and social disparities, BU would turn its focus on serving US citizens rather than foreigners who use the US emigration system to enter and stay in the country. We are all aware of the economic benefits foreign students bring, yet as a US-based institution, BU should focus on lifting The American lower and middle classes out of poverty and stagnation. After all, it is their taxes, their sweat and sacrifices that are funding higher education in this country.

  7. Responding to one of the posts above, yes, BU does have School of Public Health. It also has a strong Economics Department (CAS) as well as the Questrom School of Business… No one is casting doubt about the severity of the health situation we’re all facing. That said, with severely reduced revenue flows, institutions such as BU can’t pay the bills. The press is full of stories about how colleges and universities are struggling to make it through this critical moment. Many of those schools have gone fully remote. As a consequence, many students and their families have decided not to enroll. Students are smart enough to figure out that remote learning can never be at the same level as in-person learning. Moreover, for some reason, they don’t want to keep living, at age 19 or 20, in the same bedroom they’ve occupied since infancy. The “college experience” is not just some silly fantasy in which students indulge. Being dismissive or condescending toward parents who want their daughters and sons to have some kind of in-person component in the classes they take is short-sighted at the bare minimum. Parents underwrite BU’s budget with the tuition they pay (and yes, room and board as well). I’ve seen no alternative business plan presented by people who criticize the model BU is striving to implement. By all means: let’s all work from home. The pink slip blizzard that would ensue would make many change their current tune very quickly. The current measures being taken to guarantee that the institution survives financially while at the same time safeguarding employees health are impressive. My colleagues around the country, and indeed, around the world, can’t believe it when I tell them about our protocols and technical infrastructure. Also, kudos to BU students who are observing health rules very seriously. I haven’t seen a single student without a mask since classes started last September–much better, by far, than what we were seeing at the White House until recently. I understand colleagues and fellow workers concerns as expressed in several posts above, but again, BU needs to survive financially. President Brown is an employee of the Board of Trustees. The Board has fiduciary responsibility regarding this institution. If it goes off the rails because of the way it is facing this crisis, the Board is legally on the hook vis-a-vis the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. In closing, it’s worth remembering that, yes, what we all face is serious, but it’s not exactly akin to the London Blitz or the siege of Stalingrad. We all need to take a deep breath (yes, with masks on) and move forward.

    1. Thank you, James Iffland: this is exactly the kind of discussion I would have appreciated seeing from the president. Actually, I would have appreciated seeing even more development of this argument: is pushing people back to campus the only way to stay solvent? Or were there other steps the administration could have taken (pausing construction projects; pulling back on other forms of investment; providing students with the opportunity to take more in-person classes over the summer to make up for a lack of in-person classes in the spring; etc.) to head off massive layoffs while still following CDC guidance about working from home? Given that we don’t have much data on the university’s finances, but we do have a LOT of data about the risks of indoor congregation at this time, it’s not really that surprising that there’s resistance amongst staff and faculty to going back. I agree with you that this is not the Blitz, but it’s a big jump from accepting that premise to accepting the administration’s workforce policies: a lot of people continue to have very good reasons not to want to go back.

  8. In my view, BU’s response to the pandemic was not well thought out. I understand that the model and budget are based on in-person learning. The problem is, BU wasn’t able to adapt its model to the crisis. Instead it broke the bank trying to continue in-person learning ($70+ million for a testing protocol?). This, coupled with BU’s non-existent tolerance for risk, seems to have doomed the plan from the start. Who would have guessed that college kids would want to socialize? Apparently, not those in charge at BU!

    It would have been better to simply be honest and warn students that the 2020-2021 school year would be remote-only. Instead, we paid full tuition for remote learning so our son could experience what it’s like to live in a police state. Who knows, may be it was a valuable lesson. In hindsight, taking a gap year seems like it would have been a better option. Too bad we signed a yearlong lease for a (dreaded) off-campus house! May BU’s leaders have better success planning for 2021-2022.

    P.S., It’s interesting that Dr. Brown foresees “a big push from corporations for immigrants” because “[t]hey need the talent”. What does this tell us about his regard for the talents of BU students from the USA?

  9. In response to “Feeling Safer’s” thoughtful comments, yes, knowing more about the financial reasoning behind the decisions made by the Central Administration would have been helpful. And yes, I’m sure that there are other ways to achieve the goal of remaining solvent while going completely remote. A classic way to do so is by “down-sizing”: i.e., firing and/or furloughing even more employees. You can also continue to freeze, or even cut, salaries and contributions to pension plans, put a freeze on new hires, reduce expenditures on “nonessential items” such as purchasing books for Mugar Library, etc., etc. You can cut the number of majors and programs available to students (something happening across the country). Many colleagues home in on the construction projects, as if suspending them would suddenly free up enough money so we could go completely to the remote model. Here it would, indeed, be nice to know exactly how much money such a measure would free up. My intuition is that it’s not the cure-all that many seem to expect. And some of those projects are surely connected to specific donations to the recent capital campaign, donations that have legal stipulations surrounding them. Many colleagues seem to think that all the money raised in that campaign is sitting in a money market account somewhere, instantly accessible to the Central Administration. Again, my intuition tells me that this is not how things work. The Covid crisis is provoking much profound reflection and soul-searching on how higher education is financed in this country. The cracks in the system were already widening, and things will get much worse as the Covid juggernaut moves forward. Reform of higher education financing *must* happen, but right now, BU needs to keep afloat in the here and now. Many faculty and staff have good reasons for not working/teaching in person. These colleagues and fellow workers can request an “accommodation” (i.e., an exemption). These “accommodations” appear to have been given out fairly liberally. The place feels empty to me. I pretty much have my own departmental office building to myself and I rarely see in-person classes in progress in the main CAS building. The image sometimes evoked of hordes of people being forcibly driven back to offices or classrooms is not accurate, at least as based on my own experience. To wrap up these comments, I would point out that many of our fellow BU employees don’t have the option of working from home–ever. Many of these are, of course, “essential workers” (and thus paid less)–custodians, grounds workers, those who work in campus food services and healthcare facilities, etc. And then we have all those working in our science labs in different capacities–they can’t stay home either. Faculty unwilling to teach 6-9 hours or so a week, in classrooms with strict protocols in place (everybody wearing a mask, seats placed six feet apart, etc.), with specially installed air circulation units, in front of students who are taking 3 Covid tests a week, simply invite more stereotyping of college teachers as a coddled elite. Elementary and high school faculty are facing increasing flak for not being willing to teach in person, so we can only imagine how the general public looks at the guild to which we belong…

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