Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

Health and Safety FAQs

What strategies will be used to mitigate the spread of COVID-19?

Seven core actions are being implemented: required education for all; daily self-screening for all; enhanced cleaning; increased testing and tracing capabilities; arranging for high-risk individuals to study and work remotely; increased mental health support; and use of face coverings and physical distancing.

When I arrive on campus, what preventive public health measures will be in place?

Key prevention measures include:

  • Students will be required to make a promise to respect social distancing and other public health practices.
  • Face coverings are required in classrooms, workspaces and all other common areas, both indoors and outdoors where social distancing is not possible.
  • Appropriate barriers — plexiglass and other similar materials — will be established in high-volume areas.
  • Sanitation and cleaning will be enhanced in buildings throughout the campus, and adequate hand sanitizer products will be made available in all common spaces (lobbies, lounges, academic learning centers and classrooms).
  • Residence halls, workplaces, meeting rooms and research laboratories will have modified occupancy.

Will students from out of state need to self-quarantine?

On July 1, 2020, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts issued new travel restrictions instructing travelers arriving to Massachusetts to self-quarantine for 14 days. Travelers from Rhode Island, Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, New York, and New Jersey are exempt from these restrictions. The university is closely monitoring these travel restrictions and how they may impact students arriving for the fall semester. Additional guidance for students arriving from impacted locations will be provided later in July.

What is the Daily Screening?

Faculty, staff and students must conduct symptom self-monitoring every day before coming to campus or leaving their residence hall room. Students (on or off campus) will be required to use the COVID-19 symptom checklist through University Health Services’ secure patient portal (Medicat Connect). Faculty and staff can use the My UMass app.

Who gets tested for COVID-19 and when?

Our screening and testing strategy is designed to mitigate community spread through early identification. Prior to arrival on campus, individuals will be tested for the virus. Individuals with even minimal symptoms will be promptly tested by University Health Services. Asymptomatic individuals with close contact exposure to a COVID-19 positive individual will also be promptly tested. Infection rates will be monitored on campus and in the surrounding communities.

Tell me about the specifics on COVID-19 testing and what I can expect after the test?

The university has created a detailed guide on what you can expect in the testing process, and what’s involved in follow-up steps. We encourage you to review it closely to prepare for the fall semester.

Does UMass have a contact tracing program?

Yes, to determine the risk of potential exposure to others on campus the UMass Public Health Team will conduct contact tracing per Massachusetts Department of Public Health guidelines on any individual who has tested positive. The team will have a dedicated phone number and caller ID, and it will actively promote its “Answer the Call” program to protect the UMass community.

What’s the difference between isolation and quarantine?

The Centers for Disease Control define isolation as separating sick people with a contagious disease (such as COVID-19) from people who are not sick, and quarantine as separating and restricting the movement of people who were exposed to a contagious disease to see if they become sick.

What happens if a student or their friends test positive for COVID-19?

All students living on campus are required to have an isolation and quarantine plan. For students who can travel in a private vehicle, we strongly recommend isolation and quarantine in the comfort of your own home. For students living on-campus who cannot travel home, the university has set aside dedicated isolation and quarantine space. Those students will be provided food and essential items.

All students living off campus will be strongly encouraged to have an isolation and quarantine plan. The university will provide support services in your off-campus location or at your home. The university will not provide on-campus isolation and quarantine space.

If a student living on campus gets infected, will the student’s parents be asked to pick them up and bring them home?

If a student’s parent is able to come to campus to pick them up, that is our recommendation so the student can isolate in the comfort of their home. If a parent cannot pick up their student, the university has set aside dedicated isolation and quarantine space.

What support do students get if they are in isolation or quarantine?

UMass is committed to supporting all students during any required isolation and quarantine. This includes contact tracing, academic support, health services and counseling services. All students in isolation and quarantine, both on- and off-campus, will receive a daily wellness call.

Will residence halls reopen?

Yes, UMass Amherst will reopen as a residential campus. Testing and social distancing protocols will be in place, and we will house a substantial number of students. A combination of assignment styles will be available – single rooms as well as double occupancy rooms and suites where people are known to each other and are comfortable with the risk of sharing a space. A no-guests-allowed policy will be enforced to maintain best social distancing practices.

How will face-to-face instruction be conducted?

The occupancy of classrooms will be modified to maintain social distancing, including assigned seating where appropriate. Before the start of each class, students and faculty must wipe down their chairs and any other commonly touched surfaces. Students are required to wear face coverings. There is no eating or drinking in class. An educational video is being produced that will detail the public health measures in place for classrooms and laboratories.

How will you reduce density in classrooms?

Classrooms and study spaces will have diagrams depicting the reduced seating capacity for each space, including designated areas for instructors and required space between students to ensure appropriate social distancing. Room locations for some courses may be reassigned to meet public health standards. Signs will be posted to explain appropriate ways to enter and exit, as well as reminders about preventive health practices.

How will meals be served?

UMass Dining operations will be modified to meet new state requirements for cleaning, social distancing, customer limits and modified indoor seating. More than 30 campus locations will be revamped. The plan includes new grab-and-go sites, outdoor dining tents and mobile ordering at some retail locations. To protect public health, buffet-style service will be prohibited.

What kind of campus events will be held this fall?

Social distancing is the best defense against the spread of COVID-19, so the focus will be on providing a wide variety of virtual events. Co-curricular programming will be virtual and inclusive of remote students. Large events are currently prohibited in Massachusetts, affecting Registered Student Organizations, athletics, the performing arts and other activities. As Massachusetts continues its phased reopening, some restrictions may be lifted.

Teaching and Learning FAQs

How do I know if my course will be face-to-face or remote?

You can find if your course will be taught face-to-face on campus this fall or be fully remote by looking at your Student Center in SPIRE. In the Student Center section, each course of the Fall 2020 schedule will either have a building and room location identified for essential face-to-face courses, or will have a “Fully Remote Class” designation for courses that will be taught remotely. 

In your SPIRE shopping cart or when looking to add courses, you will also be able to see the instructional modality of all courses in the “Room” field , with a building and room location identified for face-to-face courses or “Fully Remote Class” indicated for remote teaching. 

The day and time of each course will also be indicated in the Student Center. 

Will classes start earlier this year?

Yes, fall semester classes will begin Aug. 24 and conclude Nov. 20, with classes held on Labor Day, Columbus Day and Veterans Day. Students will be strongly encouraged to remain on or near campus until the Thanksgiving recess, after which they will not return. Final exams will be conducted remotely through Dec. 4. Faculty will make accommodations for students who have an apartment lease starting Sept. 1 or who are otherwise unable to arrive by Aug. 24; for example,  remote participation or make-up work.

What will be the mix of remote and in-person classes?

A majority of the fall 2020 curriculum will be fully remote, with essential courses offered in-person. Some students who return to campus may have a fully remote curriculum, a factor they should consider in their decision to return. The university’s priority is to provide students with a high-quality educational experience that enables them to continue their academic progress with minimal delays or disruptions.

What is face-to-face instruction?

Courses that have been designated by colleges and departments as face-to-face-only and essential for delivery in the fall will be offered face-to-face. These include labs, studios and performance courses that are required for degree pathways, licensure or accreditation. To ensure social distancing, some face-to-face courses may have students attending on alternate days and learning remotely on other days, as determined by the instructor.

What is remote instruction?

These are courses with no face-to-face instruction.Technology such as Zoom and Moodle will help engage students and deliver the curriculum, with a combination of synchronous engagement (designated class meeting times) and asynchronous engagement (student learning occurring on their timeline). Faculty will make accommodations for students for whom synchronous engagement is difficult (for example, international students or those in other times zones).

Are decisions about in person vs. remote classes final as of now?

Yes, decisions have been finalized within academic departments about face-to-face vs. fully remote classes.

 

How will graduate-level courses be taught?

All graduate-level courses (600-700-level) will be offered remotely unless identified essential by colleges or departments. Some graduate programs may offer their entire curriculum remotely. Dissertation and thesis defenses will be conducted remotely. Questions about registration and enrollment should be directed to the Graduate School’s student service center, and international graduate students should contact the International Programs Office with questions related to visas, travel and employment.

What will be different about classrooms and class schedules?

Classroom capacities will be limited to adhere to social distancing guidelines. Additional sections of courses may be needed to reduce class sizes. Course schedules may be adjusted to increase time between classes, and start and end times may be staggered to reduce interactive foot traffic on campus. Students will be encouraged to be patient and flexible regarding classroom assignments and course schedules.

Why did all class times change?

As of July 2, all original course times are reinstated in SPIRE. Previously, adjustments were made as we considered how to best allow for classrooms to be cleaned. After further safety evaluation, and having heard concerns about lengthy days for students and faculty, the original schedule was reinstated.

 

 

How can a student defer a semester?

(Updated July 7, 2020) New students with extenuating circumstances (a health crisis, financial hardship) can apply for a deferral for one semester. In most cases, new students who choose to postpone entering UMass will need to reapply for entry in a future semester. 

Continuing students can take a leave of absence by completing the End of Term Withdrawal section in Spire. Advising conversations about spring course selection for continuing students will begin in late October. Academic advisors and Financial Aid staff can assist students as they decide about changing plans for degree completion.

What if I choose not to return to campus?

Students who have an underlying medical condition or feel unsafe returning to campus and have face-to-face or face-to-face plus blended courses in their fall schedule should meet remotely with their advisor so their fall schedule can be adjusted to only include fully remote courses. Students who are seeking a residential experience but are uncomfortable returning to the Amherst campus have the option of applying for housing on the Mount Ida Campus in Newton, Mass., while taking courses remotely.

How will academic advising and faculty office hours be provided?

All academic advising will be performed remotely, either by phone or through use of another platform such as Zoom, unless both the student and advisor agree to meet in a socially distanced way. All faculty office hours for students in their courses, advising or other consultative purposes will be performed remotely. Advisors will also provide guidance and processes via their college websites. Students can find their college academic advising contact listed in their SPIRE Student Center.

How will academic support be provided to students?

All of the Learning Resource Center’s academic support options will be offered online. Students will have the option of tutoring by appointment online as well as drop-in tutoring online for quick, in-the- moment questions. Students can also attend virtual supplemental instruction (SI) sessions online. Virtual SI sessions will also be available via cloud recordings so students can watch them on their own schedule if they can't attend the virtual sessions. Student success study skills and time management workshops will be offered throughout the semester via Zoom and other online platforms. 

Will pass/fail options be the same as last semester?

The spring 2020 temporary shift to Elective Pass/Fail for all courses was in response to the abrupt move to remote learning in March. Knowing now that most courses will be taught remotely this fall, we have reverted to the original UMass policy on Pass/Fail. Students may choose to elect one course as Pass/Fail for fall semester, and in general should not choose this option for requirements.

 

Will study abroad be available this fall?

Study abroad may be an option for the fall. There are a number of variables including government travel warnings and severely reduced flight options. Students who want to keep the study abroad option open for the fall should maintain close contact with their education abroad advisor at the International Programs Office and follow instructions in a timely fashion.

Will you still be having winter/spring semester abroad in 2021?

Most likely. Students should maintain close contact with their education abroad advisor at the International Programs Office and follow instructions in a timely fashion.

Will remote learning be an option for international students?

Yes, international students can study remotely. There are no U.S. immigration regulations that preclude this option.

Will I have access to the UMass Libraries?

Yes, the Libraries are developing a phased plan for restoring in-person services and onsite access to collections. Prior to reopening library facilities, on-site staff will provide access to materials through its Library Express service, and scanning some materials.

Will graduate assistantships be offered during the fall semester?

Many graduate assistantships have already been offered and accepted for the fall semester. Students in search of graduate assistantships can check the employment opportunities page on the Graduate School website.

Campus Life FAQs

What is the “UMass Agreement”?

As adults and good citizens, we believe our students will rise to the occasion as we educate them about the risks of COVID-19 in our setting. All students returning to campus will be required to sign the “UMass Amherst Community Agreement: A Personal Commitment to Protect the Health and Safety of Our Community." Students must sign the agreement by July 24.

This social contract emphasizes each student’s commitment to actively protect the health and safety of every member of our campus and local communities. The Code of Student Conduct allows for adjudication of alleged violations, and students can be removed from campus and will continue their education remotely until their case is completed.

I am a new student. Will I be able to live on campus this fall?

New students will be able to complete a preference application for the Fall 2020 Semester, however based on the adjusted start of fall semester, the deadline to submit preferences has been changed to non on Tuesday, July 7. Students can access the preference application in SPIRE by navigating to Main Menu>Residential Life>Preference Application.

I am a new student. When will I learn my Fall 2020 asssignment?

New student assignments will be released on July 31.

I am a returning student and picked a room during the Fall 2020 room selection process. Will I keep my room assignment?

After July 1, Residential Life will communicate with returning students regarding their eligibility to live on campus.

When will I know if I can keep my room assignment?

After July 1, Residential Life will communicate with new students, transfers and returning students regarding their eligibility to live on campus. Additional information about housing may be found at https://www.umass.edu/living/your-housing/frequently-asked-questions.

I was assigned to a quad/economy triple and no longer have an assignment. What are my options?

In order to meet social distancing guidelines, one resident was unassigned from the economy triple and quads.

Students will have two options for returning to campus:

  • Pull-In: Pull-In will be available June 29 through Friday, July 3 at 4 p.m. (both remaining residents and the cancelled student will need to complete pull-in form).  A link to this form was included in the email you and your previous roommate received on June 29.
  • Online Room Selection: all students who are removed will receive an appointment on July 2. From this point, students can run test searches and identify what spaces are available across campus.  Room Selection will take place from July 6 to July 8 at 4 p.m..
  • Students will be able to select from vacant spaces on UMass Amherst Campus and Mount Ida campus. Spaces at UMass Amherst will be design occupancy. All spaces at Mount Ida will all be single rooms. Spaces on the Mount Ida campus will show ‘Newton, Ma’ in the living options column.

Students who do not choose a housing assignment during these process are unassigned and no longer guaranteed a housing assignment for fall 2020.

I wish to cancel my fall 2020 assignment. What do I do?

Current Students: Current students are able to cancel their assignment at any time by emailing living@umass.edu and requesting a cancellation of their fall 2020 assignment. In your email, please include your student ID as well as the building and room number of the assignment you are canceling. You can cancel without penalty by July 12 at 11:59 p.m. 

New Students:  New students who know that they are not planning to live on campus for fall 2020 can cancel their preference application in SPIRE by navigating to Main Menu>Residential Life>Preference Application through Tuesday, July 7 at noon.  After July 7 at noon, new students can cancel their assignment with no fee until July 30 at 5 p.m. by emailing living@umass.edu and requesting a cancellation of their preferences. 

If I cancel my housing assignment for the fall, can I live on campus in the spring?

Yes, the university will give students who cancel their fall 2020 assignment an opportunity to select an assignment for spring 2021, pending any changes in campus plans and availability of space. Additional information about housing may be found at https://www.umass.edu/living/your-housing/frequently-asked-questions.

If I cancel my Fall 2020 assignment will there be a cancellation fee?

Current Students:  Current students can cancel their Fall 2020 assignment for NO FEE through July 12 at 11:59 p.m.  After this time, we will return to the normal cancellation fee schedule:

  • Students who contact our office to cancel between July 13 and July 31 at 5:00 p.m. will be subject to the $400 Cancellation Fee Schedule
  • Students who cancel from July 31 at 5 p.m. through opening week will be subject to the $500 Cancellation fee schedule.

New Students:  After July 7 at noon, new students can cancel their assignment with no fee until July 30 at 5 p.m. by emailing living@umass.edu and requesting a cancellation of their preferences.  Students who contact Residential Life to cancel after July 30 at 5 p.m. will be subject to the $200 New Student Cancellation Fee. 

Will on-campus housing be guaranteed to out-of-state students who decide not to live on campus during the fall semester, but wish to return in the spring?

There will a spring housing selection process for those who choose not to live on campus in the fall. Space will be determined by availability and occupancy guidelines in effect for spring 2021.

As an incoming student, I won’t be able to determine whether my courses will be remote or face-to-face before the university’s housing deadline. Will I be able to cancel my preference application at a later date without penalty?

Yes, any first-year or transfer student who decides after the July 7 residential life deadline that they would like to take their remote courses while living off campus can email living@umass.edu to request a cancellation of their preference application. They can do this for free through July 30 at 5 p.m. Students who cancel after July 30 at 5 p.m. and before they check into their assignment will be subject to the $200 New Student Cancellation Fee. Students who check into their assignment will be subject to the $500 cancellation fee and the Rent Refund Schedule. Additional information about housing may be found at https://www.umass.edu/living/your-housing/frequently-asked-questions.

What will fall move-in be like?

The residence hall move-in process requires reservations and will occur over a multi-day period with few early arrivals. Two helpers will be allowed and all move-in participants must wear a face covering and gloves. When packing, students should take into account the shorter, 12-week fall residency period.

What will life be like in the residence halls?

Residential Life anticipates creating online micro-communities. Plans include the following:

  • Students will experience limited face-to-face contact.
  • Pedestrian flow will change with students required to follow specific routes for walkways and lounges. Elevator occupancy will be restricted.
  • Staff will only meet with small groups.
  • Bathrooms will receive frequent deep cleaning and will have posted occupancy limits.

Will students have access to common areas or cooking facilities in residence halls?

 Yes, but we will not be able to constantly clean those areas, so students need their own cleaning supplies for kitchens.  Common spaces will be cleaned and sanitized daily, but not continuously as they are used by residents.

In the past, the commuter exemption for first-years was 40 miles. This year, are you being more flexible? (For example, a first-year who lives 80 miles away, and has once-a-week face-to-face class.) Can they commute?

Yes. We are in the process of updating the website to indicate that we are not requiring first year students to live on campus.  They can commute from any distance.

At the end of the fall semester, will I need to completely move out of my residence and turn in my key?

(Updated July 7, 2020) Yes. The University needs to be able to clean and sanitize all Residence Hall space at the conclusion of the Fall 2020 semester. This includes the event of an unplanned, early closure due to COVID factors.

 

Are single rooms the same price as doubles?

Because our final plans for fall 2020 allow for full occupancy, we have not adjusted housing costs.Single rooms will be billed at the single room rate, which is slightly higher than the standard shared room rate. Room rates are set by the Board of Trustees, and though prices have not yet been set for fall 2020, room rates for 2019-2020 should give you a sense of the typical cost for each room type.

Will students in a RAP be guaranteed housing in the spring?

Students in a RAP who opt out of fall housing will be treated like all other students who have made the same decision and can apply for spring housing. However, the university cannot guarantee they will receive the same housing assignment. Housing selection in the spring will be determined by what the federal and state guidelines are for de-densifying campus housing.

If a student was offered a spot in the honors dorm, will staying home and remote learning affect their spot for the spring semester

Yes, but the university cannot guarantee any specific return to a fall assignment since all students were invited back to campus and we must integrate social distancing into residence halls. Commonwealth Honors College students will have priority for Commonwealth Honors College Residential Community spaces for spring, but the university cannot guarantee they will have the same assignment.

Will any assistance be provided to students who already signed a lease for an off-campus apartment and would now like to cancel that lease?

Students can consult the Student Legal Services Office for information and assistance in understanding their legal options related to leases and landlord-tenant relationships.

Will I be able to connect with Residence Hall staff?

Yes, resident director (RDs), resident assistants (RAs) and peer mentors (PMs) will be available online and will be part of the transition for first-year students.

Will residence hall security and other services be in place?

Yes, Residence Hall security desks will be staffed. However, Residence Hall Services and Service Desk operations will be adjusted. It is recommended students only order essential packages for delivery, such as books and medicine.

How will meals be served?

UMass Dining operations will be modified to meet new state requirements for cleaning, social distancing, customer limits and modified indoor seating. More than 30 campus locations will be revamped. The plan includes new grab-and-go sites, outdoor dining tents and mobile ordering at some retail locations. To protect public health, buffet-style service will be prohibited.

What type of foods will be available without buffet-style dining? Will the meals be nutritional?

UMass Dining will offer a wide variety of menu items across campus, both in the Residential Dining Commons and the Retail locations. Students will enjoy local, healthy and sustainable menu items served in a safe and socially distant manner, 7a.m. to midnight, seven days a week. Menu items all be staff served. Self-service menu items will not be offered at this time. Buffet style and customized dishes will be available. All menu items are labeled with allergens and nutritionals. Students can also visit umassdining.com or the UMass Dining mobile app for nutritional information.   

Will there be an in-person orientation or Welcome Week?

New Student Transitions is exploring options for in-person gatherings and activities for small groups. Incoming students will continue to meet in person and virtually with the orientation groups formed over the summer. These transition groups will work to help new students adjust to university life, and will be staffed by resident assistants, peer mentors and others.

Are student guests and visitors allowed in residence halls?

To deter the spread of COVID-19, no guests are allowed in residence halls until further notice. A guest is defined as someone who does not live in the residence hall. Two family members or helpers can help with move-in and move-out.

Will clubs be able to meet in the fall?

(Updated July 7, 2020) RSOs and student groups will be able to meet in accordance with established social distancing, occupancy, and group-size guidelines. We expect that many, if not most, RSO and group meetings will take place virtually.

Will students be allowed to travel?

Students are encouraged to follow social distancing guidelines and limit their travel to the local area. Students who travel outside of a certain mileage range will be required to report their travel and possibly quarantine upon return.

Will there be hourly jobs for students on campus?

At this time it is difficult to know how many student hourly jobs will be available. We will seek to provide as many employment opportunities as circumstances permit, but it is likely fewer jobs will be available than in recent years.

Will graduate assistantships be offered during the fall semester?

Many graduate assistantships have already been offered and accepted for the fall semester. Students in search of graduate assistantships can check the employment opportunities page on the Graduate School website.

Will RAs/PMs be returning to campus?

Yes. Residential Life will be in contact with RAs and PMs to discuss plans to return to campus.

How will Greek Life function?

Greek Life recruitment will be conducted. Most, if not all, chapter programming will be held remotely.

Will the Craft Center and Makerspace be open?

The Craft Center will be open in a manner that adheres to safety measures. Information about the All-Campus Makerspaces can be found on the ACMS website.

Will UMass Athletics teams compete in the fall?

This is yet to be determined. UMass Athletics is working with the NCAA, conference offices and Massachusetts officials to assess what intercollegiate athletic sports will be played and whether fans may attend games.

What recreation will be available?

The Recreation Center will be open for activities that comply with health guidelines. Safety measures may include population restrictions, elimination of activities that require person-to-person contact or touching shared equipment, restriction of pool use, and restriction of locker room use. Outdoor group fitness will allow a greater numbers of participants while maintaining physical distancing. Fitness classes will be streamed through IM Leagues, and special online tournaments and challenges will be offered.

Can sports clubs travel in the fall?

Workouts and team activities that adhere to safety guidelines will be encouraged. It is unlikely given state regulations and social distancing guidelines that sports clubs will be traveling in the fall.

Can I meet with a counselor?

The Center for Counseling and Psychological Health (CCPH) is in the process of developing special services for students. To ensure safety and accessibility, CCPH will continue to offer teletherapy throughout the fall 2020 semester. Additionally, students will have daily opportunities to speak with a counselor for both urgent and routine concerns. Visit the CCPH website for the latest updates.

Is living on the Mount Ida Campus an option for some students?

Yes, students who either do not have access to the main campus or who are seeking a residential option beyond the main campus may apply for housing on the Mount Ida Campus in Newton, Massachusetts. All health and safety protocols on the main campus will be in effect in Newton, but the total residential population will be limited by available housing to less than 500 students. All courses beyond essential face-to-face courses for on-site programs (e.g., Veterinary Technology) will be offered remotely. Get more information about housing on the Mount Ida Campus.

Will I be charged for room and board if I choose not to return to campus?

Students who opt not to return to campus for fall 2020 will not be charged for room and board, which accounts for nearly half of the total cost for a full-time, in-state residential student.

When will the child care center be available?

The Center for Early Education and Child Care (CEED) hopes to reopen in mid-July, though no official date has been set. When the date is finalized,  CEED will contact families and update the community. CEED will follow all state, local and university regulations for child care centers, including extensive cleaning and enhanced health and safety protocols.

How do I accelerate approval of accommodations from Disability Services?

Disability Services will work with students to put accommodations in place in advance of and during the first few weeks of the semester. Students can expedite this process by registering with Disability Services between July 1 and Aug. 1 via the online registration.

If a student living on campus gets infected, will the student’s parents be asked to pick them up and bring them home?

If a student’s parent is able to come to campus to pick them up, that is our recommendation so the student can isolate in the comfort of their home. If a parent cannot pick up their student, the university has set aside dedicated isolation and quarantine space.

Will the campus bus service be operating?

Yes, bus routes will be in service. Currently, PVTA is running a modified schedule. Detailed plans for the fall are under development. Visit UMass Transit for details. All passengers must wear a face covering while on board PVTA vehicles..

Research and Libraries FAQs

What is the process for reopening research and libraries?

UMass Amherst is reopening research labs, onsite library services and access, and other facilities for research and creative activities based on the state plan and requirements for Reopening Massachusetts. This reopening is taking place in stages, as the university certifies that the Sector Specific Safety Standards for Laboratories and Office Spaces are met. Reopening requires Research and Library Operating Plans proposed by faculty and approved by departments and deans, in coordination with the office of Research and Engagement.

Will I have access to the UMass Libraries?

Yes, the Libraries are developing a phased plan for restoring in-person services and onsite access to collections. Prior to reopening library facilities, on-site staff will provide access to materials through its Library Express service, and scanning some materials.

How do we transition into research and libraries operating plans?

Activities currently approved under a Research Lab Continuity Plan (RLCP) may proceed according to those plans; please check to see that they continue to meet current EH&S guidance. Continuity plans were put in place to enable the minimum level of activity necessary to avoid a catastrophic loss of research results, materials or infrastructure.

In contrast, the Research & Libraries Operating Plans (RLOP) will enable a higher level of activity and participation. The operating plans will replace continuity plans and researchers are asked not to submit new or amended RLCPs unless there are significant extenuating circumstances so that resources can be devoted to the operating plans.

What are some strategic priorities as labs begin to reopen?

An important principle is to reopen with an emphasis on protecting the careers of researchers, especially at critical stages, including those approaching completion of degrees or terms of appointments. Key aspects to evaluate include: How will plans protect early career researchers, graduate students’ programs of study and postdocs' training and mentorship? How will our campus values of diversity, equity, and inclusion be reflected? Undergraduate researchers should not be included unless they have substantial prior training and experience.

How will the pandemic affect the daily operation of research facilities?

Requirements for social distancing, by both physical and temporal means, are critically important. In many cases, this will mean a lower occupancy in spaces and staggered shifts of personnel consistent with the safety standards. In addition to social distancing within individual laboratories, it is important to avoid overcrowding in public spaces such as restrooms, eating areas, elevators, etc. Therefore, information on the number and timing of personnel for each floor and in each building from the individual RLOPs must be aggregated and individual plans may require revision to avoid overcrowding.

Will the university provide safety supplies?

Yes, personal protective equipment (PPE), such as gloves and N95 masks, is currently available in limited supplies through Environmental Health & Safety, and plans are being developed for central procurement of additional items as needed.

Does remote work in research remain important as we begin to reopen?

Yes, consistent with Reopening Massachusetts, activities should continue remotely as much as possible. Note that the state has issued a “Safer at Home Advisory” including guidance that “People over the age of 65 and people who have underlying health conditions – who are at high risk for COVID-19 – should continue to stay home except for essential errands such as going to the grocery store and to attend to healthcare needs.”

Can undergraduate researchers gain access to labs?

Undergraduate students returning in fall 2020 who have registered for an independent study course involving on-site laboratory or field research will be moved to a waiting list. These students will be accommodated as the space available in research laboratories and the availability of faculty and staff for appropriate supervision permits. Priority will be given to graduating seniors who require independent study course for graduation, e.g., to complete an honors thesis.

Will study abroad be available this fall?

Study abroad may be an option for the fall. There are a number of variables including government travel warnings and severely reduced flight options. Students who want to keep the study abroad option open for the fall should maintain close contact with their education abroad advisor at the International Programs Office and follow instructions in a timely fashion.

Can I still go abroad for Fall 2020? I have not started a UMass Abroad application.

There are options for studying abroad in the Fall, but these programs may be suspended at any time due to COVID-19 concerns. Your EA advisor will talk to you about potential issues if your program is cancelled after UMass courses have begun.

The Fall 2020 abroad options are found here.

You must have a passport and it must be valid for at least six months after your program’s end date. If you do not have a passport or if it will expire before this timeframe, you will not be able to go abroad in the Fall.

You will need to make an appointment to open an application. After you have reviewed your program options, please follow the instructions here to make an appointment with an EA Advisor. Do not schedule an appointment until you have identified one or two programs that may fulfill your academic requirements. Your EA Advisor will review deadlines with you at your meeting.

You are required to enroll in UMass courses for the Fall and ensure you have housing in the event that your program is suspended.

Can I go abroad on a program that isn’t on the Fall 2020 UMass Abroad list above?

No. We will not approve any other programs for the Fall 2020 semester.

Can I take abroad courses online for Fall 2020?

Yes! You’ll find options for online courses here. API and CAPA have an optional in-country component (enrollment and travel permitting).

The deadline for online abroad is Aug. 1, 2020. Program deadlines may be earlier.

Will Spring 2021 Study Abroad programs be suspended?

It is too early to tell. We will let students know as far ahead of time as possible so they can adjust their Spring 2021 plans as needed. All students will be required to enroll in UMass courses for the Spring and are responsible for ensuring they have housing in the event their program is suspended.

Are there Study Abroad info sessions during the summer?

Yes! You can find the events page here. Check back often for updates and new topics.

How do I make an appointment to talk about education abroad?

If you’d like to Zoom with an Education Abroad Advisor, follow the instructions found here.

Still have questions? Please send an email to abroad@ipo.umass.edu.

Employee FAQs

Will the campus grant leave to an employee who is diagnosed with COVID-19?

Yes. To minimize the spread of the virus, employees who are ill with COVID-19 are advised to remain at home until cleared by their local public health department. Employees should contact their supervisor and then the COVID-19 HR Response Team at 413-687-2283 or covid19hr@umass.edu. A member of the HR Response Team will be in contact to explore leave options.

How does the university provide support when a member of the UMass community has a confirmed diagnosis of COVID-19?

The University works closely with local and state public health departments to identify UMass Amherst community members who test positive for COVID-19.  Officials proceed to:

  1. Obtain details about the person’s symptoms, locations on campus and close contacts
  2. Conduct a risk assessment to determine an action plan. This may include providing a recommendation about self-isolation and providing related assistance, as well as notifying individuals or groups who were in close contact.
  3. Evaluate specific locations where the person spent time on campus to initiate cleaning and disinfection in accordance with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

How does UMass follow up with people who were in close contact with a person who tested positive for COVID-19?

We initiate efforts to reduce the risk of transmission, which includes identifying UMass Amherst community members who were in close contact with the person who tested positive and mapping their movement on campus. Close contact is defined as being within approximately 6 feet of a person with confirmed COVID-19 for a prolonged period of time, or having direct contact with infectious secretions of a COVID-19 case (e.g., being coughed on) without wearing personal protective equipment. Individuals in close contact within 48 hours of the onset of symptoms will be contacted by health officials and given instructions. Close contacts may include roommates, coworkers, instructional faculty, classmates and building occupants.

If you are not notified as being in close contact, you do not need to take any action beyond those recommended for all members of our community to protect themselves against COVID-19. These measures include practicing good hygiene and social distancing, monitoring your health, and staying home if you’re sick.

If you are a UMass Amherst community member and believe you may have been exposed to COVID-19, or if you are experiencing fever, cough or shortness of breath, please stay in your residence and call the UHS Triage Nurse at 413-577-5229 for guidance.

What should campus personnel do if they hear reports of possible exposure to coronavirus?

All campus personnel – including supervisors, deans and department heads – who are concerned about potential exposure because they believe an employee has tested positive, is presumptive positive, or has been in contact with someone they think has been infected by the coronavirus (COVID-19), should contact the COVID-19 HR Response Team at 413-687-2283 or COVID19HR@umass.edu.

The team will advise on immediate steps to take and will then alert the appropriate campus office or state agency, which may include campus Environmental Health and Safety, University Health Services or the Massachusetts Department of Public Health for follow-up. The response will include, as appropriate, attention to an individual’s health concerns, notification of potentially affected groups, and steps to manage and clean university facilities. 

Any students, faculty or staff who are concerned about potential exposure to COVID-19 should contact the University Health Services Triage Advice Nurse at 413-577-5229 for further guidance. If students who have gone home test positive in the future, they should also contact the Triage Advice Nurse.

 

What are the general obligations of an employee working remotely?

During established work hours, the employee is required to be available and ready for any work-related communication or task. The employee may be required to attend departmental or other meetings at the primary work location or on campus or via video conferences, if approved by the supervisor.

Work completed at the employee’s alternative work site shall be considered official university business. The employee must protect the information from unauthorized access, disclosure or damage and must comply with federal, state and University policies, procedures regarding access, disclosure and/or destruction of official University records.

Employees must ensure that university information, including personally identifiable information (PII) and student records is secure at all times.

Are there alternative work assignments available for non-exempt employees who are not required to be physically on campus?

Yes. Supervisors will communicate the parameters for remote work, including the tracking of hours, overtime approval and providing work direction.

What signs and symptoms may indicate that an employee has become ill with COVID-19?

The CDC reports that COVID-19 symptoms include fever, cough and shortness of breath. At present, the CDC also includes epidemiologic risk factors such as a history of travel from affected geographic areas within 14 days of symptom onset, as well as close contact with a laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 patient within 14 days of symptom onset, as criteria for health care professionals to identify individuals as patients under investigation (PUI). Refer to the most current CDC guidance as criteria will likely change as further information becomes available.

What steps should be taken if an employee on campus is ill with fever, cough or other symptoms that may evidence COVID-19?

If you are sick with a fever and cough, please stay home and seek medical assistance if necessary. Employees working on campus who are sick with a contagious acute respiratory illness should remain at home for at least 24 hours after they are free of fever (more than 100° F / 37.8° C) and signs of fever — without the use of fever-reducing medications — to minimize the spread of illness. Employees should seek immediate medical care if symptoms become more severe (e.g., high fever, difficulty breathing, etc.).

May the campus send an employee home if they have symptoms of COVID-19?

Yes. A manager can consider sending an employee home if they are showing symptoms of being ill. The symptoms of COVID-19 are fever, cough or shortness of breath. The decision to send an employee home who is exhibiting these symptoms or others is to be made on a case-by-case basis. If possible, consult with the campus Human Resources Office and University Health Services staff before sending an employee home. An employee sent home shall remain in pay status for the remainder of the day and use accrued leave or unpaid leave thereafter.

May the campus prohibit an employee from coming to work if the employee is known to have had close contact with someone who has been confirmed to have COVID-19, or who has contracted COVID-19?

Yes. The campus is obligated to provide a safe workplace and may take necessary and reasonable steps to minimize health risks for its employees, such as requiring that employees not come to work if they have COVID-19. If an employee has had very close contact with a person who has COVID-19 (such as living in the same household), the employee should be told to watch carefully for symptoms including fever, cough or shortness of breath. Employees should stay home if COVID-19 symptoms develop and should go home immediately if COVID-19 symptoms occur at work.

Will the campus require an employee who contracted COVID-19, or who was possibly exposed to COVID-19 and directed to remain quarantined, to provide certification before returning to work?

Yes. We will require a certification from a local public health department clearing an employee to return to work if they have contracted or been exposed to COVID-19 and been placed in quarantine.

Are additional considerations made for employees on campus who are at risk for serious illness from COVID-19?

Employees 60 and older, pregnant employees and people who have serious chronic health conditions such as heart disease, diabetes or lung disease may be more susceptible to serious illness may request alternative work assignments. Please contact central Human Resources at (413) 687-2283 or Covid19HR@umass.edu to discuss further.

What precautions can employees can take to remain healthy when sharing a workspace?

The CDC has recommended many steps employee can take to minimize contact and guard against illness.

General FAQs

Will there be a tuition freeze for Massachusetts residents?

The cost of a UMass Amherst education includes tuition and required fees, with additional room and board charges for students who live on campus. Tuition will be set by the Board of Trustees this summer, but system President Marty Meehan has announced that he will recommend to the board a tuition freeze for in-state undergraduate students at academic year 2019-20 rates for the upcoming 2020-2021 academic year.

Will tuition be adjusted because some instruction is delivered remotely?


Tuition will not be altered based on the mode of instruction. Courses that will be offered remotely will be of the same caliber and quality, taught by the same outstanding faculty as those taught face-to-face. The cost to provide instruction (faculty salaries, advising, etc.) does not change based on the mode of instruction. In some cases, the cost of providing remote instruction is actually higher than in-person instruction, as a result of the technological resources required. Students will be provided the same resources and support services, such as the Learning Resource Center and academic advising, regardless of modality.

Will financial aid be increased due to the difficult situation now faced by many families?

(Updated July 7, 2020) For students whose financial situation has changed, we do have an appeals process. Forms for making your appeal are available on the Financial Aid Services website at https://www.umass.edu/umfa/forms

When will financial aid awards for 2020-21 be posted?

Posting is expected to begin in early July on student SPIRE accounts. Students should monitor their SPIRE To Do List to make sure that all required To Do’s are completed. Once we begin awarding in early July, we’ll continue to award weekly as new FAFSAs come in and as students complete their To Do Lists.

Will I be charged for room and board if I choose not to return to campus?

Students who opt not to return to campus for fall 2020 will not be charged for room and board, which accounts for nearly half of the total cost for a full-time, in-state residential student.

How can a student defer a semester?

(Updated July 7, 2020) New students with extenuating circumstances (a health crisis, financial hardship) can apply for a deferral for one semester. In most cases, new students who choose to postpone entering UMass will need to reapply for entry in a future semester. 

Continuing students can take a leave of absence by completing the End of Term Withdrawal section in Spire. Advising conversations about spring course selection for continuing students will begin in late October. Academic advisors and Financial Aid staff can assist students as they decide about changing plans for degree completion.

Is living on the Mount Ida Campus an option for some students?

Yes, students who either do not have access to the main campus or who are seeking a residential option beyond the main campus may apply for housing on the Mount Ida Campus in Newton, Massachusetts. All health and safety protocols on the main campus will be in effect in Newton, but the total residential population will be limited by available housing to less than 500 students. All courses beyond essential face-to-face courses for on-site programs (e.g., Veterinary Technology) will be offered remotely. Get more information about housing on the Mount Ida Campus.

Is UMass Amherst conducting research related to COVID-19?

Yes, as a top national research institution, the university has projects under way that can help the world respond to the spread of the coronavirus. For example, urgent research Is investigating whether health care providers can safely reuse protective face masks, which could slow the COVID-19 pandemic and ease a critical equipment shortage endangering medical workers and patients worldwide. For this and other research stories, visit www.umass.edu/newsoffice.