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April 3, 2020

Dear students, faculty, and staff,

As the COVID-19 emergency evolves, Tufts continues to respond to the pandemic. This week, for example, Tufts parents in China got together and donated 31,000 N95 respirator masks and other sought-after personal protective equipment to Tufts Medical Center. We are in our second week of online instruction and learning, as faculty, students, and staff continue to adapt and adjust. To give you a sense of what it means to move classes and administrative functions online, there have been more than 27,000 Tufts Zoom meetings and classes since March 25; this does not even capture the full extent of our presence, since the university also uses other platforms (e.g., Canvas).

Updated Travel Guidance

As circumstances arise, new decisions are made daily across the university. This week, new travel restrictions have been put in place. The prohibition on all university-sponsored, connected, or funded international or domestic travel by students, faculty, and staff has been extended through August 20 for students, and through June 30 for faculty and staff. The situation will be reassessed at periodic intervals (May 1, June 1, July 1, August 1), based on international, national, state, and local guidance, to determine whether a revision or extension of the restrictions for students and for faculty and staff may be warranted. For more detailed information, please visit the university’s COVID-19 travel FAQ page; a message detailing these changes is available here.

After hearing the many concerns of graduating students and their families about the plan to hold a virtual commencement, Tufts has announced a change to that plan. The traditional university-wide commencement ceremony will be held on campus at a date to be determined. On May 17, 2020, we will hold a virtual all-university degree conferral ceremony. In addition to this online ceremony on May 17 and an in-person commencement when it is safe, each school is in the process of deciding the format its ceremonies will take and when they will be held. More details will be provided as each school finalizes those plans.

Though I recognize that portions of the digest below will only pertain to certain groups within the community, I urge you to read the entire message.

Frequently Asked Questions

The university’s FAQ pages around COVID-19 are being updated regularly. Please visit the page if you have questions.

2020 Census Information for Students

The university has received an important update from the Association of Independent College & Universities in Massachusetts (AICUM) regarding student participation in the 2020 Census. The census is a mandatory headcount, taken every ten years, of all persons living in the United States and five U.S. territories. AICUM recently confirmed that every college and university student should be counted in the community where they have lived the past several months while attending their institution, regardless of any recent relocations due to the circumstances surrounding COVID-19.

All students who were living on campus (or who remain on campus) for Spring 2020 will be counted automatically by the university in our response to the 2020 Census. No action is required.

All students living off-campus in the local community will have had an invitation to participate in the 2020 Census sent to their addresses. If the invitation was received at your address, please follow the instructions and use the unique Census ID that is linked to your physical address. If your address was vacated before the invitation was received, please review instructions for participating in the census without an ID.

You may respond online at my2020census.gov, over the phone, or by mail. Please note that everyone who is or was living or staying at an address during spring 2020 should be counted by one person filling out the census for that address. All residents should be counted, including international students with a home country of record other than the United States. Please coordinate with any former roommates or housemates to ensure that information is submitted for your residence. 

Please note that all census data is protected by federal law, and that your personal information cannot be used against you by any government agency or court. No citizenship question is included in the census.

For additional information, please see the Census Bureau Statement on Modifying 2020 Census Operations to Make Sure College Students are Counted. Students are encouraged to review the Census Bureau’s informational video.

It takes only a few minutes to complete the census, and doing so is vital to our local communities. The census determines both federal and state funding, and much of the funding that comes from the census helps the most vulnerable among us. It provides health care, education, food and nutrition programs, housing, and child care for low-income families. For those of you who were or are living off-campus in the local community, thank you for helping us ensure an accurate count. If you have questions, please email covid19@tufts.edu.  

Dining Services

The Dewick-MacPhie Dining Hall is open seven days a week, while the Commons Marketplace is open for takeout only weekdays 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. (Learn more here [PDF].) The Tufts Dining team is taking proactive measures to make sure dining and retail centers are repeatedly disinfected. In addition, all staff practice social distancing and follow CDC guidelines for protecting themselves and customers from potential harm. 

Refunds on Employee Commuter Benefits  

Commuter benefits for Tufts employees are purchased through a payroll deduction taken a month in advance. You will need to change your enrollment through the EBPA benefits website by the 4th of the month to stop the payroll deduction for the following month’s commuter benefits. In other words, you must cancel your enrollment by Saturday, April 4, for example, in order to avoid a deduction for the May benefits. Visit AccessTufts to learn how to change your commuter benefit enrollment with EBPA.

Any funds loaded to your EBPA debit card that you do not use will remain in your account for future use as long as you are actively employed by the university. 

If you have set up a recurring MBTA monthly pass purchase automatically loading your CharlieCard, you will need to visit the MBTA website by the 23rd of the month to stop the purchase of a pass for the following month. If your April pass has already been loaded on your CharlieCard, as long as you do not use your CharlieCard or swipe it anywhere during the entire month of April, the value will carry forward. Please note that if you use or swipe your CharlieCard even once, you will forfeit the right to have the value of the April pass carried forward. Contact the MBTA for more information.

Commuter rail passes may be eligible for a refund. For more information, please check with the MBTA at MBTA.com or 888-844-0355.

Your Health

If you are concerned that you may have been exposed to the coronavirus, please contact your doctor for guidance. If you have had a positive COVID-19 test, please immediately notify covid19@tufts.edu so we can communicate with others who may have been exposed. If you have other questions or concerns, please contact the crisis communications center, which covers all campuses, at covid19@tufts.edu

Mindfulness practices can help with the stress and isolation around the pandemic. Marathon Health, with Tufts Human Resources sponsorship, is now offering virtual meditation sessions on Wednesdays from 11:30 a.m. to noon. The guided meditations will be led by Janet Fontana, RN. Everyone is welcome, and no previous meditation experience is needed. Participants can join with or without video. Log onto https://tufts.zoom.us/j/491278942; the meeting ID is 491 278 942. To join by phone, call 646-558-8656 and enter meeting ID 491 278 942.

Preserve Stories of the Pandemic with Tufts Digital Collections and Archives

How has the pandemic changed life at Tufts? Archivists at Tufts Digital Collections and Archives are working to preserve Tufts stories related to COVID-19 and are asking for your help. Your writing, photos, audio, and video will help create a fuller picture of the Tufts community in these historic times. Please visit the DCA site to contribute.

Tufts Community Response Volunteer Groups

During this unprecedented and challenging time, Tisch College is hosting an online volunteer platform, Tufts Civic Impact, to organize and train Tufts students, faculty, and staff who want to help out either virtually or in person (health, safety, and state or local travel restrictions allowing).

Volunteer offerings have also been expanded to cover some specific needs around such things as lab equipment. Because these requests are highly specialized and not really conducive to undergraduate volunteers, Tisch has made a separate page listing special requests and opportunities for researchers and others with technical supplies and expertise.

Athletics Fields Closed

While we encourage members of our community to get outside and enjoy the fresh air during these difficult times, it is important that we continue to practice social distancing on campus. To discourage organized games and contact sports that could hasten the spread of COVID-19, the university’s athletic fields, including the Ellis Oval, will be closed effective today, April 3. In accordance with City of Somerville guidelines, the playground on Powder House Boulevard has been closed as well. 

The vast majority of our Medford/Somerville campus, including the academic quad, the President’s Lawn, the Triangle Park (corner of Powder House Boulevard and College Avenue) and Fletcher Field (corner of Professor’s Row and Curtis Street), will remain open for walks and passive use. 

Please keep in mind that university and school-based decisions are being made on an ongoing basis with great care and consideration for public health and academic continuity. The university has never taken such extraordinary actions in its history. We ask for your patience, and I sincerely thank you for your cooperation, understanding, commitment, and flexibility as we move forward together.

Mike Howard
Executive Vice President

For the latest updates and guidance from Tufts University, please visit go.tufts.edu/coronavirus.