Interviews With a Remote and an In-Person Teacher

by Aparna Deokar


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


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.

Grady, Denise. “Early Data Show Moderna’s Coronavirus Vaccine Is 94.5% Effective.” The New York Times, December 11, 2020.

Loftus, Peter, and McKay, Betsy. “The Covid-19 Vaccine: When Will It Be Available for You?” The Wall Street Journal, December 11, 2020.

Robbins, Rebecca and Gelles, David. “How Pfizer Plans to Distribute Its Vaccine (It’s Complicated).” The New York Times, November 20, 2020.

Thomas, Katie. “New Pfizer Results: Coronavirus Vaccine Is Safe and 95% Effective.” The New York Times, December 10, 2020.

WBNG Staff. “Here’s how a COVID-19 vaccine will be administered in 5 phases.” WBNG, November 9, 2020.

Weiland, Noah and Thomas, Katie. “Pfizer Applies for Emergency F.D.A. Approval for Covid-19 Vaccine.” The New York Times, December 10, 2020.

Zimmer, Carl, Corum, Jonathan, and Wee, Sui-Lee. “Coronavirus Vaccine Tracker.” The New York Times, December 13, 2020.

Looking Back at 2020, on the Threshold of 2021

by Olga Meserman


December 14, 2020

It’s 2040, and you’re sitting at a hard wooden desk. Your history teacher tells you to take out your textbook and flip to chapter seven, entitled “The 2020s.” The teacher asks, “What does everyone know about this decade?” No one responds. “Let’s start on the first section then. Please read the first page silently — it’s a summary.” You stare at the page and start to read, noticing words such as “wildfire,” “pandemic,” “George Floyd,” and “election.” Someone calls out, “That’s a lot to happen in one decade.” Your teacher responds, “Those were just a few events that took place in 2020.”

2020 has been a rollercoaster of events. Years from now, when textbooks are written and primary evidence is observed, 2020 will be just another year in history. But to everyone who lived through it, it was more than simply that. A gender reveal party thrown in the California wildfire season sparked an inferno throughout the state, giving it the title of worst air quality in the world. Politics became more crucial than ever before, with people’s lives depending on the policies of the next president of America. Hundreds of thousands of people died in a global pandemic that still ravages through the United States and the world. However horrible these events are, there are still some silver linings to be found in 2020, according to the BUA community. “People are coming together, feeling more united, which we can see in the marches for Black Lives Matter and the expressions of gratitude for front-line workers,” says Anais Kim ‘24. An enormous civil rights movement spread throughout the country as people rallied together to spread awareness on racial inequality. Jovanah Noelsaint ‘24 has another take on the situation. She believes that quarantine may not have been so bad: “Because of quarantine, there’s more time to reflect, specifically more time to reflect on injustices [that you and your family have faced].” Reflections such as the ones that Jovanah describes have prompted discussion throughout America. 

With the coming of 2021, though some are expecting the worst, many are simultaneously hoping for a better year. On her hopes for the future, Madison Ho ‘24 says, “In 2021, I’m excited to [see] the changes our nation can make to combat issues such as systemic racism, climate change, and economic inequality.” A year filled with positive change would be welcome after such a grim and tumultuous one. What will the next chapter in the history book of the future look like?

Heading Into Winter With the Coronavirus

by Julia Dickinson


November 23, 2020
A student stands outside on a dreary day near the end of fall. Luke Hargrave for The Scarlet Letter

Coats, hats, and gloves have all long been necessary accessories for winter here in Massachusetts. This winter, a face mask has been added to the list. As the days keep getting shorter, conversations about the coronavirus keep getting longer. Winter is already dreaded by many — the cold, coupled with the spread of the common cold and the flu make it a difficult season to trudge through. The coronavirus is yet another worry to add to the existing heap. So now, we all find ourselves asking the same question: what is safe this winter?

Clearly, the coronavirus is not going away anytime soon. As such, it’s still important to follow all the safety guidelines we’ve always been following. Please continue to wear a mask, social distance, wash your hands, disinfect surfaces, and limit group gatherings. Although these measures may seem excessive and even unnecessary at times, it is extremely important for every single rule to be followed. Too much is at stake for people to be irresponsible and careless. This winter, more precautions will need to be added to the aforementioned list.

A student shivers in cold, nearly winter weather. Luke Hargrave for The Scarlet Letter

With temperatures outdoors quickly dropping, air circulation through buildings is becoming more and more of a pressing problem. COVID-19 is thought to be primarily transmitted from person to person through respiratory droplets that travel through the air after being sprayed out of an infected person’s mouth, hence the importance of effective air circulation.1 In many buildings, including BUA’s, windows and doors have been kept open whenever possible to allow fresh air to circulate, keeping particles moving. Such a system falls apart when it gets colder outside. In other parts of the country where winters aren’t as severe, this more rudimentary air circulation method still works. However, up here in Massachusetts, it is becoming too cold to keep windows open. And blasting the heat to counteract the cold air that comes in through open windows is not truly a viable option: it would be costly and also frankly uncomfortable. For many buildings, reevaluations will have to be conducted to see whether it’s safe for people to gather there anymore.

Another sickness looms on the horizon, though it is dwarfed by the coronavirus. We are in the middle of flu season now, which starts in fall and can extend well into the spring.2 Symptoms of the flu can range from mild coughing and stuffy noses to pneumonia in more severe cases.3 An uptick in the number of flu cases has always been a source of distress in winter, but this year especially, the flu is a major problem. One significant issue is that many symptoms of the flu coincide with symptoms of the coronavirus. A person with muscle aches, a fever, and a sore throat could easily either have the flu or the coronavirus.4 Doctors seeing patients this winter will need to be extra careful when giving diagnoses.

The newness of this situation presents a second problem: no one has much information about what happens when a person contracts the flu and the coronavirus at the same time. It is thought that battling both diseases at once would severely weaken one’s immune system while also potentially causing respiratory and cardiac failures.4 As such, receiving a flu shot has become even more necessary this year. To reflect this importance, BUA has mandated that BUA students get a flu shot at least by the end of the year, and preferably as soon as possible.

These two issues we know for sure will have to be dealt with. However, a winter favorite of children everywhere has an unknown outcome: what will happen to snow days? Although not every school has had the ability to transition online as easily as BUA can, many school districts have become more familiar with remote learning, with some even teaching fully remotely now. In previous years, worries about the safety of opening school buildings have led to snow days being called. But in the midst of numerous other concerns, this is no longer one; now school can be moved to the home at a simple announcement. Snow days, great mental health breaks for students, are in jeopardy. Their disappearance will surely be debated in the months to come.

It is imperative to keep following COVID-19 guidelines. Opportunities to connect with missed family and friends will certainly present themselves in winter, but this year, please make sure to keep these interactions online. Celebrate winter in person with your household. So I leave you here: go ahead and fill your favorite mug with hot chocolate, put on your comfiest pajamas, and do your part by staying safe!

1 Zeynep Tufekci, “We Need to Talk About Ventilation,” The Atlantic, July 30, 2020,

2 “The Flu Season,” CDC,,last%20as%20late%20as%20May..

3 “Flu Symptoms & Complications,” CDC,

4 Holly Yan, “Yes, you can have Covid-19 and the flu at the same time. Here’s what that could do to your body,” CNN, September 11, 2020,

The Discovery of Water on the Sunlit Moon

by Christian Asdourian


November 23, 2020

On October 26, 2020, a new discovery about the Moon was reported, one that made scientists greatly excited for the future prospects of space exploration. Molecules of water, a substance necessary for life on Earth, were definitively found on sunlit parts of the Moon previously thought to be devoid of such material. Though this discovery may sound insignificant at first glance, its implications can shape the future of space travel. 

A Boeing 747SP jetliner modified with a 106-inch diameter telescope was the one to make the discovery. The jetliner, named the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, or the SOFIA, flew up to altitudes of 45,000 feet above Earth’s sea level to rise above 99% of the atmosphere’s water vapor. There, SOFIA’s scientists were able to use the telescope’s infrared camera to detect a wavelength specific to water molecules, the evidence needed to prove the existence of water molecules on the warmer parts of the Moon. But it still remains unclear whether those water molecules are capable of being extracted for use by astronauts. SOFIA’s researchers have planned several follow-up flights to observe different parts of the Moon during different times of the month. Their findings will help NASA better understand how water molecules were able to survive on the harsh lunar surface.

So how did the water molecules get there in the first place? There are a few theories yet to be disproven that explain how they could have come into being. Micrometeorites and comets carrying water molecules could have been crashing onto the surface of the Moon, and the water then could have been stored in bead-like structures under the soil by the immense heat of the meteor impacts. Another theory describes solar winds carrying hydrogen atoms to the Moon that then had chemical reactions with the mineral rich components of the lunar soil, producing water. 

It has been over a decade since NASA first discovered water at the poles of the Moon, raising the question of why these new molecules were only discovered recently. “[The discovery] was, in fact, the first time SOFIA has looked at the Moon,” said Naseem Rangwala, SOFIA’s project scientist. The findings were the result of a test observation by scientists to determine if SOFIA could capture reliable data from the Moon.

This discovery has far-reaching implications for the future of humanity’s exploration of the solar system. Transporting resources into space can be costly, with some rates close to 10,000 dollars per pound of materials. Being able to set up a mining colony on the Moon to extract water for drinking or to create fuel from the molecules would be an enormous help in cutting down costs of space exploration. Despite its being so common on Earth, “water is a valuable resource, for both scientific purposes and for use by our explorers,” said Jacob Bleacher, chief exploration scientist of NASA’s Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate. The data discovered by SOFIA will help with work on possible future Moon missions, such as creating the first ever water source on the Moon for use by human explorers.

Chou, Felicia and Alison Hawkes. “NASA’s SOFIA Discovers Water on Sunlit Surface of Moon.” Earth’s Moon, October 26, 2020.

Mehta, Jatan. “How NASA and Chandrayaan discovered water on the Moon.” Jatan’s Space, October 28, 2020.

“Neil Degrasse Tyson Breaks Down Discovery Of Water On The Moon.” Today, October 27, 2020.

The Coronavirus on College Campuses

by Julia Dickinson


October 26, 2020
A poster from BU’s Don’t Go Viral campaign appears on a recycling bin near BUA. Luke Hargrave for The Scarlet Letter

Boston University Academy’s location in the middle of Boston University’s main campus provides an amazing opportunity for BUA students to be immersed in BU’s resources. The connection between our high school and the surrounding university has only strengthened during the COVID-19 pandemic. We are closer to BU than ever before, with many of us relying on BU’s resources to receive coronavirus testing twice a week like any on-campus undergrad, but some members of our community now worry about our close relationship with BU. 

By this point, reports of college students being sent home for violating COVID-19 safety guidelines have become commonplace in the news, sometimes even reaching top headlines across the country. It seems that protocols are being broken in colleges across America, and BU is among them.1 Naturally, the recklessness raises concerns: parents are worried about their college-aged children, college communities are scared of becoming a hotspot, and at BUA, we become more careful around campus. It is unclear how much we can trust college students to uphold COVID-19 safety guidelines.

At the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC), students were moved to online coursework after just a week of classes because of a rapid increase in COVID cases induced by large gatherings of students.2 Although at this moment, case rates are higher in the southern parts of the country than around here, the rules are being breached in Boston-area colleges as well. A month ago, Northeastern University sent home eleven students for holding a gathering that broke the school’s COVID-19 guidelines.3

But why would college students be so careless in the midst of a pandemic? Some of the reasons stem from the same feelings that we BUA students have experienced. Similar to us, they stayed indoors for six months without social interaction. The contrast for them to the times before is even greater than what we experienced, given that they typically live at school and are around their friends every day. Simply put, college students missed their friends and wanted to bond with them again like old times. They neglected to take into account that circumstances have shifted drastically; often what was considered normal is out of the question now. Today, mask wearing, social distancing, and proper ventilation, among other precautions, are required for people to safely meet in groups. College students’ eagerness to see their friends may have led them to make the shortsighted decision to completely disregard safety measures. They may even think that the one gathering they attend can’t possibly do damage. They are wrong. At UNC, the hotspot caused an uptick of cases in the local area.2 On a greater scale, the rate at which people ages twenty to thirty-nine have tested positive has significantly increased since June, coming to make up over 20% of total positive COVID-19 cases.4 College-aged students are not immune.

BU itself has struggled to enforce coronavirus protocols. There have been multiple off-campus gatherings that violated COVID-19 guidelines, often associated with Greek life groups, such as the fraternity Phi Chi Theta.1 In recent weeks, the number of students not in compliance with testing and daily attestations has increased.5 As students are becoming more adjusted to the new way of campus life, they have become less careful, in part on the rationalization that because BU’s positivity rate has so far been staying low, it will continue to do so regardless of individual actions. There’s reason, though, to not lose all hope in BU students. Students have not only been using BU’s hotline number to report unsafe social gatherings, but they have also been using social media to call out their peers.1 It seems that most students do care about staying on campus after all.

As BUA students, we occupy an unique position in that we’re not college students, but we are around college students up to four days a week. It can be hard to judge whether being a part of the wider BU community is truly safe. At the moment, the data at BU show that the cumulative campus coronavirus positivity rate from July 27 onward is under 0.1 percent; what matters now is that we continue to keep the count low.6 So even though we’re not college students, please wear your mask, practice social distancing, complete your tests and daily attestations, and do whatever you can to make BUA a safer place. 

1 Doug Most, “Group Gatherings Increase on and around Campus. But So Does Reporting Them,” BU Today, September 17, 2020,

2 Richard Fausett, “Outbreaks Drive U.N.C. Chapel Hill Online After a Week of Classes,” The New York Times, August 17, 2020,

3 Ian Thomsen, “Northeastern Dismisses 11 Students For Gathering in Violation of COVID-19 Policies,” News @ Northeastern, September 4, 2020,

4 Boehmer TK, DeVies J, Caruso E, et al., “Changing Age Distribution of the COVID-19 Pandemic — United States, May–August 2020,” CDC, September 23, 2020,

5 Rich Barlow, “Rise in BU’s COVID-19 Cases Prompts Stricter Measures,” BU Today, October 20, 2020,

6 “BU COVID-19 Testing Data Dashboard,” Boston University Healthway, accessed October 25, 2020,

The Presidential Debates

by Anna Augart-Welwood


October 26, 2020

Editor’s Note: This article was written between October 15 and October 22, hence the use of the future tense to refer to the fourth debate.

With the presidential election just around the corner on November 3, the presidential and vice presidential debates can inform voters of the candidates’ political views and public policy proposals. The first presidential debate took place on September 29, the one vice presidential debate was on October 7, the October 15 debate was cancelled amidst concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic, and the final debate is set to take place on October 22.

The first presidential debate was turbulent and disorganized, an environment created by President Trump’s frequent interruptions and heckling of former Vice President Joe Biden. The debate moderator, Chris Wallace of Fox News, was often unsuccessful at preventing Trump from talking over his opponent. Biden grew so exasperated from constantly being interrupted that he asked Trump to shut up. According to a pre-debate CNN poll, 56% of surveyed debate watchers said they thought Biden would do a better job compared to 43% in favor of Trump. However, a post-debate poll found that 60% of the same voters thought Biden won the debate, while 28% thought Trump did better. 12% thought both candidates did equally well, neither candidate was better, or had no opinion.

The vice presidential debate on October 7 involved fewer interruptions than the previous presidential debate and was overall more orderly. The moderator, Susan Page of USA Today, nevertheless had to remind the candidates, Vice President Mike Pence and Senator Kamala Harris, to not speak over each other, and they didn’t always abide. Pence and Harris sometimes ignored the moderator’s questions completely. Particularly worrisome was their lack of answers to the following prompt: “What would you do if the president became incapacitated?” The question carries a special importance in this election year, given both candidates’ ages and Trump’s health concerns, the most serious of which are his obesity and his recent COVID-19 diagnosis. In one memorable moment, Harris fought back after being interrupted by Pence, saying, “Mr. Vice President, I’m speaking. I’m speaking.” Perhaps the most humorous participant in the debate was the fly that landed on Pence’s head, a spectacle that Biden’s campaign quickly took advantage of. Biden began selling fly swatters approximately thirty minutes after the debate and sold 35,000 in a few hours.

Next, the October 15 debate was cancelled because of President Trump’s COVID-19 diagnosis. On October 8, the Commission on Presidential Debates announced that the second presidential debate would be held virtually. While Biden agreed, Trump refused to take part in a virtual debate. Instead, Biden participated in a town hall in Philadelphia, and Trump held an opposing town hall in Miami. The final debate is still set to take place on October 22 in Nashville, and it will be moderated by Kristen Welker, a White House correspondent for NBC News. The candidates will practice social distancing and wear masks. To ensure that each candidate gets two minutes of uninterrupted speaking time at the beginning of each segment, Trump’s microphone will be muted while Biden speaks, and vice versa.

Several BUA students offered comments on the debates. Nikhil Rich ‘24 reflected on the first debate, saying, “[Trump] was able to manipulate the conversation so that he never actually had to discuss policy.” He disagrees with the “few words about policy” that Biden managed to say, and said that “when questioned on matters of policing, Biden argued from a far-right point of view in order to escape being branded by Trump as a radical leftist.” He believes that Biden’s climate change plan is “far too moderate,” and that neither candidate went into enough detail about their healthcare plan. Finally, he pointed out Trump’s failure to condemn white supremacy in telling the Proud Boys, a far-right group, to “stand back and stand by,” and called the President’s addressing of the organization “appalling.” After watching the first debate and the vice presidential debate, Alice Gamarnik ‘23 commented, “I can’t say Kamala and Biden are my favorite.” She thinks that while they spend too much time attacking their opponents, they support things that she believes in and that “[they] aren’t going to start taking away [her] rights, so settling for them is [her] best bet.” Finally, Kenzie Urbano ‘21 called the debates “embarrassing,” and Riot Weiden ‘24 compared the first one to watching a Saturday Night Live skit.

In these debates, each candidate has striven to make a case for themselves; on November 3, the outcome of their efforts will be revealed. Be sure to stay tuned.

Agiesta, Jennifer. “Post-debate CNN poll: Six in 10 say Biden won the debate.” CNN, September 30, 2020.

Bernstein, Lenny; McGinley, Laurie; Achenbach, Joel; Sun, Lena H. “President Trump’s transfer to Walter Reed reflects a cautious approach to treating his covid-19 symptoms.” The Washington Post, October 3, 2020.

Goldmacher, Shane. “Six Takeaways From the First Presidential Debate.” New York Times, September 30, 2020.

McNamara, Audrey. “When are the 2020 presidential debates and what topics will Trump and Biden cover?” CBS News, October 20, 2020.

Segarra, Marielle. “How did the Biden campaign create fly swatter merch so quickly?” Marketplace, October 8, 2020.

Walsh, Deirdre. “4 Takeaways From The Mike Pence-Kamala Harris Vice Presidential Debate.” NPR, October 8, 2020.

College, Confusion, and the Coronavirus

by Steph Gratiano


May 7, 2020

Eleven days before the deposit deadline, I had no idea what school to pick.

I’d managed to narrow the pool down to three, and that’s where it had stayed. Every attempt to rule out any more failed spectacularly. At least if the schools were similar, the decision might have felt more arbitrary. Alas, each school was wildly different, ranging from small liberal arts programs to huge research universities. 

So I sought out the help of my elders. 

“I don’t know where to go to college,” I texted my middle school friend, who is currently a rising junior at Clark University. 

He was sympathetic, and to his credit, did offer some great advice about making a decision. The issue arose when he talked about what had ultimately made up his mind: “My application reader liked my essay so much, she reached out to me personally. They invited me to a selective sleepover [for] accepted students too.”

The only sleepover I’ll be having in the near future is sleeping over twelve hours a night. 

The coronavirus affected my college experience in a “standard” way, if anything about this situation can be described as standard. I was indecisive, I couldn’t do revisit days — parents and students alike have been tittering about this since schools began going online. So while my situation was certainly frustrating, it was also completely expected. Meanwhile, students who applied to some schools overseas experienced this problem on a macroscale. Not only could they not attend revisit days, they couldn’t even visit the countries the schools are in. Juniors who were planning to tour schools and begin putting their college lists together have also been foiled by the shutdowns. 

Social distancing hasn’t just had an impact on touring options. Events like sleepovers, in-person meetings, and panels have been cancelled as well, making it harder even for those who already made their decisions to move forward with their freshman year planning. Maria Levit ‘20 made her choice quickly after receiving her admission decision, but now struggles to befriend her new peers in a strictly online format. “I’m in my school’s Facebook group, but I don’t really know how to talk to people there. Being able to visit campus and meet people would have been a really big relief, and I think it would have helped me a lot,” she says. 

Without in-person meetings, not only does she have to worry about not being familiar with anyone, but figuring out roommate options has also become near impossible for her. “It would have been really nice to have a roommate whom I knew, as opposed to being a random person. Because obviously, that’s a huge concern, you know, I think for anybody. You’re gonna be living with this random person for a year. You ideally want someone you get along with. Honestly, this has impacted me so much to the point where I’m intentionally picking singles in the housing options.”

Of course, live events are only one element of the college process that have been upended. Admission requirements, such as grades and test scores, are also a source of confusion. Many juniors planned to take their SAT and subject tests this summer, but the virus has caused the College Board to cancel their June testing date, making August the only date available before the fall semester begins.¹ The June and July ACT are currently planned to proceed as scheduled, but those who planned to take the ACT in April were forced to reschedule.²

On March 27, Boston University announced its credit/no credit grading option. The Academy followed suit with a policy of its own on April 23, which stated that “as long as students remain engaged and committed to their studies, we will not allow the online learning format of the last quarter to lower their grade.” While these policies were made to afford students more flexibility while forced to study in less-than-ideal environments, fears over college admissions have prevented many from taking advantage. 

“It’s a difficult decision to make, because college admissions might just read credits as Cs,” Anna Dzhitenov ‘20 explains. Though she does want to use the credit option for some classes, she doesn’t think the college office would recommend it. “For myself, where my grades have fallen enough to impact my GPA, but not so much that I’m near failing, I feel like they would prefer if I kept my grade as it is.” 

When asked if he’d take advantage of the new grading policies, Tim Pinkhassik ‘21 said he “would, if it didn’t look really bad for colleges.” Tim is dealing with an additional struggle on top of studying at home: the cheating scandal that’s come to be known as “Cheggate.” In response to widespread online cheating, some professors in the BU chemistry department have reportedly made their tests much harder — the average on Tim’s last Organic Chemistry Two exam was a 66%, even with the questions available on Chegg, an educational website offering a tutoring service and textbook solutions. “Other classes have been hit by this too,” he says. “Differential Equations was notorious for being a really easy class to do well in if one just studied a lot. You could get As if you scored more than 70 points on the exams. But now, because of cheating, the grade scale is just 93 and above is an A.” Between harder exams, concern over college’s view on credit/no credit marks, and studying at home, Tim believes his admissions chances for some of his reach schools have grown increasingly slim. He’s still planning to apply, but is now “confident he won’t get in.” 

Since going online, Tim’s Academy classes have also started giving fewer assessments that count for less, which has made it difficult to improve grades from last semester. With the new Academy policy, he feels frustrated that people with high grades from the start of the semester can fall back on the “no lower grades” promise to put in less effort, despite the disclaimer on engagement and commitment. While he admits that some people will always be able to put in less effort and get higher grades, now, “no one really knows what teachers are grading and how.” 

Things are looking rather unpleasant as we bring the year to a close, especially with rumors of an online fall semester growing increasingly rampant. But there has been at least one positive outcome to at-home learning and delayed tests: students have more time to reflect on what it is they really want to do for the next four years. Tati Kong ‘21 is still looking at more traditional colleges, but now, she’s also thinking about the Air Force Academy. “With the virus, I have a lot of free time to think. I kind of find myself thinking about what makes me happy, and Air Force seems like it would. I think the biggest impact the virus has had on me is just giving me time to reflect on who I want to be and how I’m gonna present myself in the college process.” 

I won’t insult the students reading this by reiterating yet another round of “these are unprecedented times,” or by pretending everyone can find a bright spot in this. I will, however, say that if you’re having any concerns about the way college admissions, your transcript, or your applications will look because of this mess, talk to the college office. They can only give general advice when addressing fifty kids, but they’re happy to provide guidance for your specific situation during a one-on-one communication. Even if they can’t answer your question about a particular school or issue, they can contact a BUA alum who can. This is how I was ultimately saved from the grips of my indecision, and I put down a deposit one whole day early. 

And they say everyone’s procrastinating.

¹ “2019-2020 SAT Dates,” College Board, accessed May 5, 2020,

² “The ACT Test,” ACT, accessed May 5, 2020,

To the Class of 2024: Advice for Incoming Students

by Julia Dickinson


May 5, 2020

As we finish yet another wonderful year at BUA, we start to think about our new beginnings. To our seniors, this means leaving our warm, welcoming community to expand their knowledge of the world. To other current students, this means thinking about the new challenges and opportunities that the next school year will yield. However, there’s another group of people starting a journey at BUA: the class of 2024.

Through all the challenges, academic and otherwise, we have come to love BUA. To the incoming freshmen, however, the beginning of high school in September can be quite overwhelming. In an effort to ease the transition to BUA, I have interviewed a current student from each grade to gather advice applicable to all circumstances, even the currently uncertain ones, that they have taken from their own experiences throughout their varied ranges of time at BUA. Thank you to Janani Ganesh ‘23, Tanay Nambiar ‘22, Kieran Barrett ‘21, and Kaiti Filippou ‘20 for allowing me to interview you!

I asked each of my interviewees similar questions covering a wide variety of subjects pertaining to the average BUAer. One common piece of advice across everyone was to ask for help when needed. As Janani says, “[Teachers] are more than willing to help any student who is struggling in their class or just wanted to review with them.” She hit it spot on! Every teacher at BUA wants to see you succeed, and they would love to help you reach your highest potential. Kieran says that all you need to do is show that “you are putting effort into [the class], and [the teachers] will help you so much.” Asking for help is difficult at times but vital to your development as a BUA student.

Another rite of passage as a BUAer is your commute. I’m sure all of us can remember ourselves intimidated by the vast network of the transit system in September. Kaiti says that “most kids have other people taking the same route, so you can make a little train group to meet together every day.” This is a great idea because commuting with other BUA students not only helps you feel more confident on public transportation, but it also leads to new friendships. Soon after arriving at BUA, you will adjust to your commute, and you will have a better idea of how to effectively manage your time spent traveling to and from BUA. Across the board, the two main suggestions for using commute time are to either get some homework done or wind down from the day. Tanay says, “Some students may prefer to take the time to settle down and relax, while others use the commute to finish as much work as they can. The first month is the perfect time to figure out what works best for you.” His suggestion of experimenting with different options is great for students who are unsure which one is best for them.

To conclude our interviews, I asked each person about making new friends. These interviews have confirmed my belief that there are so many ways to make friends at BUA! One tip that works for finding friends both in your own grade and in other grades is to join a BUA activity. On making friends in different grades, Kaiti says, “It happens naturally. It doesn’t matter if you join a sport or club, since there will be upperclassmen regardless.” It’s easier to become friends with people whom you share common interests with, and BUA has so many sports and clubs to offer. 

Once you have made some friends, which won’t be hard, there will be so many ways to get together. One way is through BUA events. Kieran says that “some of [his] best memories are from school events.” From Fall Festival, a BUA tradition comprising activities in the gym, soccer games, and a homecoming dance, to Lock-In, a sleepover held in the BUA building with activities and nightly excursions, and Semi-Formal, an annual winter dance, there are school events sprinkled throughout the year to provide memorable bonding experiences for students. Tanay made a great point by saying that “since your classmates live all around [Massachusetts], school events are [an opportunity] not in an academic setting where all of them [can come] together.” It can be hard to find all your friends in one space, so school events are a great chance to spend time together. Additionally, Janani says that she often “FaceTimes to hang out with [her] friends” as a way of keeping in touch with them. Communicating with friends over calls or messages is great for connecting with them, whether on a school night or over a break. At an academically rigorous school such as BUA, it’s even more important that you leave yourself time to relax with your friends.

At the end of the day, every person who enters the BUA building quickly learns how to manage the work and commute, make amazing friends, and create everlasting memories. To the class of 2024, it’s normal to be nervous or scared about starting high school, even in ordinary times. As I have learned from my interviews and experience at BUA, however, our community will always support you throughout your time at BUA. BUA provides a fantastic environment to grow in, so don’t be afraid to challenge yourself in and out of the classroom.