A Letter from Rep. Joe Kennedy and a Letter from BU History

Congressman Joseph P. Kennedy III (D-MA 4th District) sent a letter today to President Brown of Boston University, calling on the university to fix their policies regarding PhD students, and allow all graduate students and other teachers at BU to “Teach from Anywhere” (a phrase I and others have been using for some time now). He expresses wholehearted support for our petition, which now has more than 1400 signatures (as he mentions). I wonder whether the BU President will acknowledge receipt of this letter from Congressman Kennedy, which is something neither his office nor the Provost’s office has ever done with any of the direct communications from Russell Powell and myself (including our original signed copy of our open letter on June 2, and our delivery of the petition on June 15, when it contained over 1000 signatures).

The Provost’s Office today sent out an announcement to all PhD students asserting that they will provide health insurance to all PhD students (one of the concerns highlighted in Kennedy’s letter), and registering that they are trying to think their way through the visa issues involving foreign students. One might well wonder whether Congressman Kennedy’s letter prompted the university to send out this email today.

A second letter has also come to my attention. This is a letter sent directly to BU leaders from the Department of History, asking the university to allow all instructors to be given the option of teaching remotely. The letter is well worth reading for the way it provides a number of concrete considerations regarding health and safety issues, in particular. This letter complements our open letter of June 2 (a letter I’ve heard is sometimes incorrectly being referred to as a letter from the Department of Philosophy) and the first letter from the Department of English. All three letters, as well as the letter from Congressman Kennedy, are different at the level of detail, but they all share the common request to provide BU teachers with the freedom to teach from anywhere. I heard today that, after recently looking like it might head in the same direction as BU, Northeastern University has finally relented to the same kind of request from its employees. Perhaps BU will now also finally relent?

One last development must be mentioned, as it could be of great importance to some readers if BU does not relent. BU today changed the web page that hosts the workplace adjustment form. It now acknowledges that the CDC guidelines that changed on June 25, the day the form was originally said to be due, mean that the university must be open to accepting applications from employees who are now covered by the new guidelines. Two changes that seem particularly relevant are the expanded age range for being at serious risk (65 is no longer mentioned as an especially significant age), and the change from a minimum BMI of 40 to a minimum BMI of 30. The deadline has been changed, according to the new form, to July 9. There has been no general communication with employees about these specific changes, although perhaps there will be one soon. Some, but not all employees, have also received an email indicating that they should be concerned if they submitted a form but did not receive an immediate acknowledgment by email of having done so. It appears this a common problem. If you submitted a form but did not receive an email acknowledgement, you must submit again to guarantee that your application will be considered, the email from a high level administrator notes.