Schools Should Open Virtually Until Current Surge Subsides and More is Known about Virulence of New COVID Strain

I am urging all schools to start remotely this semester because I do not believe it is safe to open schools during the absolute peak of a worldwide pandemic, especially when a new virus strain is circulating that appears to be much more transmissible by children and teens. Based on what I see as a clear consensus among epidemiology experts, I do not believe that it is safe to re-open schools for in-person classes and activities at this time. There are two primary bases for this opinion:  1. We are at the absolute peak of the pandemic . When we opened in September, we were at a lull in the pandemic, with very low rates of community transmission. That could reasonably be used as a justification to bring students and teachers/staff into the classroom. However, right now we are in the midst of the worst surge in COVID-19 that has occurred since the start of the pandemic. The number of daily infections and hospitalizations is at an all-time high. Moreover, it is not even clear that we have

Student Survey Confirms that LfA Systematically Disadvantages the Most Health-Vulnerable Students; Far from Being a Method to "Meet Students Where they Are," It is a Post-Hoc Justification for a Decision Made Solely on Financial Grounds

A new student survey has confirmed the argument I made at the start of the semester: that the Learn from Anywhere (LfA) system is socially unjust because it systematically disadvantages students based on health vulnerability. While the LfA approach was touted as being a new, innovative educational approach designed specifically to improve education and "meet students where they are" in terms of how they learn best, I argued back in late August that the primary factor that would determine whether students came into the classroom or attended virtually was their health vulnerability -- that is, either how susceptible they are to severe manifestations of COVID-19 or how scared they are about becoming infected. A new student survey released yesterday revealed that my initial impression was correct and that the propaganda surrounding LfA was wrong. Students who chose the remote option were asked the reasons why they did so. The results? Only 9% of respondents reported that they cho

Open Letter to Governor Baker from Jerry Halberstadt (Coordinator of the Stop Bullying Coalition and Michael Siegel (Professor of Public Health at Boston University)

8 December, 2020 Contact: Jerry Halberstadt 978.310.9739 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Jerry Halberstadt, Coordinator of theStop Bullying Coalition today and Michael Siegel, the public health advisor to the Coalition and a Professor of Community Public Health at Boston University together posted an open letter to Governor Charles C. Baker and challenged him to take action to curtail non-essential gatherings that contribute to the spread of COVID-19. They urged him to work with Monica Bharel, the Commissioner of Public Health, to actively enforce mandates that protect elderly and disabled tenants in multi-unit, public and subsidized housing. See: Siegel said, “I call on the governor to shut down restaurants, gyms, and casinos and to institute appropriate measures to protect residents of multi-unit housing.” In a related development on December 4, 2020, Halberstadt and Siegel were joined by Michael Kane and other comm

The Worst Consequence of BUSPH Decision to Hold Hybrid Classes: Losing Sight of Our Public Health Mission

What seems to have been completely lost in the School of Public Health's decision to hold hybrid (meaning in-person) classes is that we are in the middle of a pandemic that has killed more than 190,000 people and that as a school of public health, our mission should be to try to reduce that toll to the greatest extent possible. It appears that the primary factor considered in the university's initial decision was purely financial. Why else would we decide back in April (in the middle of a raging pandemic) to open back up in September, without having any idea whatsoever what the situation would be like? But even if you put that aside and simply consider what decision would make sense at the present time, the primary factors being used to defend in-person classes are financial impact, student expectations, educational value, and the low rate of infection at the moment. I have argued elsewhere on this blog that it is inappropriate to place financial impact above public health, tha

The LfA Marketing Scheme Revisited: Two Weeks In, It is Clear that this was a Hoax to Lure In Tuition Dollars

According to Boston University, the Learn from Anywhere (LfA) approach was chosen because : "It protects the health and safety of everyone, students and faculty, and provides the kind of flexibility that students need in these difficult times. It enables the University to meet the needs of all students, and to deliver the same high-quality teaching BU students are accustomed to.” Two weeks into the semester, it is clear that this rationale is a hoax.  First, in what way does LfA protect the health and safety of everyone ? Does it protect the health and safety of faculty who are forced to teach classes even though they live with family members who are at high risk of COVID complications? Does it protect the health and safety of employees who are required to spend long hours in classrooms? Does it protect the health and safety of students who may be exposed for at least 162 hours in relatively poorly ventilated classrooms under conditions in which we know that COVID spreads thro

Guest Commentary by John Sherman: The Collective Failure of Educational Institutions in Boston to Assess the Risk of Transmission to the Community is a Scandal

In this guest commentary, attorney John Sherman refutes the argument that holding in-person classes is justified because the current rate of COVID infection is low and if it rises, we can just revert to online classes. John Sherman is an attorney with expertise in business and human rights. He is Senior Program Fellow at the Corporate Responsibility Initiative at the Harvard Kennedy School, an Executive Fellow at the Hoffman Center for Business Ethics at Bentley University, and Senior Advisor and General Counsel of Shift. The Collective Failure of Educational Institutions in Boston to Assess the Risk of Transmission to the Community is a Scandal In the WGBH audio, the dean of the school of public health said that he supported the school’s decision to reopen because Massachusetts numbers are low, but if that changes, BU would have to change as well.   I found that comment to be very disturbing, since it does not reflect the likelihood that the transmission of the virus from BU as

New Data from Boston Public Schools Demonstrates How BUSPH Learn from Anywhere Approach is a Racist Policy

In this commentary, I want to explain the two major reasons why the LfA (Learn from Anywhere) approach being implemented at the Boston University School of Public Health is a racist policy that has no place in a school of public health. I show why it violates the principle of social justice that is supposedly one of the School's top priorities. In the LfA approach, students may choose whether they want to attend a class in-person or remotely. This is also called a hybrid approach because there are some students in the classroom and some students who are remote. 1. This educational approach systematically conveys benefits to the most privileged and denies them to the most vulnerable, who are disproportionately students of color . The School has tried to justify the LfA approach by arguing that it is designed to give students a choice based on their educational preferences: that is, students can choose based on how they learn best. However, the truth is that the primary deciding fact