Residence Life, Off-Campus, Dining and Student Engagement

Residence Life, Off-Campus, Dining and Student Engagement

Student Cohorts

The RODS group recommends that the following student cohorts be prioritized for return to campus in Spring 2021:

  1. Students whose circumstances require living on campus:
  2. Students who need to live on campus due to personal circumstances – for housing, dining, technology, and academic support
  3. Students with ADA accommodations that cannot be supported remotely
  4. Students employed in jobs requiring on-campus presence
  5. Students in designated face-to-face courses
  6. First-year undergraduate students
  7. Entering transfer students
  8. Student athletes

The Mount Ida Campus should be used to accommodate additional cohorts if capacity limitations are reached on the Amherst campus.


Residential Life and Dining Services have determined that both services could safely accommodate approximately 60% of the campus’s residential capacity during Spring 2021. Factors include:

  • Residential Life study to determine the optimal ratio of plumbing fixtures to students (1:4) yielded an occupancy load of 8,766; assumes some double occupancy rooms as needed
  • 7% of occupancy can be accommodated on campus in quarantine/isolation
  • Capacity to support social distancing among students in Blue Wall plus two to three dining commons
  • Safety procedures for staff

The following challenges will need to be more fully addressed depending on the final decision:

  • Staffing needs
  • Staff safety
  • Programming/First-Year Experience limitations
  • Balance of resource needs for students on and off campus

Additional Recommendations

  • Students should be invited back to live on campus only, not to off-campus residences
  • Students should be required to agree to specific, university-wide COVID-19 policies (addendum to housing contract and/or pandemic-specific policies)
    • Include public health behaviors, testing requirements, and local address upon registration for students living in a local community
  • Flexibility and choice for students is paramount
    • First-year students should be invited but not required to return to campus

Key Metrics and Phased Operational Impact

The campus should adopt a metric (activity meter) to clearly identify the phase of opening and/or level of appropriate engagement in which the community may participate. The use of the metric will encourage and reward positive public health practices such as wearing masks, reducing contacts, and frequent testing. This tool will expand our compliance and accountability efforts.

Student Life for Both On- and Off-Campus Students

Social contact management:

  1. The formation of small social groupings or pods should be strongly encouraged – these can be self-selected, centered around academic major/program, existing MyCRU/Project Connect groups, etc.
  2. Residential pods will have an opportunity to live near one another; off-campus students living together will be encouraged to form social pods as well
  3. Implement process for obtaining students’ accurate contact information – phone numbers, local addresses – and updating regularly; this should be part of the spring class registration process

Student life programs (availability should be phased based on key public health metrics and related engagement meter):

  1. Orientation and 40 Days of UMass programs for new students
  2. Identify adequate number of large indoor and outdoor programming spaces, with some designated priority for programming; library/study space is critical to student success
  3. Collaborate and offer consolidated in-person programming (e.g., weekly calendar of key events/activities, Winter Carnival, etc.); programs should have a virtual alternative for remote students
  4. In-person programs will scale reach/access by repeating events/activities multiple times

Wellbeing and campus recreation:

  1. University should clarify why Spring Break was removed from Spring calendar and address calls to provide more support for wellbeing
  2. Wellbeing Wednesday steering committee should be established to plan activities related to the two Wellbeing Wednesdays in the Spring semester
  3. Campus recreation options (virtual and in-person) should be available to students; availability should be phased based on key public health metrics and related engagement meter


  1. Based on residential assignment, students should be assigned a primary dining commons; access to dining commons should be phased based on key public health metrics and related engagement meter, and will be governed by occupancy numbers

Additional recommendations:

  1. Emergency Operations Center table top exercise should be conducted to learn what is needed to support on-campus and off-campus students’ needs in an emergency (e.g., weather-related power outages, meals)
  2. Continue to include how compliance is handled (versus punitive/conduct) in public health messaging campaign to external stakeholders and students
  3. Standardize communication protocols and response for students and student groups when potential COVID-19 exposure is identified

Employment/financial impact:

  1. Operating at approximately 60% occupancy would create significant budget challenges in Residence Life and Dining
  2. Nearly all residence halls will be open and house students; personnel will be needed to staff
  3. Adequate staffing will be needed on-site to support planned programs, services and conduct concerns, including nights and weekends
  4. Staff roles that were repurposed to support Fall Semester efforts, specifically off-campus outreach, will need to return to original departments; additional staffing may be needed to sustain off-campus engagement efforts