Dear Campus Community,
Due to heightened concerns about the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) and the Governor’s declaration yesterday of a state of emergency in Massachusetts, upon the conclusion of spring break, UMass Amherst, along with the other four campuses in the UMass system, will suspend in-person instruction and will transition to remote course delivery. UMass System President Martin Meehan’s memo to the Board of Trustees informing them of this decision can be found here.
Starting Monday, March 23 and continuing through Friday, April 3, Amherst campus classes will be taught remotely using web, video and teleconferencing tools that are available to faculty and are already being used in many classes. The Provost’s office is working with the Deans to identify laboratory, studio and capstone courses where face-to-face instruction is essential. Students in these courses will be notified whether they can return to campus after Spring Break. All other students should remain away from campus until further notice and should pack accordingly. Exceptions will be made for students in special circumstances. More information will be shared with students by Student Affairs and Campus Life.
Academic support will be provided to those students for whom this transition presents hardship. We will reassess the situation as it progresses and notify students, staff and faculty by April 1 whether we need to prolong the distance learning modality beyond April 6. We will develop plans for how students may retrieve belongings that they may leave behind in residence halls if the transition to remote learning is extended beyond April 3.
Graduate assistants should consult their supervisors about continuing their duties during the March 23-April 3 period.
As outlined in the President’s memo to the Board of Trustees, the campus will also take the following steps:
- Restrict campus-related foreign and domestic travel of students and employees and discourage personal international travel.
- Hold conferences and other discretionary gatherings virtually or cancel them.
- Continue internal business, including but not limited to mandated public hearings and board meetings.
- Discourage external work-related conferences, seminars and events. Alternatively, employees are encouraged to participate remotely.
- Discourage sick employees from coming to work.
- Encourage employees in high-risk groups (older workers, those with pre-existing conditions, etc.) to talk with supervisors about alternative work assignments.
While at this time there are no confirmed cases of COVID-19 on our campus or in the surrounding community, we are taking these steps as a precautionary measure to protect the health and well-being of our students, faculty and staff. Upon extensive consultation with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, we have determined that by reducing population density on campus we will enable the social distancing that will mitigate the spread of the virus. There is presently no evidence that our campus is unsafe, but our transition to remote learning is intended to create a safer environment for all – for the students who return home and the faculty and staff who remain.
I fully understand that the transition to remote learning is a massive disruption for our students and faculty and may be uniquely challenging for many members of our community. I want to assure you that the campus is committed to doing everything possible to help our students, particularly those with the greatest need, meet these challenges and to support our faculty and staff in this difficult period. The welfare of every member of our community is our top priority.
More information will be forthcoming from various campus units about those efforts, and we will continue to keep the campus updated as this situation unfolds. Please visit our coronavirus website for the latest information.
Chancellor Kumble R. Subbaswamy