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September 25, 2020

We write today to share our general travel policy and specific guidelines for the Thanksgiving holiday.

Through the first several weeks of the semester, we have been doing well managing the spread of COVID-19. As you can see on our public dashboard, on the Medford/Somerville/SMFA campuses, our current seven-day positivity rate of 0.03% is significantly lower than the Massachusetts seven-day positivity rate of 0.80%. Though we have confidence in the plans we have in place, we know that success rests on the shoulders of each student, faculty, and staff rigorously following the health guidelines. Through mask wearing, physical distancing, and limiting the size of gatherings, you have shown a remarkable commitment to the health and safety of our community, and you deserve great credit for the results we have seen thus far. We are incredibly grateful for all you have done to help ensure a successful semester.

It is important to note, however, that success moving forward is not guaranteed, and we must continue to be careful.

It is becoming increasingly clear that travel off-campus, and in particular attending even small gatherings, has been a factor in many of the COVID-19 cases we have seen at Tufts so far this term. This has been true both for short trips and in-region travel and for longer trips and out-of-region travel. In light of the facts, we want to highlight our general travel policy and share specific new guidelines for Thanksgiving break.

General travel policy

All travel (both in-region and out-of-region) during the pandemic is strongly discouraged, except under exceptional circumstances. In general, exceptional circumstances are those in which your physical presence is essential (e.g., the death or life-threatening illness of a close family member). While we understand that travel for other important life events (e.g., family reunions, vacations, holidays, weddings) may be very important to you, it is not truly essential during a pandemic. All AS&E (including SMFA) undergraduate and graduate students are asked to register in advance of any such exceptional travel during the semester with the Dean of Student Affairs office.

Thanksgiving travel policy

Beginning with the Thanksgiving break, if you choose to travel, you cannot return to campus and instead must finish the semester remotely. This applies to all AS&E undergraduate and graduate students traveling in-region or out-of-region, and to those living on-campus and those living off-campus but attending courses and/or using campus facilities in-person.

If students elect to leave campus at Thanksgiving and therefore decide to finish the semester remotely, Tufts will not reimburse or pro-rate housing or dining fees. Students who believe they have a situation that meets the exceptional circumstance definition may request approval from the Office of the Dean of Student Affairs to travel over the break and return by submitting a request. Such requests will be granted rarely, and returning students will be required to meet quarantine and testing requirements upon their return.

In addition, this policy also applies to local travel such as attending off campus gatherings of any kind during the break, such as Thanksgiving dinner. The policy’s public health rationale is not how far a student will be traveling but their exposure to individuals who have not participated in our community’s routine testing and protocols. We recognize that this may be an unusual Thanksgiving for many, but limiting travel is vital to our plan to maintain the health of the community. Students and their families, friends, and loved ones are encouraged to celebrate the holiday remotely in creative and meaningful ways.

We are, as always, appealing to our students to adhere to these policies for the greater good of the community, and we appreciate the high level of compliance we have seen so far. Because of the serious health risks travelling and returning to campus during the Thanksgiving break would pose, violations of the travel policy will be addressed via the Student Conduct Resolution Procedure. 

We are making plans to offer students meaningful ways to mark this holiday that both recognize the difficulties and celebrate resilience and our sense of Tufts community. We will share these plans with you in the coming weeks.

We hope you will also join us at today’s Town Hall for students and families at 4 p.m. EDT during which this and many other COVID-related topics will be discussed.

Sincerely, 

James M. Glaser, Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences
Jianmin Qu, Dean of the School of Engineering
Nancy Bauer, Dean of the School of the Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts
Robert G. Cook, Dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences
Karen A. Panetta, Dean of Graduate Education, School of Engineering
Camille Lizarríbar, Dean of Student Affairs and Chief Student Affairs Officer