To the UMass Campus Community,
As the spring semester comes to a close, I am writing to provide an update on our planning process for fall.
With the health and safety of our community remaining our first priority, we want to plot a thoughtful and strategic path to overcoming our present challenges that will result in the return to a full, in-person university experience as quickly as possible. At this time, however, the seriousness and unpredictability of the pandemic present an uncomfortable degree of uncertainty and anxiety for us all. The best medical and public health evidence tell us the novel coronavirus will remain active to some degree this fall, and the potential for COVID-19 community spread will persist until a vaccine is widely available.
Given this uncertainty, we are committed to developing a sustainable model for how to conduct teaching, research and scholarship under these new and evolving circumstances. There is no doubt that a portion of our teaching and learning will continue to be delivered remotely in the fall. At the same time, we are building the infrastructure to gradually repopulate campus and resume in-person operations as the public health situation permits. We will pay particular attention to protecting members of our community who are at heightened risk to the COVID-19 disease.
I have charged six administrative working groups, under the direction of Provost John McCarthy, with presenting a set of recommendations to me no later than June 1. I will then set up a brief period for comments and suggestions from the UMass community at large. Guided by the recommendations and suggestions and by Governor Baker’s statewide reopening plans, I will finalize and share the “Fall 2020 Plan of Operation” with the campus community no later than June 30.
The working groups are focused on six critical areas of campus operations:
1. Teaching and Learning (Undergraduate and Graduate)
Co-chairs: Barbara Krauthamer, dean of the graduate school and senior vice provost for interdisciplinary programs and innovation; newly named dean of the College of Humanities and Fine Arts
Carol Barr, senior vice provost for academic affairs, dean of undergraduate education
This group is planning academic course delivery: in-person, virtually, and a combination of the two. Areas of focus include identifying those courses where in-person instruction is essential, developing training to assist faculty with multi-modal delivery, and addressing technology challenges identified during the spring semester. One consideration will be serving international students who are unable to obtain student visas for the fall term.
2. Research and Libraries
Chair: Mike Malone, vice chancellor for research and engagement
This group is charged with developing the plan to reopen on-campus activities in research and library spaces, as well as university owned, leased or controlled spaces such as field stations, farms, the UMass Center in Springfield and the Mount Ida Campus. Their focus encompasses all physical spaces, including laboratories, studios and performance spaces.
Chair: Andy Mangels, vice chancellor for administration and finance
This group is focused on analyzing and resolving the significant budgetary implications of the pandemic and its economic fallout.
4. Student Engagement and Residential Life
Co-chairs: Shelly Perdomo, assistant vice chancellor, advocacy inclusion and support programs
David Vaillancourt, associate vice chancellor for student affairs and campus life
Brandi Hephner LaBanc, Ex Officio, vice chancellor for student affairs and campus life
This group is building the engagement and residential plan that will be scaled depending on the level of re-population permitted in the fall. The plan will effectively engage our student community beyond the classroom, and safely re-populate our residence halls. This effort includes planning the role Athletics will play in student engagement for the fall. The group is mindful of the differing needs of all our students, and is considering student safety, wellbeing, culture, behavior and holistic development.
5. Healthy Fall 2020
Co-chairs: Steve Goodwin, deputy chancellor and chief planning officer
Jeff Hescock, executive director of environmental health & safety and emergency management
This group is using the best science and public health information available to determine the optimal path to re-populating the campus. It will identify special preparations and changes in traditional social practices, instruction, recreation and athletics that will be required for the protection of our campus community.
Chair: Bill Brady, vice chancellor and chief human resources officer
This group is working to ensure that we have the staff resources to successfully meet learning, research and operational needs for fall 2020 while also addressing the fiscal constraints.
As these groups develop their respective recommendations, the Campus Planning and Resource Committee (CPARC) is providing ongoing critical review.
Regular updates on the planning process are available on the UMass Amherst Response to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) website.
To date, we have made some difficult and painful decisions to address the fiscal implications of the COVID-19 pandemic. This week’s announcement of staff furloughs, along with previous measures such as the implementation of a hiring freeze, a deep reduction in discretionary spending, and voluntary pay cuts for senior administrators, represent the type of shared sacrifice that will get us through this crisis. With this collaborative spirit and our investments in basic infrastructure, key efficiencies, innovation and fiscal responsibility, we are in a good position to weather this storm. It will not be easy, but working together with wisdom, fierce determination, flexibility and resolve, we will gradually return to a full, in-person university experience that is more robust and resilient than ever before.
I offer my deepest appreciation for all that you are doing to advance our mission and for your ongoing commitment to the health and well-being of both our UMass community and the broader community.