Fall 2021 Operational Plan
April 21, 2021
Fall Planning Group Membership
Carol Barr, Senior Vice Provost and Dean of Undergraduate Education, Co-Chair
Tilman Wolf, Senior Vice Provost for Academic Affairs, Co-Chair
Evelyn Ashley, Dean of Students
Clement Boaheng, Graduate Student Senate
Nancy Buffone, Associate Vice Chancellor for University Relations
Rolanda Burney, Chief of Staff, Chancellor’s Office
Jeff Cournoyer, Managing Director of the Mount Ida Campus
Elsa Cousins, Graduate Student Senate
Garett Distefano, Director of Residential Dining and Retail Dining Services
Janet Fink, Associate Dean of Undergraduate Programs, Isenberg School of Management
Julia Fox, Student Government Association
Steve Goodwin, Deputy Chancellor
Lisa Green, Distinguished Professor of Linguistics
Jeff Hescock, Executive Director of Environmental Health & Safety
Kevin Kerwood, Senior Director and Deputy Chief Human Resources Officer
Adam Lechowicz, Student Government Association
Sara Littlecrow-Russell, Assistant Vice Chancellor for Shared Services, Student Affairs and Campus Life
Mike Malone, Vice Chancellor for Research and Engagement
Tricia Serio, Dean, College of Natural Sciences
Jeff Smith, Senior Associate Athletic Director for Internal Operations
Patrick Sullivan, University Registrar
Kalpen Trivedi, Associate Provost, International Programs
Ruth Yanka, Executive Director, Administration and Finance Operations
Charge of the Fall Planning Group
The university is planning for more normal campus operations this fall, with campus life as close to pre-COVID times as possible. The Fall Planning Group is charged with developing detailed operational recommendations for the fall 2021 semester, which would include resuming face-to-face instruction, full residence halls, and a complement of student events and activities.
The following provides recommendations, considerations, and proposed implementation plans in the areas of Public Health, Teaching and Learning, Research and Engagement, Student Affairs and Campus Life, Human Resources, Campus Operations, Communication, and Athletics.
Public Health Promotion Center
We recommend continuing with the structure of the Public Health Promotion Center (PHPC), which has served as the central coordinating department for the COVID-19 response to the pandemic. The PHPC provides asymptomatic testing, contact tracing, quarantine and isolation services, and vaccine administration.
We strongly encourage and recommend all students, faculty, and staff be vaccinated as soon as possible. Throughout the pandemic, the university has followed the science, which led to health and safety protocols that protected our campus. The science is clear that vaccination is the best way to stop COVID-19 from spreading and our best way to continue protecting each other’s wellbeing.
We recommend in the strongest terms that the university require that all students be vaccinated prior to the beginning of the fall semester, subject to vaccine availability. Faculty and staff will be strongly recommended to be vaccinated. As with other institutions of higher education, we await final state, federal, and legal guidance.
Medical and religious exemptions will be accommodated, but the expectation is that our campuses and classrooms will overwhelmingly consist of vaccinated individuals, greatly reducing the risk of infection for all.
- Current expectations are that there will be enough vaccines available so that all individuals can be vaccinated by the fall semester.
- The PHPC should continue operating a vaccine clinic to offer COVID-19 vaccinations to students, faculty, and staff and individuals who are not able to obtain vaccination prior to arrival for the fall semester. Individuals in these groups will be expected to be vaccinated as soon after their arrival as possible.
- We recommend establishing a team to develop and maintain a data collection system for students, faculty, and staff to notify the university with proof of vaccination. These data are critical for the university to make informed decisions on the extent of community protection from COVID-19.
- If unable to mandate the vaccine, we should strongly encourage all to get vaccinated and develop incentives for students to get vaccinated; these incentives could affect access to the recreation center, student activities, and dining. Individuals not vaccinated should be required to participate in our asymptomatic testing program.
- We recommend exploring pre-arrival testing for students only.
- We recommend exploring the expansion of the Wastewater Based Epidemiology testing, as an early warning system for adaptive testing.
- We recommend instituting mandatory adaptive testing protocols when circumstances warrant.
- Individuals who are not vaccinated should be required to participate in the UMass asymptomatic testing program. Individuals who are vaccinated may be required to participate in UMass asymptomatic testing as public health circumstances warrant.
- Asymptomatic test analysis should be done through the Institute for Applied Life Sciences (IALS) Clinical Testing Center with additional capacity through the Broad Institute if needed, while symptomatic testing should continue to be performed by University Health Services.
- Every member of the UMass community has a role to play in maintaining a healthy and safe campus. Toward that end, all individuals should be required to comply with the COVID-19 vaccination requirements (if in place) and COVID-19 testing frequency requirements. To demonstrate compliance with these requirements, the campus should continue to use the green checkmark via the Campus Health Hub.
University Public Health Messaging Campaign
- We recommend establishing a campaign to encourage vaccination. The campaign should address staff, students, and faculty.
- We recommend continuing with the extensive public health campaign with the taglines “It’s Hard But It Helps” and “It’s Weird But It Works.” The messages should continue to be geared towards on- and off-campus students as well as faculty and staff – with the focus on key public health measures, such as the importance of social distancing, vaccinations, face coverings, testing, and contact tracing.
- We recommend establishing guidelines for campus events and gatherings.
- We should follow Massachusetts Department of Public Health guidelines regarding face coverings, social distancing, size of gatherings, etc.
- We recommend setting aside a limited amount of campus residential space for quarantine and isolation.
- The policy on external visitors to campus should be reviewed and adapted.
- We recommend reviewing and updating as necessary the interim pandemic policy.
Teaching and Learning
Instructional Delivery: In-Person Instruction
Current planning is that all classes normally taught in-person will return to that mode of instructional delivery. All faculty, staff, and students should plan to return to campus in-person this fall. We will continue to monitor public health guidelines for in-person instruction and will continue public health practices, such as wearing masks in classrooms, if recommended.
We will continue to monitor public health guidance and if restrictions are placed on in-person instruction (for instance, limited classroom capacity), we plan to use remote and/or alternative instruction for the duration of such a restriction. Our instructors have significant experience with the necessary technologies and pedagogies, and thus such a switch – while highly undesirable – could be implemented. Any workload adjustments and/or compensation warranted for such a shift will be in accordance with collective bargaining requirements.
Faculty and graduate student instructors who have health conditions that do not allow them to teach in-person can request accommodations through the accommodation process provided by the Office of Accessible Workplace in the Department of Human Resources (faculty members) or through Disability Services (graduate student instructors).
Attendance and Classroom Technology to Reach Absent Students
Because courses will be offered in-person, students are expected to attend these courses in-person. The university’s “University Policy on Class Absence” explains what absences need to be accommodated by an instructor. To help instructors meet such accommodations, Echo360 technology (for recording and asynchronous playback by students) and in-classroom video conferencing technology (for synchronous instruction to remote students) are available in numerous classrooms.
Academic Calendar for 2021-22
The Academic Calendar for fall 2021 will begin September 1, with Labor Day, the second Monday in October, Veterans Day, and Thanksgiving recess holidays all observed. This schedule allows for a 26-class-day winter session, which provides many advantages to faculty teaching over the winter session and more course opportunities for students. The other campuses in the Five College Consortium are also planning to start the fall semester on or around September 1, which would assist students wanting to participate in the Five College exchange.
Classrooms, Labs, Studios: Public Health Protocols and Scheduling
Classroom scheduling will return to pre-pandemic levels in terms of student density and class density (assuming public health guidelines allow). Classrooms, labs, and studios will retain some of the public health measures put in place for the COVID-19 pandemic. Custodial service levels will return to pre-pandemic levels.
Public health protocols for classrooms, labs, and studios should be reviewed and adapted over the summer. Public health guidance will be followed in relation to the continued use of masks in classrooms, PPE needs in labs and studios, and other public health measures we should preserve at least in the beginning of the fall semester if not throughout the whole semester.
Courses that require field trips and field work will take place while following public health guidelines for travel and the location where the field trip/work takes place. Public health guidance will be followed with approval processes put in place in advance if needed.
Advising and Student Support Services
All academic advising and student support services (Learning Resource Center, Registrar’s Office, International Programs Office, Bursar’s Office, Financial Aid, Career Services, etc.) will be performed in-person, as with normal pre-pandemic operations. We look forward to welcoming our important staff members back to campus to perform these critical student support services.
Various offices on campus have learned a great deal from the past year as they transitioned to providing remote support services to students. As such, many will also continue remote services that have proved extremely successful in accommodating students’ schedules beyond a traditional 9-5 office hour structure. For example, the virtual career fairs held this past year provided more opportunities for both employers and students to participate. Some of these virtual approaches will continue while the offices also provide critical in-person support to our students.
The International Programs Office is monitoring travel restrictions, visa issuance and backlogs, and vaccine requirements across the globe. For international students unable to come to campus to start the semester on September 1, we will pursue technology options in classrooms for individual student accommodations (i.e., Echo360 asynchronous recordings or synchronous laptop/microphone Zoom sessions). We will also explore fully remote options and assist international students with access to courses as much as possible, but we will not have a fully remote curriculum in place for the fall.
Mount Ida Campus and Springfield Center
Instruction and activities at the Mount Ida Campus and Springfield Center will follow the Amherst campus guidelines. In-person instruction will take place at both the Mount Ida Campus and Springfield Center. Public health guidelines will be followed at both locations as well.
Research & Libraries
The Research & Libraries Working Group recommends the following in preparation for the fall 2021 semester.
- The target state for in-person research and library activities should be a return as close as possible to pre-COVID-19 activities, schedules, and densities of personnel in facilities.
- A gradual transition to this target state should begin after the spring semester is completed. A Research & Libraries Operating Plan (RLOP) and participation in the campus asymptomatic testing program should be required along with any relevant guidelines for undergraduate and summer research. These requirements should be modified as the public health situation permits.
- During this transition, the Vice Chancellor for Research and Engagement (VCRE) in consultation with the Research & Libraries Working Group, EH&S and other groups as necessary, should provide updates, including any modified requirements, bi-weekly or more frequently if necessary, and with as much advance notice of changes as possible.
- Some UMass facilities, including performance venues, farms or field stations, or individual research groups, may need to adopt more restrictive health and safety measures according to their in-person activities and participants’ risk levels. Following the best practices developed over the last year, those plans should be discussed with all the participants and across spatially proximate lab groups, such as on a floor together or using the same shared facilities.
Student Affairs and Campus Life
The division of Student Affairs and Campus Life will observe all necessary public health guidance as departments work to provide students with robust experiences. We recommend that all Student Affairs and Campus Life departments and programs be open for business.
- Summer New Student Orientation (NSO) will be remote.
- The Your UMass Guide (online orientation platform through Advantage Design Group) will launch in May covering Academics & Advising, Here for You (campus resources), Your UMass Community, Being Safe & Well, All About Money, and Continuing Your Journey. Students maintain access to the guide through graduation from UMass.
- Meet Your UMass Community meetings for first-year students will run June 7-July 16.
- New student advising (Your UMass Advising Appointment) will be remote and run from June through July.
- Your UMass Responsibilities (AlcoholEdu, YIS: Your Intervention Strategies, and Fall 2021 expectations/procedures) will launch August 1 and will be due prior to move-in.
- The Office of Parent Services will provide family programming July 6-16.
- Fall New Students Orientation will be in-person and will include programming for new students, transfer students, and sophomores.
- Welcome programming and Student Affairs and Campus Life departmental programs and open house events will start August 28 and run through the following weekend.
- UFest is Sunday afternoon, August 29.
- New Student Convocation is August 31.
Living on Campus
Residential Life including Move-In Process:
- Students will find out their housing assignments on August 6.
- Campus move-in begins August 25 and runs through August 29. For move-in, students will arrive to campus at their assigned move-in time. Students will first proceed to a central location to check-in and receive their room key. Students will then proceed to their residence hall where they will move their belongings to their rooms. As public health measures allow, move-in assistance will be available to assist students and their families in unloading and moving student belongings when they arrive at the residence hall.
- International students and summer international students move in August 25. Early move-in starts Wednesday, August 25. First-year students move in Friday, August 27. Sophomores and transfer students move in Saturday and Sunday, August 28-29, Sunday morning at the latest. Sunday move-in is primarily juniors and seniors. Move-in operations will not be active on Monday, August 30, but students may move in themselves.
Residential Academic Programs: Entering first-year students will have the opportunity to participate in Residential Academic Programs (RAPs). A RAP is a community of students who enroll in a specific course and live together in a designated residence hall. Students in a RAP course may share a major, a preferred residence hall, and/or an interest in the course subject. RAPs vary by structure, and some RAPs are reserved for students who meet certain eligibility criteria.
Life in the Residence Halls: Residence Education staff plan to provide a close-to-normal residential experience focused on developing strong and inclusive communities, student learning, well-being, student engagement and student support. Our educational priority is that at the conclusion of the residential experience, students will be active community members who are personally and socially responsible, academically prepared, and strive for cultural competence. Residence hall staff will engage with students using a range of strategies including individual connections between Resident Assistants (RAs) and residents; floor meetings; roommate agreement processes; bulletin boards and newsletters; and a range of events and programs designed for community engagement and learning. In first-year residential communities, undergraduate Peer Mentors (PMs) will provide academic, well-being and transition support through events and open office hours. During move-in and Fall NSO, RAs and PMs will welcome students, have a welcome floor meeting, orient students to the residential experience, and attend the numerous Fall Welcome and Orientation events with their residential communities.
Students will have the opportunity to participate in the Residence Hall Association by joining their residence hall’s House Council to plan events and initiatives for their residential community. Elections for House Council Executive Boards will be held during the first month of the semester, and opportunities for non-elected positions will be announced. Given that students reside in the residence halls 24/7, residence hall staff will always be available on-call to respond to student concerns and to support student needs.
Offices such as the Center for Early Education and Care (CEEC), Disability Services, Dean of Students, Center for Counseling and Psychological Health (CCPH), and the UMass Police Department will continue to meet with students to provide support and advocacy where necessary.
- Disability Services will provide all services in-person for the fall 2021 semester. Students will continue, however, to have the option of Zoom or phone meetings with staff unless otherwise needed for in-person well-being checks.
- The Exam Proctoring Center will be open for fall 2021 courses through Disability Services.
- CCPH will continue offering all services this fall, including 24/7 crisis services, same-day first appointments, Let's Talk, groups, workshops, community conversations, psychiatry services, outreach, etc. They will offer services in-person and/or remotely in compliance with COVID guidelines and safety regulations and student needs.
- The fall semester begins for CEEC on Monday, August 30. Enrollment in all classrooms now consists of a blend of children from student parent families, staff, and faculty (previously, student parent families had been enrolled in their own classrooms).
- CEEC plans for the fall include operating two (2) Toddler and two (2) Preschool classrooms for a total of 45 children. Enrollment capacity is limited due to Department of Early Education and Care licensing restrictions, and staff vacancies and voluntary furloughs. CEEC has partially expanded capacity for this fall and is working on staffing solutions to further expand enrollment capacity.
- UMass Police is planning a variety of community outreach and positive relationship building opportunities including visits with K-9s and horses, bicycle patrols, and events such as the Amazing Race and Walk for Light.
Student Well-being, Connection, and Engagement Opportunities
Students will be offered a variety of opportunities to safely engage with campus programs and wellbeing activities. Many familiar programs such as welcome socials, open houses, and other signature events will return at the Center for Multicultural Advancement and Student Success (CMASS), Student Engagement, Off-Campus Student Life, the Stonewall Center, Veterans Services, and Campus Recreation.
- BBQ & Fun Games on the Lawn of the Student Union will provide a welcome back/semester kick off with free food and games.
- CMASS and the cultural centers will be hosting open house and welcome social events including Cultural Connections, which brings together student groups, campus support programs, and the campus community to build and strengthen relationships and social networks.
- The Latinx American Cultural Center and the Yuri Kochiyama Cultural Center will reopen in their new locations in Bartlett Hall and Goodell.
- Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion will be highlighted with programming, including facilitated dialogues, Instagram Live conversations, and a Social Justice Leadership Academy.
- The Stonewall Center will host an open house and community social.
- The Student Veterans lounge will be open for in-person community building and support for student veterans and their families.
- Walk This Way and Team Positive Presence will be supporting positive relations with our off-campus neighbors. Good Neighbor Registration (previously known as Party Smart) will continue virtually.
- The Off-Campus Student Center lounge will reopen to in-person traffic and serve as a resources and connection point for off-campus and commuter students.
- Group fitness classes will continue to be held both indoors and outdoors.
- Intramural sports expect an almost complete outdoor return to normal and will explore indoor competitions.
- Recreation Turf will open with approval for open recreation hours in addition to programming from Campus Recreation staff.
Over the past year UMass employees have been largely remote and only designated on-site as dictated by operational needs and within public health guidelines. However, with the goal to have the fall of 2021 be as close to pre-pandemic as possible, including a return to campus housing that is fully occupied and in-person classes, there will be an operational need to bring employees back to campus. We recommend that the sequencing for employees’ return will have to be detailed by each unit in coordination with their Vice Chancellor/Dean over the summer. For the fall, we recommend that all employees are considered on-site and only hybrid or remote if approved by the respective unit’s Vice Chancellor.
Work On Campus/Off Campus
- Work will be on site. A transition of staff back to campus should continue through the spring semester and through the summer as operational need dictates.
- Employees will be expected to follow public health guidelines.
- Workspaces should be modified, if necessary, to conform to the latest guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/Massachusetts Department of Public Health when employees return.
- Employees who cannot work on-site for health reasons would need to request an ADA accommodation.
- UMass Dining will continue its Dine with Confidence program. We will serve healthy, sustainable, and delicious meals utilizing industry-best safety practices.
- Catering services will offer both onsite and offsite foodservice. Our guests can expect expanded sanitation practices, service models that allow the safe gathering of groups, tamper-proof packaging, and a food-safety-first mentality.
- Dining commons and retail cafes will provide normal dine-in, including china service. Outside seating for grab-and-go will be provided. Food trucks/mobile kitchen will be used in strategic locations around campus as needed. Students can monitor dining commons volume using the UMass Dining App and web cameras.
- Hotel UMass will resume normal operations in the fall up to 100 percent occupancy.
- The UMass Store will resume normal in-store operations and continue with online ordering in the fall.
- Conference services plans to host events in the fall following recommended public health guidance.
- Physical Plant and Residential Life/Facilities Operations will prepare residence halls for full student design occupancy for the fall. Fall move-in returns to its normal structure including move-in assistance with unloading vehicles and bringing student belongings to rooms.
- Mail, custodial, and maintenance will operate as normal following recommended public health practices.
- The Teaching, Learning, Technology and Student Success Working Group and Environmental Health & Safety will propose a set of standards for classrooms/office buildings regarding ventilation as required.
- All administrative and academic buildings will be open for regular use and follow the pre-COVID locked/unlocked schedule.
- UMass Transit is planning to operate bus routes as normal pending the ability to recruit student drivers.
- Events, including the Mullins Center and the Fine Arts Center performance venues, will return to normal activity following recommended public health guidance.
As UMass Amherst returns to normal operations for fall 2021, University Relations will continue to work with partners across the campus to communicate clearly to students, staff, faculty, and parents about what to expect. Throughout the pandemic, the university has utilized numerous channels of communication to share key messages and provide answers to the most frequently asked questions: the COVID-19 website; campus-wide messages and videos; Inside UMass weekly newsletter; targeted emails based on audience/topic; social media messages and campaigns; and the press. As we turn to the fall semester, we will continue to host the COVID Information Call Center, which launched in mid-February and has already responded to more than 3,000 phone calls and emails. The Semester Opening Resource Center, a committee of operational and communications staff from across the campus, will continue to meet regularly to share information, upcoming changes, and communication support. The successful public health campaign, “It’s Hard But It Helps/It’s Weird But It Works”, will be updated to reflect best practices and public health guidance.
Athletics recommends hosting fans at home competitions as determined by state orders.
- Football will host six home games at McGuirk Alumni Stadium, including UConn and the home opener September 11 against Boston College.
- Over the summer, Athletics will assess pre-game tailgating and gatherings based on state restrictions for outdoor gatherings.
- While adhering to state guidelines, we recommend hosting home competitions for fall sports at full capacity: Men’s and Women’s Soccer; Field Hockey; and Men’s and Women’s Cross Country.
- We recommend engaging students to attend athletic events and will continue to work with Student Affairs and Campus Life and the Student Government Association to drive support to our contests.
Pre-Season and Move-In Plans
- We will have Football and Men’s Basketball move in during Summer Session 1.
- Women’s Basketball, Ice Hockey, Rowing, and Field Hockey will move in during Summer Session 2.
- Fall sports will begin reporting the first week of August.
- We have been working to secure on-campus housing for those that need it for pre-season.
- We will work with Residential Life on move-in again. We prefer to be on the front side again to get athletes moved in so we can do physicals, paperwork, and meetings before school begins.
- We will not be in one residence hall in the fall. We plan to go back to regular assignments, utilizing 50% of Prince and housing others throughout Southwest.
NCAA and/or Conference Requirements
- Much of this work will begin in May and June.
- We will assess the public health environment, including the vaccine situation, across the country.
- We will have most of our staff back to work in the fall. We want to do as much as we can in person.
- Game operations staffing will be based on the level of attendance allowed by the state.