Who Got You Through 2020? Interviews With Teachers and Students

by Giselle Wu

News

January 27, 2021

2020 has not been a year that any of us would have asked for. It has been unexpectedly challenging, exhausting, and sorrowful. Worldwide, a devastating pandemic took the lives of more than two million people; in America, the issue of police brutality took center stage, and our democracy itself faced unusual challenges — in short, it has been difficult to find a bright side to 2020. But it’s important to remember that 2020 was filled with many loving and caring moments. And at BUA, we are grateful for all the support and positivity in our caring community during these times. In this spirit, please find below responses from BUA students and teachers to the following question:

Can you name someone from the BUA community who got you through 2020?

Mr. Kolovos:

It’s impossible for me to pick just one person! I’ll start with my colleagues on the faculty and staff, who have been working since the summer to envision what this unusual year would look like and have been so creative and flexible as we’ve made it happen. I think about all of the students who have accepted the new rules and changes joyfully; because they are taking this so seriously, we haven’t missed a single day due to COVID-19. And I’m so grateful to all the parents for how warmly they’ve welcomed me and how they’ve partnered with us. It’s been the most incredible team effort this year. What a beautiful example of what we can accomplish together.

Dr. Larash:

The short answer, of course, is everyone! Dr. White, Ms. Brewster, and Mr. Kolovos did so much to make things possible, as well as Mr. Curran and his IT team, who got us set up in August in preparation for the new school year. But as for “getting me through” — to me, that’s asking who are my companions on this strange, uncertain journey, and I have to say my students. I continue to be impressed by and grateful for their good humor, willingness to try out new things, and perseverance! In the classroom I found a community banding together in an otherwise scattered and fragmented year. I would particularly like to thank the staff and writers of The Scarlet Letter for their work all year, especially with the December 2020 issue, in giving us a record of and reflections on this strange year that has so tested us.

Ms. Hakimi:

The BUA tour guides definitely played a large part in getting me through the fall of 2020. Our tour guides have always played a huge part in welcoming prospective families to campus, and it was important for us to continue to spotlight this group even if we had to run a virtual admission process. Starting in the summer, a group of two dozen eleventh and twelfth-grade BUAers started working with our admission office to design a virtual information session that would teach applicants about our academic and extracurricular programs — all via Zoom. On average, they’ve run twenty-plus sessions a week and have hosted over 350 prospective families, all with a smile on their faces. We couldn’t do our work without them, and we’re grateful for their support of our admission efforts!

Dr. Jewell:

I relied on the moral (and sometimes technical!) support of all my faculty friends. In particular, Ms. Brewster has been a problem-solving powerhouse. She’s been on the lookout for ways to make things run smoothly, fill gaps in technology or equipment, brainstorm new ways to get things done — and she drops words of encouragement at just the right time. Dr. Taylor has been unfailingly kind: she stops in just to say hello, and she’s always happy to see other colleagues — which lifts my spirits in turn. She’s been generous with her time, Zooming separately with me to help me learn new technology and walk me through some things I’d never tried before. And Dr. Larash has been (as always) a voice of gentle support and enthusiastic encouragement. She always shares teaching ideas; she volunteers to demo and “guinea-pig” new technology and exercises with us; she celebrates little victories among students who are learning new things; and she listens and shares on those days when things are hard, which is important too.

And here’s who else got me through: my students in my classes. I was in awe of their flexibility and grace last year. At the end of our first remote week, I said to them, “Look what you just did!” And (not gonna lie) I teared up a little bit… and I think I saw that some of them did too. The knowledge that we were all doing our best, and giving each other room to do our best, was deeply comforting. And then, at the end of the semester, something else gave me a boost to last me for a while: the little notes students wrote, or left on their last pieces of work — just a little note here and there, but oh, so deeply appreciated.

Mrs. Brown:

I have been in awe at the work done behind the scenes by Director of Operations Paige Brewster. From working with BUA families on digital access to arranging new furniture in every classroom to attending hours upon hours of meetings with BU officials about COVID-19 regulations, Ms. Brewster has done amazing work getting BUA through 2020. When it’s all over, we should have a parade for her!

Dr. Formichelli:

I’ll shift the wording just slightly, if I may, so I can focus on friendship of equals, rather than a Virgil carries Dante type of mentorship. Within the BUA community, the person with whom I went through 2020 — shoulder to shoulder — is Jim Davis. Not only do I like him personally, by which I mean I enjoy talking about books, philosophy, and life in general with him, but there’s a deeper resonance, since we’ve shared some similar experiences (this year and last year), and our backgrounds are kind of a bond between us that often bring us not only shoulder to shoulder, but often eye to eye. I admire him as a teacher and thinker, but most of all as someone who has moral convictions, and the courage of his convictions. That’s not so easy to find these days, and it makes him that rare colleague and friend, prized even more for his rarity. He’d probably be surprised to hear this, but he also sometimes has a kind of Beckettian sanity and humor, which not infrequently makes me “Irish laugh.”

Sally Jamrog ‘23:

A lot of people got me through 2020, but my immediate family and my friends in the BUA community especially did. Like for most people (I’d imagine), 2020 was a hard year for me socially, so I’m extremely grateful that I was able to see my friends on Zoom during the summer and in person during the fall semester. This saved my year!

Madison Ho ‘24:

A group of people at BUA who have gotten me through 2020 is my freshman English class. The camaraderie I have found from surprising Dr. Formichelli with random costumes on Wednesday to having heated discussions about fish sticks is something I will cherish forever. Through the many challenges 2020 presented, I found that such relationships and friendships were what provided me with the most support. And looking back, I’m able to see just how much I gained in 2020.

Georgia Senate Runoff Elections: Democrats Take Control of the Senate

by Julia Dickinson

News

January 27, 2021

The results of the Georgia Senate runoff elections will shape the political climate on Capitol Hill. Those results should have made headlines on January 6; instead, amidst the chaos of the attack on Capitol Hill that day, they lost some of their share of the spotlight. But still, they should not be overlooked.

Much rested on the results of Georgia’s Senate elections; the stakes were perhaps even higher than they were for Georgia in the presidential election. Democrats went into the election looking to take control of the Senate — they needed to win two seats to split the Senate 50-50 between Democrats and Republicans, where Vice President Kamala Harris would cast a tie-breaking vote if needed. Republicans, on the other hand, hoped to stand their ground. Democrat Ralph Warnock ran against Republican Kelly Loeffler, and Democrat Jon Ossoff ran against Republican David Perdue.1 Warnock and Loeffler were already scheduled for a January special election. The regular election for Ossoff and Perdue was carried out in November as normal; however, neither candidate was able to secure the fifty percent majority needed for the election to be called, so a runoff was scheduled for January.1 This left Georgia in a unique position with two Senate elections in January.

Democrats took the charge, earnestly campaigning for both of their candidates. They raised over a hundred million dollars for each campaign, a record for Senate races, and hosted countless events to encourage more people to vote for Warnock and Ossoff.2 The diversity of the candidates drew in voters from Georgia’s growing cities, which largely lean Democratic. Suzie Marcus ‘22 says, “It’s cool to see the first Jewish and first Black Senators from Georgia.” She also notes that “Democrats geared their campaign towards young voters. Ossoff has a TikTok.” The impact of the youth vote has increased with the increased turnout of youth voters.3 People have used social media as a tool to rally young voters, and it has worked: the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement says that 52-55% of people ages eighteen to twenty-nine cast ballots, a significant increase from recent years.3 Since the youth vote leans Democratic, it was vital for the Georgian Democrats to bring young people to the polls.3

On the other end of the spectrum, Republicans were not doing much to support their candidates. This was perhaps driven by Donald Trump, who barely put any effort into helping the Georgian GOP candidates. Instead, he chose to focus on spreading lies about the presidential election, claiming he had won when clearly he had not, and building distrust in elections among his supporters.4 His claims of a corrupt election, though false, could have kept Georgian Republicans away from the polls.4

On January 20, both Warnock and Ossoff were sworn into the Senate.5 Along with Alex Padilla (D-CA), appointed to take Kamala Harris’ Senate seat, they shifted the Senate majority to the Democratic Party.5 This should make it easier for Democrats to confirm Biden’s cabinet and pass policies and laws. As Suzie says, “The four disastrous years with Trump and a [Republican] Senate majority together showed people how easy it is to pass laws with a Senate majority and a president of the same party.” Republicans will struggle against the Democratic majority not only in the Senate, but in the House of Representatives and in the Executive Branch as well. The Democrats have this majority and political opportunity largely because of Warnock’s and Ossoff’s wins in Georgia.


1 Amy Gardner and Erica Werner, “Georgia certifies Ossoff and Warnock victories, paving way for Democratic control of Senate,” The Washington Post, January 19, 2021,
https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/georgia-certifies-ossoff-warnock-victories-paving-way-for-democratic-control-of-senate/2021/01/19/8b9cf672-5a59-11eb-a976-bad6431e03e2_story.html.

2 Rick Rojas, “Democrats in Georgia Runoffs Bring in Record Haul,” The New York Times, December 25, 2020,
https://www.nytimes.com/2020/12/25/us/politics/georgia-senate-record-fundraising.html.

3 Kalhan Rosenblatt, “Gen Z is using TikTok to encourage youth voter turnout in Georgia’s runoffs,” NBC, January 4, 2021,
https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/politics-news/gen-z-using-tiktok-encourage-youth-voter-turnout-georgia-s-n1252787.

4 Richard Fausset, “Georgia Certifies Senate Victories of Warnock and Ossoff,” The New York Times, January 19, 2021,
https://www.nytimes.com/2021/01/19/us/warnock-ossoff-senate.html.

5 Barbara Sprunt, “With New Georgia Democrats Sworn In, Democrats Officially Control The Senate,” NPR, January 20, 2021,
https://www.npr.org/sections/inauguration-day-live-updates/2021/01/20/958531015/new-georgia-senators-sworn-in-democrats-now-officially-control-the-senate.

Tenet Review

by Allie Vasserman

Reviews

January 27, 2021

Tenet is a science fiction action movie directed by Chistopher Nolan and starring John David Washington as The Protagonist, Elizabeth Debicki as Kat, Robert Pattinson as Neil, and Kenneth Branagh as Andrei Sator. Tenet came to theaters in September of 2020 and became available digitally and on DVD in mid-December. 

Tenet is a movie that you may have to watch with subtitles and then rewatch several times to fully understand the plot. When it was released in movie theaters, many theater-goers complained that the dialogue during some scenes was difficult to make out. Watching this film on a digital platform or DVD with subtitles resolves this problem. 

The basic plot goes as follows: the Protagonist and Neil are given a secret assignment to stop a threat that could cause World War III. They have to prevent Andrei Sator, a Russian billionaire, from acquiring a mysterious weapon that could destroy the world. Sator’s wife Kat, whom Sator is blackmailing, helps them with their mission.

The movie includes a few Easter Eggs, one of which is its title — the detail that Tenet is a palindrome is a brief hint to the variation of time travel that is featured in the movie. More palindromes follow: Andrei Sator’s name references the Sator Square, or Rotas Square, which contains a Latin palindrome. Time travel is crucial to the plot. And the depiction of time travel in Tenet is incredibly different from depictions in other popular time travel movies, such as Back to the Future. Christopher Nolan brings his originality, known to viewers of Inception, to the often-used plot device — his take on time travel makes for exciting action scenes and requires the viewer to pay close attention to what is happening on the screen.

I think this movie is well-scripted and has a great plot. The visual effects are stunning, and the stunts are coordinated very well. There are some incredibly confusing scenes that I needed to rewatch to fully understand. The movie has surprising twists that are difficult to see coming. And I like that one of Nolan’s favorite actors, Michael Caine, makes a small cameo in the movie. I would recommend watching Tenet if you’re a fan of Nolan’s film Inception, or if you want to watch an original action film that you’ll keep thinking about long after the credits roll. You’ll likely never look at palindromes the same way again.

Why the Humanities Matter

by Sally Jamrog

Opinion

December 14, 2020
The Odyssey, Plato’s Republic, The Iliad, and The Norton Book of Classical Literature are among the texts read in BUA’s freshman English and history courses. Luke Hargrave for The Scarlet Letter

In a world where the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) are increasingly overshadowing the humanities, some wonder whether humanities degrees are worth pursuing anymore. Our society is rapidly improving because of advances in science and technology, and consequently, it can be difficult to realize the importance of studying literature and history. In the United States, colleges have been facing steep declines in humanities majors, a phenomenon historians are labeling the “humanities crisis.” Though only recently getting the attention it deserves, the humanities crisis has been ongoing for fifty years: it began in the 1970s, when the dropping of enrollments in humanities curricula began to become noticeable.1

With college tuition prices rising annually, students today are often saddled with massive debt upon graduating and therefore face increased pressure to pursue a course of study that will ensure a lucrative job — this has become synonymous with pursuing a degree in STEM. The number of history majors has dropped 33% since 2011, while English, religion, and language majors have been in steady decline since the financial crisis in 2008.2 Students worry that a job procured from a humanities degree would not have a salary high enough to make a living and pay off college debt. A STEM degree seems to hold a more secure promise of a high-paying job. These beliefs could result from a misconception that the only career prospects for humanities students lie in academia. Teachers truly shape the future of our society by providing education for generations of students, but they are paid relatively little in comparison to other professions that require a college degree. Yet we see that some of the most financially successful people today do come from a humanities background: a survey done in 2012 found that of the 652 American CEOs and heads of product engineering who participated, almost 60% held degrees in the humanities.3 And there is not a lack of jobs that rely on skills cultivated by studying the humanities either. The critical and logical thinking developed by a humanities education has a multitude of applications, from partaking in activities in daily life to explaining data from a lab. The World Economic Forum states that some of the most sought-after skills in the career market are active listening, speaking, critical thinking, and reading comprehension, all skills that are developed through our studying the humanities.4

Surely, STEM is important to the development of the world around us. But humanities carry an equal, not lesser importance, simply because many of the challenges that humans face are multifaceted. “The big problems we face as a species and as a country, all of which are man-made, require interdisciplinary solutions,” says classics and history teacher Dr. Alonge. “Thanks to science we now have at least three COVID-19 vaccines, but understanding our catastrophically poor national response to the pandemic is a humanities question.” 

As apparent from the word, the term “humanities” describes the study of human beings and their  culture. It derives from how we think about human nature and self-expression.5 Without the humanities, we as humans would forget who we are. “It’s really the original question, or litany of questions: who am I? What makes me who I am? And then, by extension, who are you? What makes you who you are?” says English teacher Dr. Formichelli. The humanities are essential to understanding ourselves as a species and figuring out who we are as individuals. By studying the humanities, we create opportunities to empathize with each other; we find out what makes others who they are and how we can relate to them. “It is in humanities courses that students get a chance to explore the fundamental questions of human existence,” says Mr. Kolovos. “An education without that kind of exploration misses the mark, and our society would be worse off for it.” Without the humanities, we would lose our connection to the past and knowledge of past happenings that have made us who we are today. Just as a scientist would not dispose of knowledge from previous experiments, humans should look back to past advancements in the humanities in order to improve ourselves as a species and as a society.

With the humanities, we can recognize and address familiar patterns in human nature. “I am often reminded of a quote by Mark Twain that goes, ‘History doesn’t repeat itself, but it often rhymes,’” says Amelia Boudreau ‘23. “Studying humanities proves unceasingly that that quote rings true.” Fellow BUA students might recall reading The Divine Comedy in sophomore history, a poem in which Dante Alighieri diagnoses and prescribes solutions to the problematic “rule” of the papacy during his time. Although Alighieri wrote during the early fourteenth century, the problems he grapples with in his text are similar to the problems politicians and citizens are facing today: the same insatiable greed for power and authority that Dante describes as strangling the church in his time can be spotted within modern governments and responses to issues such as climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic. It is in learning and thinking about past tendencies of human nature that we can fully understand and move forward in solving the problems of our present world.

We currently live in a society where misinformation and propaganda exist in abundance: because the modern world revolves around technology, people are continually bombarded with information by means of social media, advertisement campaigns, and news from around the world. In this whirlwind of facts and figures, we can not always rely on what we see online or what we read in the paper anymore. It becomes harder to discern fact from opinion. Hence, it is essential in this modern world to be able to think independently, to be able to sift through many sources of information and finally form one’s own opinion. Reading and analyzing literature and history teaches us to question — to question information, to take famous works off of pedestals and question their authors. Independent thinking is a mark of individuality; without this capability, we lose what makes us ourselves.

Humans write to spread ideas: to refer to a previous example, Dante wrote The Divine Comedy during his exile to spread awareness among the common populace. Amelia Boudreau ‘23 says, “Writing is one of humanity’s few mediums of untethered expression. It’s critical to study writing and literature, as it can teach us the obvious, how to express ourselves, as well as the less obvious, how to understand the behaviors and nuances of those around us.” We read to become exposed to new perspectives. Writing is then a medium through which we can express our ideas. And it is particularly effective for reaching a broader audience — this is of note, considering the nearly eight billion people inhabiting our world today. Most humanities curricula teach some form of analytical writing; that may comprise analyzing a historical document or a form of literature. It is through this practice of analytical writing that humans can communicate their ideas effectively and share them with a greater community. 

Thus, although some argue that the study of the humanities has limited relevance in modern education, where the push to study STEM is gaining more and more momentum, it is crucial that we do not forget the many ways in which the humanities matter and will continue to benefit humans as individuals and as a species. Alyssa Ahn ‘23 says, “As people, we need to have a fundamental understanding of what it means to be human… so that we can create a better future.” Studying the humanities has never ceased to be important; human beings will always benefit from the knowledge of people who have come before them. In the words of Dr. Alonge, “Empathy, communication, justice, beauty — as long as these things matter, the humanities will matter.”


1 Heidi Tworek, “The Real Reason the Humanities are ‘in Crisis,’” The Atlantic, December 18, 2013,
https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2013/12/the-real-reason-the-humanities-are-in-crisis/282441/.

2 Beth McMurtie, “Can you get students interested in the humanities again?” University World News, November 9, 2019,
https://www.universityworldnews.com/post.php?story=20191109053633715#:~:text=Across%20America%2C%20humanities%20majors%20have,a%2033%25%20drop%20in%20majors.&text=According%20to%20surveys%20by%20the,%2D14%20to%202016%2D17.

3 Lindsay Thomas, “Infographics Friday: Bachelor of Arts Degrees, 1988-2008,” 4Humanities, October 26, 2012,
4humanities.org/infographic.

4 Anna Moro, “The humanities are becoming more important. Here’s why.” World Economic Forum, June 14, 2018,
https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2018/06/how-a-humanities-degree-will-serve-you-in-a-disruptive-economy.

5 The Editors of Encyclopedia Britannica, “Humanities,” Britannica, July 20, 1998,
https://www.britannica.com/topic/humanities.

BU’s Coronavirus Plans

by Julia Dickinson

News

December 14, 2020

It’s almost winter break, almost time to relax after putting in hard work all semester. We’ve been able to complete this semester in person four days a week, much to the surprise of many. There are many reasons as to why we’ve been able to attend in-person school all semester, but one stands out from them all: BU’s COVID-19 plans.

At BUA, we are beyond lucky to have BU’s resources at our disposal during the pandemic. We’re tested in their facilities multiple times a week, and we’ve implemented Learn from Anywhere (LfA), a hybrid model of learning that allows students to choose in-person or remote classes.1,2 The planning instituted by BUA and BU has allowed us to learn on campus for the entirety of the fall semester, and as such, our main aim has been met. But if we now look more closely at these past few months, a question arises: how well have these plans truly held up?

BU has been testing members of the BU community with the reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) COVID-19 test, since this test is known for having a very low false-positive rate and quick results.3 BU built its own lab over the summer to accommodate the sheer number of students needing testing — over 4,000 tests are administered every day.3 Initially, the university struggled to keep its promise to provide results the day after testing.4 The lab, however, quickly rose to the challenge, and although testing turnaround time still hiccups sometimes, the issue has largely been fixed.4 There appears to be a trend with the results: positive tests have increased after major holidays such as Labor Day, Halloween, and most recently, Thanksgiving.4 The rise in positive cases following these holidays hasn’t caused any major changes in BU policies yet, but an eye still should be kept on these spikes.

The LfA plan was introduced to allow students to learn in a way that made sense for their health.2 Under this program, any student who prefers or needs to stay off-campus can learn from home, while students feeling more comfortable with returning to campus can learn in the classroom again.2 At BUA, adjusting to hybrid learning took some time; those in person struggled to hear their classmates online, and students learning remotely faced a similar problem, struggling to hear their in-person classmates and then sometimes even feeling ignored. By October, however, the major kinks were worked out. BU has faced similar issues with their program — many students feel that LfA has been more awkward than helpful.5 But nonetheless, LfA has allowed students to learn safely.

Both frequent testing and flexible learning environments have been great opportunities this fall. And now, with the semester coming to a close, many of us are starting to look toward spring. BU will still offer testing and LfA next semester.6 And BU has chosen to push forward the start of next semester, adding one more week of winter break and eliminating spring break.6 This plan has been met with mixed feelings from BUA students taking university classes and BU students alike. It was made in an effort to avoid a rise in the number of positive cases on campus brought about by mid-semester travel.6 But the decision does not come without its shortcomings: spring break is essential for students’ mental health, and without it, more students will likely suffer from mid-semester burnout, diminishing the quality of their work. 

BU’s COVID-19 plans have been a success; they’ve effectively allowed members of the BU community to return to in-person school. The plans aren’t perfect, but they’ve worked much better than many of those implemented at other colleges in America. We at BUA are extremely lucky to have access to BU’s resources during the pandemic. Now, as we head into winter break, it’s time to leave campus for a bit and take some time to unwind safely at home.


1 Joel Brown, “BU Details Campuswide COVID-19 Testing Plan for Fall,” BU Today, June 17, 2020,
http://www.bu.edu/articles/2020/campuswide-covid-19-testing-plan-for-fall/.

2 Robert A. Brown, “Letter to Returning Students on Learn from Anywhere,” June 9, 2020,
https://www.bu.edu/president/letter-to-returning-students-on-learn-from-anywhere/.

3 “COVID-19 Screening, Testing & Contact Tracing,” Back2BU,
https://www.bu.edu/back2bu/student-health-safety/covid-19-screening-testing-contact-tracing/.

4 Kat J. McAlpine, “Boston University Weekly COVID-19 Report: September 2-8,” The Brink, September 9, 2020,
http://www.bu.edu/articles/2020/boston-university-weekly-covid-report-09-10/.

5 Sara Rimer, “BU Students: Zoom vs In-Person Classes? It’s Complicated,” BU Today, November 9, 2020,
http://www.bu.edu/articles/2020/students-learn-from-anywhere/?utm_campaign=bu_today&utm_source=email_20201110_full&utm_medium=1_featured_story&utm_content=student.

6 Art Jahnke, “BU Pushes Back Start of 2021 Spring Semester, Cancels Spring Break,” BU Today, September 29, 2020,
http://www.bu.edu/articles/2020/bu-pushes-back-start-of-2021-spring-semester-cancels-spring-break/.

Virtual Admissions

by Ibukun Owolabi

News

December 14, 2020
A panel of BUA students answered questions from prospective students at a virtual open house on December 1. Ms. Hakimi for The Scarlet Letter

The stretch of months from October to March, known as admission season, marks one of the most important times for students seeking to apply to independent schools. Many students remember their own experience with applying to high school and occasionally look back at it. Now that we’re in the midst of another virtual admissions season, I asked some of my fellow freshman to reflect on their experiences with virtual admissions and interviewed the BUA admissions team.

Therese Draper ‘24 says that she found her shadow day to be the most helpful admissions event out of the many that she attended during her application process. She then has some concerns about the virtual admissions process for students applying to BUA this year: “I don’t think they’ll really get a feel for how it should be here.” While Therese was fortunate enough to get an in-person shadow day, some other members of the Class of 2024 attended shadow days during the months of quarantine and so experienced BUA classes virtually. David Sadka ‘24, one of such students, remembers sitting in on a calculus class during his remote shadow day in June. While he feels that the class was very informative and well-led, he does think that it would have been better if he “could talk to the teacher one-on-one.”

The changes necessitated by the coronavirus pandemic continue to shape the admissions process this year. It has moved to a completely virtual platform. On December 1, the admissions team held a virtual open house for students applying to BUA. I was part of the student panel and assisted Mr. Stone in the questions and answers portion pertaining to the Athletics Department. The open house was a webinar, and the panel answered questions asked by the attendees. Common questions asked include: is this school year normal? How is the remote transition from eighth to ninth grade? In this surely unusual year, the BUA admissions team has not deviated from one aim: as always, they hope to ensure that prospective students have the best experience possible. 

For more information on how the admissions process is now being conducted at BUA, I reached out to Ms. Hakimi, BUA’s Director of Admission, and Ms. Shannon, BUA’s Associate Director of Admission. The following segment consists of a series of questions that I asked and the responses from the admissions team.

How do you plan to conduct revisit days?

We are operating under the assumption that it is probably a pipe-dream for us to host large groups of visitors on campus in March, so if we are unable to do that, we plan to [do several things]: host virtual panels of current students, teachers, parents, and alumni so that families hear from all the different constituent groups at BUA; continue to share webinar recordings and our virtual tour so that families have a visual of what our building looks like; offer the opportunity to Zoom into live classes at BUA; offer opportunities for applicants and their parents to connect one-on-one with members of our community to ask questions; and probably [organize] more fun stuff that we’ll think of in the next few months!

Are interviews easier to conduct now that they are virtual?

[There is now] time to interview more families during the weekend and evenings, and it’s easier for families because they do not have to commute. There are some things that can be a little bit more challenging: technology issues might naturally come up, it can take longer to make some students feel comfortable in the Zoom setting, and we usually have less time with the students than we would have if they spent the day at BUA, which is sad! 

How is the admissions team fielding questions about the impact of the coronavirus on admissions?

We have been doing a mix of sharing information in email newsletters and also filming short video clips for families that we will share through email and on social media. And on our website, we have many FAQs about the coronavirus. We have also trained our tour guides to speak about their school experiences during the coronavirus times.

Is the admission team taking into account the fact that the coronavirus can affect admissions?

Yes! Our keyword this year is flexibility! We recognize that families are stressed about their applications this year — transcripts, teacher recommendations, and school offerings might be thin or not offered at all, and we understand this. We have been very understanding, and we have been helping families substitute materials with things they can get access to, whenever possible. That being said, we are still looking to enroll a class of curious and kind students — we will be reaching out to families directly when we need additional information or clarification.

Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris

by Matthew Volfson

News

December 14, 2020

Kamala Harris’s election to the Vice Presidency of the United States is representative of the changing American political system. Harris is the first female, Black, and South Asian American to become vice president. She has broken racial and gender barriers; she has inspired a generation of Americans. Some look to follow in her footsteps: one such girl in Georgia expressed a desire to be like her, to look like her.1

Harris’ victory is part of a long fight. It has taken over a hundred years for a woman to win the vice presidency. Victoria Claflin Woodhull was the first woman to run to become president, back in 1872.2 In her time, most states barred women from voting, with the exception of certain western states, such as Wyoming.3 Voting for women wasn’t legalized across the United States until 1920, when the nineteenth amendment was passed.4 Women continue to face a struggle to gain more power in the United States government — the harmful belief that a woman’s place is in her home still prevails today. In a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center, it was found that 57% of women polled agreed that there are lingering issues regarding gender discrimination in America.5 Harris’ election is viewed by many as a step in the right direction, but it is only one step — there is still much that needs to be changed.

Racial discrimination is still prevalant in America. In another Pew Research Center survey, over 60% of Black Americans polled said they experienced discrimination at some point in their lives.6 Black drivers are 20% more likely to be stopped by police.7 George Floyd’s death is one example of lingering inequality in America — it shows that police discriminate against African Americans. The United Nations even recognized such discrimination against African Americans in a resolution denouncing such actions taken by police.8 Harris’ election brings some hope that the opportunity gap between Black and white Americans will eventually close. 

Representation matters — Harris’ victory is proof or validation for women and people of color (POC) that they too could hold political office or more generally, become leaders. Yet there is also an underlying issue that needs to be addressed: it has taken too long for minorities to be represented in the higher-ups of the American executive branch. Lack of opportunity for POC and women persists in the United States.

But although Harris is a step forward in many ways, the specifics of her political career fall into more of a gray area and inspire mixed feelings at BUA. A BUA student who wished not to be named believes that “[Harris’ victory] will send some South Asian and Black children a great boost of confidence.” Yet at the same time, they say, “[Harris] is, as a whole, somewhat fake, in my opinion.” However, the student does believe that having such a “fake” character is necessary for conducting modern politics in the United States — they think that politicians who have “integrity cannot bring their once-revered intellectual debates and arguments to the attention of the populace,” and that therefore, “[Harris] is [merely] a symptom of the American political facade.” Domestically, the student is skeptical as to whether Kamala could really bring change: “In terms of domestic unification… I also have little hope for her.” Regarding whether Harris’ victory will change racial relations in the United States, the student is again not optimistic, saying that “institutional racism is… a product of culture, not government specifically.” They say, “When the government does something right, it’s rarely because they took initiative, but usually because the voters started shouting really [loudly].” 

Many Americans believe that Harris’ win represents a step forward for women and POC, but some then analyze Harris’ character and history in politics and find themselves dissatisfied. The anonymous student believes that if Harris truly wants to change how America’s society works, she has to “somehow reach the hearts of all Americans and change the culture [of the United States].” But they view doing this as “basically impossible.” Some view Harris’ win as a win for women and POC in America, yet others see Harris as just another cog in America’s political machine, unlikely to change much about it.


1 Kat Stafford and Christine Fernando, “Kamala Harris win inspires women and girls nationwide,” AP News, November 9, 2020,
https://apnews.com/article/kamala-harris-inspires-women-girls-0f1149ee9121285bbf873bcca54e2e61.

2 “Women Presidential and Vice Presidential Candidates: A Selected List,” Rutgers Eagleton Institute of Politics,
https://cawp.rutgers.edu/levels_of_office/women-presidential-and-vice-presidential-candidates-selected-list.

3 “Wyoming and the 19th Amendment,” National Park Service,
https://www.nps.gov/articles/wyoming-women-s-history.htm#:~:text=In%20fact%2C%20Wyoming%20was%20the,territory%20the%20right%20to%20vote.

4 “19th Amendment,” History,
https://www.history.com/topics/womens-history/19th-amendment-1.

Juliana Menasce Horowitz, Kim Parker, and Renee Stepler, “Wide Partisan Gaps in U.S. Over How Far the Country Has Come on Gender Equality,” Pew Research Center, October 18, 2017, 
https://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2017/10/18/wide-partisan-gaps-in-u-s-over-how-far-the-country-has-come-on-gender-equality/.

Monica Anderson, “For black Americans, experiences of racial discrimination vary by education level, gender,” Pew Research Center, May 2, 2019, 
https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2019/05/02/for-black-americans-experiences-of-racial-discrimination-vary-by-education-level-gender/.

“Research Shows Black Drivers More Likely to Be Stopped by Police,” New York University,
http://www.nyu.edu/about/news-publications/news/2020/may/black-drivers-more-likely-to-be-stopped-by-police.html.

Marina Riera, “UN Condemns Systemic Racism, Police Violence,” Human Rights Watch, July 20, 2020, 
https://www.hrw.org/news/2020/07/20/un-condemns-systemic-racism-police-violence-0#.

Representation Matters: A Look at Our Humanities Curricula

by Giselle Wu

Opinion

December 14, 2020

We need to integrate books by a more diverse selection of authors into BUA’s English and history curricula. While BUA’s humanities program surely incorporates texts worth reading, introducing us to classical, European, and American literature over the course of three years, most of the books we study are written by white authors. As such, students of color are often unable to see their own identity and culture reflected in our humanities curriculum. The selection of literature at BUA has limited the lens through which students view our society and the world. 

“We can only be diverse as a community if our curriculum reflects our students,” a BUA student says in a response to Student Council’s anonymous Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) survey. The current curriculum does not manage to reflect the BUA community — there is a lack of non-Western literature. Black, Latinx, and Asian authors are largely absent in our humanities program. Yet, according to the DEI survey, more than half of BUA students are students of color. BUA’s curriculum then is not representative of more than half of our students’ identities and thus goes against our aim to diversify our community. Madison Ho ‘24 says, “Although I love the strong emphasis on Western classics, I often feel removed from many of the themes we discuss in class.” And Amelia Boudreau ’23 remarks, “It’s critical that person of color (POC) students see themselves represented in the ideas we appreciate and study at school.” The English and history departments need to consider adding texts with more diverse authors to the literature that we study.

The addition of multicultural literature would furthermore help us to broaden our perspectives and learn more about the world around us. In her 2006 thesis, Maria Boles, a student from Eastern Michigan University, argues that multicultural literature “helps to stimulate an understanding of diversity in the classroom and helps to build an understanding of and respect for people from other cultures” — this is precisely why we need to integrate literature written by a more diverse selection of authors into our curriculum at BUA. Claire Hsu ‘23 says, “I think we should be able to read things by authors with different voices and experiences in order to fully understand our history. For example, I loved that we were able to read a version of The Odyssey that was translated by Emily Wilson because it offered a fresh, new perspective of a woman.”

We cannot rely on a single narrative to accurately represent our history, our present, our future. Isaac Rajagopal ‘23 says, “There’s no excuse for the whole curriculum being taught by white people about books written by white people about white people.” BUA’s curriculum should not be defined by such a limited perspective. 

Our current curriculum does have its benefits. A student who wishes not to be named says that the overall humanities curriculum is good and that there is a fair amount of Black and Latinx history mentioned in the American history curriculum. Nandini Lal ‘23 notes, “I also still don’t think [the curriculum] is bad because the texts that we do read are different enough. Maybe we can just reduce those a bit and add some newer or fresher authors’ books.” The current curriculum, although limited, does offer some different perspectives. But we still need to add more perspectives, ones that can drive us to embrace and respect different cultures. 

And studying these different perspectives is vital to shaping a better future for ourselves. In order to bring our world together, we have to learn to understand, to put ourselves into someone else’s shoes, to respect one another. We then need to read books about the experiences of minorities. By diversifying the books that we read at school, we can broaden our own perspectives. Introducing more diverse texts into the humanities curriculum may not be an easy task, but it’s one that’s worth doing and needs to be done. 


Anderson, Jill. “Hooked on Classics.” Harvard Ed. Magazine, Fall 2019.
https://www.gse.harvard.edu/news/ed/19/08/hooked-classics.

Boles, Maria. “The Effects of Multicultural Literature in the Classroom.” Eastern Michigan University, 2006.
https://commons.emich.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1061&context=honors.

Interviews With a Remote and an In-Person Teacher

by Aparna Deokar

News

December 14, 2020

To learn about the experiences that BUA teachers have had teaching this fall, I reached out to two teachers in different positions: Mr. Ford, a remote math teacher, and Dr. Taylor, an in-person physics teacher. Their responses to questions regarding communication with students, positive and negative changes in teaching this semester, the current teaching environment, and possible improvements are recorded below.

How has communication been with both remote and in-person students? 

Dr. Taylor:

It’s definitely more challenging. I’m only in the building two days a week. In the past, you could see kids walking by in the hallway, and you could just grab them if you had to chat with them, but now it’s all via email. One of the big things is training everybody to check their emails and being able to do that. And particularly with remote students, you have to really make sure that they’re checking emails and reach out to them.

Mr. Ford:

I think so far communication between in-person and remote students has been very good. I think it can be a challenge when you’re listening to people who are in a different location than you. So I think for me as a remote teacher, it can sometimes be a little bit hard to hear the classroom, but in general, I think the system is working really well, and I’ve been pleased with how well I’ve been able to hear students in the classroom. I know from talking with some of my colleagues that the reverse is also true — sometimes it’s difficult for them in person in the classroom to hear the students who are at home. But I again think that those issues are few and far between now. I think we’re doing pretty well with the system.

Has there been more reliance on technology?

Dr. Taylor:

Definitely. There’s Zoom, which we didn’t use before. In fact, in a meeting yesterday, we were talking about maybe using Zoom for other meetings post-pandemic. There’s email, and one other thing I use in teaching is the AWW App, an external whiteboard app that’s new this year. In the past, I would display the notes in class while I was writing on them, and then I’d save it as a PDF and still post it to Blackboard, which hasn’t changed. Trying to figure out ways to have students collaborate and meeting with students has definitely [led to] a [greater] reliance on technology.

Mr. Ford:

Absolutely. There’s a lot more reliance on technology. For example, I can only collect homework digitally, and that requires students to scan their math homework. There’s a lot more need for students to be technologically savvy, and there’s also more need for teachers to come to grips with what technology is out there.

Have there been any challenges or any benefits? 

Dr. Taylor:

Some challenges are the labs. How can I have labs that make it fair to remote students and kids in class, since we can’t have three students or four students crowded around a lab setup anymore? We don’t have enough for individual setups; we have about four, maybe five setups at most. Some of the upsides are that kids are at least now more willing to reach out to me via email or make a meeting with me on Calendly, which makes things more flexible. It’s also challenging trying to remember to make sure that the remote students are called on, especially if [in-person] classmates don’t call out that a person [on Zoom] is waving their hand. It’s harder than having all fourteen students sitting in front of me. The other thing is masks — they make it a lot harder for me to figure out if kids are confused, since you lose half the face with them, and I have to look at their eyes. The people at home can give me a confused look, but I can’t see that with the kids in class.

Mr. Ford:

My biggest benefit is that I don’t have to commute. I enjoy not having a one-hour commute each way. Also, I feel like I’ve been able to stay pretty active. If I have an hour break between meetings, I’m able to go outside and walk around my neighborhood. So I think my physical health has actually really benefited from teaching from home. But I think there are also many challenges. It’s really emotionally hard for me to not be in the classroom with the students. I love what I do. I love teaching at BUA and not being in the classroom is a challenge for me. I think I really miss my colleagues as well, but not as much as I miss the kids.

As an in-person teacher, how has the teaching environment at BUA changed? 

Dr. Taylor:

Now you can only see half of your colleagues when you come in. I don’t see the humanities people unless it happens to be a rare time I’m in the building on a Monday or Friday. The faculty meetings are via Zoom, but there’s just something about seeing your colleagues in person that you miss on Zoom. We can’t hang out at lunchtime or chat during free periods. It’s little things like that. On the other hand, we are having periodically small groups of faculty getting together and sharing some best practices technology-wise. We have a Slack channel that was active over the summer and last spring when we jumped into the pandemic, and though it’s tapered off quite a bit, we pass along things that we find. But it’s still hard to just get a lot of that sort of communication.

As a remote teacher, what is it like not being in the classroom, especially since most people are there?

Mr. Ford:

So like you said, most people are there, but I think that the fact that I’m teaching from home gives the remote students a little bit of comfort in knowing that they’re not alone and that there are other people who are in the same scenario as them. I think that’s actually a very big positive. While interacting with the students in the classroom, I still think I’m able to really display how much I love teaching and how much I love math, and I’m still able to emote in that way. One thing that I wish I could do is see what they see — that’s what’s really difficult for me. When I’m projecting slides on the board, I don’t get to see exactly the same thing that students are seeing, so I’m relying on them to let me know if there’s something going wrong technologically. Sometimes I’m not able to fix it. I really am appreciative of the students who are able to help me with the technology needs in the classroom.

Looking to the future, are there any changes or improvements that you think could be made?

Dr. Taylor:

It’s hard to decide what can be changed, especially compared to other schools. The fact that we are in person and have the flexibility that students can choose whether to stay remote or come in is good, as well as the rapid testing and things like that safety-wise. I think this whole fall everybody was sort of trying to figure things out, but I think moving forward to the spring semester, a lot of kids understand how BUA is now run, and we have figured things out, although everyone does something different. I don’t know how much more we can improve: the only thing we are now waiting for is the vaccines to come out. I think we’re doing a pretty good job, certainly compared to public schools, and we have the advantage of only 200 students, BU access, and Blackboard. We have the resources, whereas you know a lot of public schools don’t, and they’re dealing with far more people. I think we are doing a pretty good job.

Mr. Ford:

We’re always looking for ways that we can improve. In fact, I’m part of a group that meets every week to talk about the technology side of teaching and learning and if there are any things that we could be doing better. But the only way that we know about these things is to hear from students. I would really encourage any students experiencing issues, whether they’re learning from home or in the classroom, to come and talk to me. If there’s issues with how things are being presented or any issues that we might be able to address in terms of technology, I encourage them to come and talk, because we can’t fix things that we don’t know are wrong, but we have the time to [make fixes]. Overall, I think we’re extremely successful this semester. I think we’ve done a lot better than many other schools, and I’m really pleased with the resources that BU made available to us to allow us to continue giving such a great educational experience to the students!

Coronavirus Vaccines

by Joie Liu

News

December 14, 2020

In January of 2020, a small virus by the name of SARS-CoV-2 began to gain traction, quickly becoming a serious problem that demanded immediate attention. Almost instantaneously, companies and labs around the world started the process of developing vaccines in the hopes of stopping the virus’ spread. By March, the first vaccines started testing with humans, and now, there are seventy-two vaccines in clinical testing with humans and at least eighty-seven that are testing with animals. 

Testing for vaccines is typically split into four phases. In the the first, preclinical phase, the vaccine is tested on animals; from phase two onward, scientists begin testing on people and increase the size of the group being tested on in each phase, moving from a small number of people in phase two to tens of thousands of volunteers in phase four. Regarding the vaccines doing clinical testing, there are forty vaccines in phase two, seventeen in phase three, and fifteen in phase four. There are also six vaccines that have received early or limited approval from countries such as China and Russia, but experts have warned that these were rushed through the process and are therefore considered unsafe. 

On November 9, an American drug maker by the name of Pfizer, alongside its partner company BioNTech, released astounding results of their phase four clinical trials. After carrying out testing on nearly 44,000 volunteers, Pfizer’s vaccine was reported to be 95% effective with no serious side effects. Pfizer’s two-dose vaccine does require a ninety-four degrees below zero Fahrenheit storing temperature. But its benefits outweigh this inconvenience: the vaccine has been shown to work especially well in those over sixty-five years of age. To test its vaccine, Pfizer split its 44,000 volunteers into two groups. The volunteers were not thought to be infected by COVID-19 at the time of testing. One of the groups received the vaccine, and the other received a placebo shot of salt water. Out of the group receiving the vaccine, only eight people were infected by the vaccine, corresponding to a 95% credible interval; the placebo group, in comparison, had 162 positive cases. There were only some minor side effects: Pfizer has said that 3.7% of volunteers reported fatigue after they took the second dose of the vaccine and that 2% had headaches. On November 20, Pfizer submitted an application to the FDA to authorize its vaccine. The FDA has approved it. Pfizer has stated that they could have up to fifty million doses available by the end of this year and 1.3 billion available by the end of 2021. In a deal with the American government, all Americans will receive this vaccine for free.

Later that same week, on November 14, the drugmaker Moderna announced that its vaccine was 94.5 percent effective. Based in Cambridge, Moderna collaborated with researchers from the Vaccine Research Center, part of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Similar to Pfizer, Moderna’s vaccine requires two doses; however, Moderna only needs a storing temperature of four degrees below zero Fahrenheit. Although this may seem like a minute difference, the not-as-cold temperature corresponds to easier distribution and a larger likelihood that Moderna’s vaccine will be available across the nation in smaller pharmacies and local healthcare offices. In its testing phases, only ninety-five people contracted the virus. If approved for emergency FDA approval, Moderna has said that it could be distributing vaccines by December 21. The company will be able to produce twenty million doses by the end of 2020 and 500 million to a billion doses by the end of 2021. As each person would require two doses in order for the vaccine to be effective, similar to Pfizer, ten million people will be able to be vaccinated by the end of 2020.

The Health and Services Department in America has stated that national and state governments will primarily work together to develop plans for individual states on how vaccines will be distributed. As the number of vaccines produced each month increases, the department plans to increase the number of vaccines made available to the public. Each state has its own plan for who will receive the vaccine first, but most states will likely follow the following guidelines.

In the first phase of vaccinations, healthcare workers and older Americans will undoubtedly be the first to receive any vaccine that is available. Workers in essential jobs, nursing home residents, and people with underlying health conditions that put them at high risk for contracting the virus will likely also be included in this phase, although these people could be considered phase two, depending on the state. In the second phase, vaccines will be given to first responders, teachers, school staff, childcare providers, and public health care workers. Then the final phase will include everyone else in the general public. Varying state guidelines make it difficult to know exactly when each of these phases will commence, but if all goes well, most of the general public could be immunized by the middle of 2021. And to come back to the BU community, BU has not said if they will administer the vaccine yet — hopefully, an announcement will come soon.


Baker, Sinéad and Dunn, Andrew. “A timeline of when Pfizer’s new coronavirus vaccine could reach ordinary people — a process likely to take months.” Business Insider, November 9, 2020.
https://www.businessinsider.com/timeline-of-when-pfizer-covid-19-vaccine-could-be-available-2020-11.

Grady, Denise. “Early Data Show Moderna’s Coronavirus Vaccine Is 94.5% Effective.” The New York Times, December 11, 2020.
https://www.nytimes.com/2020/11/16/health/Covid-moderna-vaccine.html?searchResultPosition=1.

Loftus, Peter, and McKay, Betsy. “The Covid-19 Vaccine: When Will It Be Available for You?” The Wall Street Journal, December 11, 2020.
https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-covid-19-vaccine-when-will-it-be-available-for-you-11606339361.

Robbins, Rebecca and Gelles, David. “How Pfizer Plans to Distribute Its Vaccine (It’s Complicated).” The New York Times, November 20, 2020.
https://www.nytimes.com/2020/11/12/business/pfizer-covid-vaccine-coronavirus.html.

Thomas, Katie. “New Pfizer Results: Coronavirus Vaccine Is Safe and 95% Effective.” The New York Times, December 10, 2020.
https://www.nytimes.com/2020/11/18/health/pfizer-covid-vaccine.html?searchResultPosition=2.

WBNG Staff. “Here’s how a COVID-19 vaccine will be administered in 5 phases.” WBNG, November 9, 2020.
https://wbng.com/2020/11/09/heres-how-a-covid-19-vaccine-will-be-administered-in-5-phases/.

Weiland, Noah and Thomas, Katie. “Pfizer Applies for Emergency F.D.A. Approval for Covid-19 Vaccine.” The New York Times, December 10, 2020.
https://www.nytimes.com/2020/11/20/health/pfizer-covid-vaccine.html?searchResultPosition=1.

Zimmer, Carl, Corum, Jonathan, and Wee, Sui-Lee. “Coronavirus Vaccine Tracker.” The New York Times, December 13, 2020.
https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/science/coronavirus-vaccine-tracker.html.