An inevitable sense of disappointment stays with us as thousands of students transition from their once in-person classes to remote learning at home following the COVID-19 pandemic. However, as disappointing as it may be, administrations across the country continue to make these decisions for the greater good of each campus’ student body and faculty. After returning home to my small southwestern Connecticut home, I wondered how parents perceive the effects of the outbreak, including students coming home to finish their semester. So, I asked my mom how she felt about UMass's new remote, online learning.
It almost goes without saying, but the campus acted to keep us safe, which of course would ease the nerves of any parent. My mom was glad University of Massachusetts, especially with a population as dense as ours, acted in precautionary ways to ensure safety. She admired how well educated I was on the pandemic, which I can accredit to two things: one being the University’s News & Media Relations website, and the other being one of my classes. This semester, I was lucky to take Communication 319: Health Communication, where we actively discussed current events (COVID-19 being our main focus). This course, paired with constantly updated news releases from UMass Amherst Media Relations, gave me a better understanding of the logistics and severity of the pandemic. My mom appreciated the fact UMass prioritized keeping its students well-informed about what was going on around us.
In considering remote learning, a lot of parents right now would have mixed opinions of the topic simply due to the fact that online learning was not as commonly used when they were in college. When asking my mom for her thoughts, she said “I think it’s a good idea because it keeps the education process going, and it keeps people on track. I’m certain there’s kinks to it that have to be worked out, but it’s an unprecedented time.”
While she’s right about the kinks, as wifi and Zoom call malfunctions are always bound to happen, she has a point -- with no guidance at all, we students would be off track, which could have detrimental impacts on our final grades. However, within a mere few weeks, teachers have successfully converted all of their classes into an online format to help us. Obviously the transition off campus for the remainder of Spring 2020 is disappointing, but our main priority as students is exactly that: learning. With advances in technology at our disposal, it has made for this unprecedented time a bit more manageable.
My mom also admires how UMass dealt with releasing the news of such a big event. “They waited until there was enough of a reason for the school to make the decision they did. They reasoned all the different things they had to, including impact to the state, spring break, and the impact to the community of Amherst, before releasing the decision.”
This is another valid point from my mom. UMass communicated very clearly to us their position and strategies on how to combat the issue as a campus. We were given sufficient time to move out, and they clearly explained why their decisions were what was best for the community. It’s an inconvenient and sad time for us all, expanding beyond the borders of UMass’s campus, but an issue that our collective compliance with is needed.
“I also like that they have donated to the community since—like considering food security issues, hospital issues. What more could you ask from them, you know?” my mom added.
Since campus has pretty much vacated, around 600 students remain for job, travel, or other purposes, and UMass has done an incredible amount to accommodate them with food and housing. Students who moved home are expecting some sort of reimbursement for their meal/room and board plans. In bettering the Amherst community, a defining motivation of our campus, UMass Dining has also stayed open, while complying with social distancing guidelines, of course.
A lot can be said about this unprecedented time, but there is no question how much the school and higher-ups at UMass value our campus well-being. From the perspective of a UMass parent, each way the administration acted was perfectly in line with the school’s nature of preserving health and safety to everyone among the community.