Updated June 29, 2020
Fall 2020 Reopening Plan Announced: Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy on June 29 released the university’s detailed approach to reopening campus this fall, noting that while almost all courses will be taught remotely, students will be given the option to live on campus under exacting public health restrictions. No students will be required to return to campus, and students will determine which option, taking courses while living at home or in campus residence halls, is best according to their personal health, educational path and home environment.
Fall 2020 Academic Calendar Announced: Classes will start earlier than usual, on Aug. 24, conclude Nov. 20, and students will not return to campus after Thanksgiving recess. Final exams will be conducted remotely. Classes will be held on three holidays: Labor Day, Columbus Day and Veterans Day. The revised schedule is designed to establish as safe an environment as possible.
Cloth Face Coverings Available for Employees: Keeping a distance of at least six feet from other people is our best protection against COVID-19. Wearing a face covering is another important layer of protection to slow the spread. UMass Amherst has acquired cloth washable face coverings for each designated on-site employee.
Preliminary Planning Report Shared: On June 8, UMass Amherst released a detailed Preliminary Planning Report as it moves to finalize plans to reopen campus in the fall. Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy will announce final plans by June 30.
- Chancellor Updates Campus Community on Fall Planning: In a May 19 letter, Chancellor Subbaswamy outlined the strategic steps underway to develop a sustainable model for conducting teaching, research and scholarship under the evolving circumstances of COVID-19. The process includes establishing six administrative working groups charged with delivering recommendations to the chancellor by June 1 with recommendations for six critical areas of campus operations: Teaching and Learning (both undergraduate and graduate); Research and Libraries; Finance; Students Engagement and Residential Life; Healthy Fall 2020; and Workforce.
- Preparedness for Reopening of Laboratories and Research: In a May 18 letter to faculty, Michael Malone, vice chancellor for research and engagement, listed actions the campus research community is advised to take in preparation for a reopening of laboratories in accordance with Governor Baker’s Reopening Massachusetts Plan.
- Voluntary Separation Incentive Program and Furloughs Announced: Three major bargaining units —PSA, USA/MTA and AFSCME — joined with the administration and reached agreements on a Voluntary Separation Incentive Program (VSIP) and a five-day unpaid furlough as a means to relieve unprecedented financial pressures resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. The furlough and VSIP also apply to benefitted non-unit personnel who do not hold an underlying faculty appointment. Separately, senior administrative staff will take voluntary pay cuts through FY 21.
- Students Receive $8.3 Million in Emergency Federal Financial Aid Grants: Emergency federal grants were distributed to more than 7,700 undergraduate students. Grants were calculated based on factors including financial need and an estimate of additional costs of food, housing, course materials, technology, health care and child care. A separate $1 million pool of aid is being established for graduate students. See the Office of the Bursar Higher Education Relief Fund Reporting.
Chancellor Outlines Impacts on UMass: On April 16, Chancellor Kumble R. Subbaswamy outlined the challenges facing the university as the COVID-19 pandemic continues. He has asked a small group of administrators to start planning for different scenarios for re-engaging academic, research and residential programs in the 2020-21 academic year. He also outlined the fiscal impact of suspending in-person learning and the subsequent reimbursement to students of room and board and parking fees, and how the university is managing the resulting approximate $40 million budget deficit.
COVID-19 Daily Self Checklist: In our ongoing effort to protect on-site employees, the university has established a new practice: All employees should review a COVID-19 Daily Self Checklist before reporting to campus. Daily monitoring of one’s health and well-being prior to coming to work can aid in early detection of infectious disease and is an effective measure to prevent community spread of COVID-19.
University Guidance on Face Coverings: Based on recent guidance from the Centers for Disease Control, the university recommends the use of cloth face coverings that you bring from home in the workplace to help slow the spread of COVID-19. However, in situations where social distancing is possible, face coverings may not be necessary.
- First Confirmed Case of COVID-19 on Campus: On April 5, 2020, the university announced that an employee on campus has tested positive for the novel coronavirus. This is the first confirmed case of COVID-19 on the UMass Amherst campus. The staff member is self-isolating off campus, in accordance with public health protocols. We are hopeful for a full recovery for this member of our community.
- University Transitions to Remote Learning: UMass Amherst has shifted to remote delivery of all instruction, having suspended in-person classes, including laboratory, studio, capstone and graduate courses, until the end of the semester. Only onsite personnel should report to campus, unless contacted by a supervisor. These measures apply in Amherst and on our Mount Ida Campus in Newton and at the UMass Center in Springfield.
- University Offers Room, Board and Parking Adjustments to Students: President Meehan and Chancellor Subbaswamy announced that the university will adjust student room and board fees based on the date that the residence halls closed (March 22) through the end of the Spring 2020 semester for students who moved off campus or are unable to access the dining program. In addition, parking fees will be adjusted in a similar manner.
- Emergency Fund Established for Students: Alumni, faculty and staff now have an opportunity to help provide emergency financial help to students impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Students in need of financial assistance as a result of the coronavirus pandemic may seek relief through the Student Care and Emergency Response Fund (SCERF). Donations to SCERF may be made at minutefund.umass.edu/studentcare. Students in need should contact the Dean of Students Office at email@example.com.
- Academic Grading and Deadline Change: All Letter Grading Only courses will be changed to Letter Grading with Pass/Fail option. Students can choose Pass/Fail for multiple courses, including many requirements. Students can make this choice via SPIRE from Monday, March 30 through Wednesday, April 29.
- Campus Suspends Further Move-Out Plans: In accordance with Governor Charlie Baker’s emergency order of March 31, implementing a stay-at-home advisory in Massachusetts until May 18, the campus has suspended further residence hall move-out plans at this time. When the stay-at-home advisory is lifted, the campus will reassess any new guidelines before reinstating the sequenced move-out process for all remaining residents.
- Commencement Postponed: Because of the ongoing prohibition of large gatherings and our own efforts to mitigate the spread of coronavirus/COVID-19, commencement, which was scheduled for Friday, May 8, and all commencement weekend activities, will be postponed. Chancellor Subbaswamy noted, “I cannot give you a definitive answer for how and when we will honor our graduates, but I can assure you that we will. As I work with our commencement team to develop alternative plans, I invite input from our students for whom this day means so much. Those wishing to share ideas can email them to firstname.lastname@example.org. As our plans take shape, we will keep the campus updated.”
- Policy if You 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.
- Office of Equity and Inclusion Offers a Message of Support to Combat Hate, Xenophobia: In these unprecedented times, rife with uncertainty and angst, the Office of Equity and Inclusion aims to support the University community in any way possible, including continuing its work in building an inclusive and supportive UMass community, no matter the distance.
- Restrictions Enacted for On-Campus Activities: All on-campus activity, including gatherings and events, is severely limited, and most students and employees are no longer on campus. On March 23, Governor Charlie Baker ordered that public gatherings in the state are limited to a maximum of 10 people.
- Travel Restrictions in Place: The campus is restricting campus-related international and domestic travel of students and employees and discouraging personal international travel.
- University Increases Cleaning Measures: The University has undertaken an increased-frequency custodial cleaning campaign of facilities around campus. This includes high-touch areas such as handrails, doorknobs and elevator panels.
- International Programs Office Urges All Study Abroad Students to Return to U.S.: The International Programs Office continues to monitor the spread of COVID-19 worldwide and is communicating with students studying abroad and providing assistance and guidance. Students in all programs, regardless of whether they have been officially canceled, have been strongly urged to return to the U.S. as soon as practical.
- University Health Services Screens for Recent Travel: Individuals visiting University Health Services are being screened during their appointment for recent international travel, and will be asked about their health and travel history.
- The campus continues to monitor guidance from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MADPH) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and is updating preparedness activities accordingly.