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Supporting Our International Students

Thu, 2020-07-09 13:01
Supporting Our International Students nsossen Thu, 07/09/2020 - 13:01

Dear Campus Community,

Earlier this week, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced a set of new draft regulations with potentially severe negative consequences for international students who already face many challenges as a result of the pandemic. In my opinion, these changes to the Student and Exchange Visitor Program, which are directed at non-immigrant students on F-1 and M-1 visas for academic and vocational study, are misguided, mean spirited, and contemptible. If enacted, the new ICE regulations would jeopardize the well-being and success of the nearly 3,400 international students studying on our campus, and the many thousands more across the country who bring invaluable perspectives and experiences and enrich the intellectual capital and social fabric of our nation.

I condemn this assault on our international students and want to assure you that the UMass administration will do everything within our power to thwart the negative consequences of these regulations. To our international students, I would like to say unequivocally that you are welcome here and we will do our utmost to support your academic aspirations as members of the UMass community. Some of the preliminary steps we have taken include:

  • The International Programs Office (IPO) has communicated with our international students, assuring them that they are a valued part of our university community and reiterating our commitment to their well-being and success.
     
  • On Tuesday, UMass President Marty Meehan issued a statement, condemning the regulations, noting no public good is served by these threats. 
     
  • As campuses across the country react to these regulations, we support the views expressed by the leadership of two organizations to which we belong, the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) and the American Council on Education (ACE). IPO is actively engaged with APLU, ACE, and other professional organizations, including NAFSA and AIEA, to advocate with elected officials in Washington, D.C. to reverse these regulations.
     
  • We are consulting retained counsel, stakeholders, and our peer institutions concerning what actions will best safeguard all our international students, whether they are currently abroad or in the U.S.
     
  • We are working with President Meehan to advocate with the Massachusetts Congressional delegation to call for a reversal of these regulations.
     
  • We are also working with our Office of General Counsel on understanding possible litigation. We note Harvard and MIT filed a suit Wednesday, which has been joined by other public and private institutions.
     
  • The Provost and Deans are developing plans to ensure that our international students are in compliance with the regulations under a hybrid model of instruction that includes in-person as well as online courses.

I know many of you want to express condemnation of these new regulations and take action to protect our international students. I encourage you to reach out to the Massachusetts Congressional delegation to share your concerns and let them know how important international students are to the mission of the university.

In the meantime, as we develop action items to respond to these regulations, we will continue to communicate proactively with our international students and the wider UMass community.

Sincerely,

Kumble R. Subbaswamy
Chancellor

Supporting Our International Students

Thu, 2020-07-09 12:25
Supporting Our International Students nmiller Thu, 07/09/2020 - 12:25

Dear Campus Community,

Earlier this week, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced a set of new draft regulations with potentially severe negative consequences for international students who already face many challenges as a result of the pandemic. In my opinion, these changes to the Student and Exchange Visitor Program, which are directed at non-immigrant students on F-1 and M-1 visas for academic and vocational study, are misguided, mean spirited, and contemptible. If enacted, the new ICE regulations would jeopardize the well-being and success of the nearly 3,400 international students studying on our campus, and the many thousands more across the country, who bring invaluable perspectives and experiences and enrich the intellectual capital and social fabric of our nation.

I condemn this assault on our international students and want to assure you that the UMass administration will do everything within our power to thwart the negative consequences of these regulations. To our international students, I would like to say unequivocally that you are welcome here and we will do our utmost to support your academic aspirations as members of the UMass community. Some of the preliminary steps we have taken include:

  • The International Programs Office (IPO) has communicated with our international students, assuring them that they are a valued part of our university community and reiterating our commitment to their well-being and success.
     
  • On Tuesday, UMass President Marty Meehan issued a statement, condemning the regulations, noting no public good is served by these threats. 
     
  • As campuses across the country react to these regulations, we support the views expressed by the leadership of two organizations to which we belong, the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) and the American Council on Education (ACE). IPO is actively engaged with APLU, ACE, and other professional organizations, including NAFSA and AIEA, to advocate with elected officials in Washington, D.C. to reverse these regulations.
     
  • We are consulting retained counsel, stakeholders, and our peer institutions concerning what actions will best safeguard all our international students, whether they are currently abroad or in the U.S.
     
  • We are working with President Meehan to advocate with the Massachusetts Congressional delegation to call for a reversal of these regulations.
     
  • We are also working with our Office of General Counsel on understanding possible litigation. We note Harvard and MIT filed a suit Wednesday, which has been joined by other public and private institutions.
     
  • The Provost and Deans are developing plans to ensure that our international students are in compliance with the regulations under a hybrid model of instruction that includes in-person as well as online courses.

I know many of you want to express condemnation of these new regulations and take action to protect our international students. I encourage you to reach out to the Massachusetts Federal delegation to share your concerns and let them know how important international students are to the mission of the university.

In the meantime, as we develop action items to respond to these regulations, we will continue to communicate proactively with our international students and the wider UMass community.

Sincerely,

Kumble R. Subbaswamy
Chancellor

A Message to the UMass International Community

Tue, 2020-07-07 08:34
A Message to the UMass International Community nsossen Tue, 07/07/2020 - 08:34

Dear UMass International Community,

I apologize for sending yet another urgent email message to you regarding federal actions. It seems as though nearly once a week I have a need to message you to, hopefully, provide guidance and updates to immigration policy that understandably causes confusion, apprehension and anxiety to so many of you.

Today (July 6) the Student & Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) which is the government branch of the Department of Homeland Security charged with oversight of international students and scholars in the United States with F-1 and J-1 visas, released its Fall 2020 operational guidance: (https://www.ice.gov/news/releases/sevp-modifies-temporary-exemptions-nonimmigrant-students-taking-online-courses-during). SEVP’s Spring Semester 2020 guidance in March was actually quite supportive towards our international student community and provided significant assurances that during the temporary remote(online) instruction F-1 and J-1 immigration status that began in March, international students could remain in status as long as they were enrolled full-time and making academic progress in their degree programs. The prevailing assumption among peer colleagues and institutions was that the updated Fall 2020 guidance would be similar. Unfortunately, as we learned today, that is not true.

Today’s SEVP guidance, unfortunately, is a continuation of consistently poorly written and unsatisfactorily considered federal public policy on immigration. This will undoubtedly lead to congressional push-back and perhaps litigation as well. Please know that the IPO is making every effort to review today’s information and to provide concrete and helpful guidance as you plan for your fall academic semester. I can also confirm that UMass, as an institution, is actively engaged in advocacy on your behalf at a national level.

In this message I wish to convey these very important points:

  1. Today’s SEVP announcement is very much subject to change and there is an expectation that additional guidance or amendments to today’s announcement are forthcoming in the days and weeks ahead. Higher education, congressional push-back and/or litigation is inevitable given how disruptive and poorly written today’s SEVP guidance is.
  2. UMass will do absolutely everything in its power to continue to make our Amherst and Mt. Ida campuses a safe place for you to continue your education, and our support of your well-being is resolute.
  3. Please try to avoid the overwhelming amount of online information and conversation about today’s SEVP announcement. Not all information you will find is necessary factual or relevant to the UMass campus. Many of you have friends and acquaintances studying elsewhere in the US with whom you are no doubt in close communication. Please continue to rely on our IPO website (https://www.umass.edu/ipo/iss) for the most up-to-date and pertinent information that directly relates to UMass.
  4. Please do not make any sudden or hasty decisions regarding your program of study based on today’s SEVP announcement. Please also do not change or otherwise disrupt your continued progress in your program of study until further notice or without consulting with your academic advisor or graduate program director. Do not make plans to depart the U.S. based on today’s SEVPS announcement. Despite today’s disappointing SEVP information, there is no immediate effect on your F-1 immigration status and we have plenty of time to properly advise you on your fall semester plans, including on-campus employment, assistantships, etc. as the fall semester approaches and more clarity, guidance and amendments from SEVP develop.

The final thing I wish to convey, most sincerely, to each of you is how much we value your presence and contributions to the UMass community. I have been very fortunate to have worked in the field of international education since 1989 and I can categorically say that I have never worked at an institution that has a higher regard and appreciation for our international community than here at UMass. I feel lucky on a daily basis to have unwavering support from our campus’s senior administration for the mission and operations of the IPO and I want you to know that we are here to support you, today, and always.

We will get through these complicated times by supporting each other and working together. My best wishes to you and your families. Please do not hesitate to reach out to the IPO.

Respectfully yours,

Kenneth J. Reade
Director of International Student & Scholar Services

Returning to Campus Fall 2020: The UMass Agreement

Thu, 2020-07-02 21:25
Returning to Campus Fall 2020: The UMass Agreement hnduggan Thu, 07/02/2020 - 21:25

This week, Chancellor Subbaswamy shared his reopening plan for the fall 2020 semester. The report and the included FAQs provide a sense of what life on campus will be like in the fall, and more information will be added as departments, programs, and schools and colleges finalize their individual plans. 

As part of the plan, each student who returns to campus—either to live in residence halls or access physical resources on campus—agrees to sign the UMass Agreement, a set of behaviors to support the health and safety of themselves, their peers, the faculty and staff, and the local community. We are asking each student to make this personal commitment to protect the health and safety or our community.

Please review the UMass Agreement, share it with your friends, parents, guardians, and families, and discuss it with the trusted others in your life. UMass has made the commitment to invite students back to campus in a way that creates as safe a community as possible. Now, it is up to you to decide to make that same commitment in support of our shared wellbeing.

As students evaluate how they wish to pursue their studies at UMass this fall, it is important to understand that life on campus will not be anything resembling normal college life. We certainly understand that not all students will want to live or spend time on campus under such conditions, and no students will be required to do so. We understand students are weighing various factors in making their decision. To support this process, the deadline for returning students to cancel their housing without penalty has been extended to July 12 at 11:59 p.m. 

It is expected that all those who choose to live on campus, attend face-to-face classes, and/or access the dining commons will sign the UMass Agreement. Though no immediate action is needed, please, review and understand the commitments outlined in the agreement so you are familiar with it when it is posted on Spire as a required “To Do.”

View the UMass Agreement on the Dean of Students website.

Fifteen-Minute Break Time Between Classes To Be Safely Reinstituted

Wed, 2020-07-01 11:04
Fifteen-Minute Break Time Between Classes To Be Safely Reinstituted nmiller Wed, 07/01/2020 - 11:04

Dear Colleagues,

The recently announced Fall Reopening Plan included a change to the class day/time matrix to increase time between classes to 30 minutes, with the goal of reducing interactive foot traffic on campus and providing time for increased cleaning of lab and classroom spaces. Many of you, as well as many students, have expressed concern about this change and its unintended impact on teaching and learning, including the impact on fully remote classes with synchronous activity. We want to encourage and not discourage synchronous activity because it increases student engagement. I am writing to let you know that we have heard you, and I asked my team to re-evaluate this decision with Environmental Health & Safety and the Deputy Chancellor.

Through their analysis, we have concluded that we will be able to revert back to the regular course day/time matrix with the 15-minute break between classes, with no adverse effect on health and safety. A team from Campus Planning, Facilities and Environmental Health & Safety will be working with deans, department heads and chairs, and faculty members teaching face-to-face this fall to establish a health and safety protocol including appropriate cleaning for each classroom/lab/studio in use for face-to-face instruction. This cleaning can be accomplished within the traditional course day/time matrix.

This change will be reflected in SPIRE on Thursday morning. At that time you will be able to see the time for your courses changed back to the original class day/time block that they were assigned for the fall. Students will also receive a communication today regarding this change in class times.

I thank you for the feedback we received, and your understanding and patience along the way, as we continue to work towards implementing our 2020 Fall Reopening Plan.


John McCarthy,
Provost & Senior Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs
Distinguished Professor

Change of Course Times and Academic Resources

Wed, 2020-07-01 10:59
Change of Course Times and Academic Resources nmiller Wed, 07/01/2020 - 10:59

Dear Student,

There is new information today (7/1) about classes and academic plans for the fall. With the long-awaited news about the Fall 2020 semester at UMass, we have updates you’ll want to consider. Students have questions about class times, taking a semester off, or studying remotely. Across the campus community we are moving full speed ahead to prepare for your fall courses and activities. Here are some common questions and places to get information:

TODAY’S IMPORTANT UPDATE: Will my class times remain the same?

We will revert to the 15 minute breaks in between classes; most classes will be scheduled at their original time. Earlier this week adjustments were seen in Spire as we considered how to best allow for classroom cleaning. With further safety evaluation, and having heard concerns about lengthy days for students and faculty, we have revised that plan. The proper times will show in Spire Thursday morning (7/2). We are confident that thorough cleaning of classrooms, and breaks between online course sessions, can be accomplished with that schedule. Read more on Health & Safety here.

Will I be watching classes via live Zoom, or recorded? Will I still use Moodle?

You can learn more about remote or face-to-face learning modalities here. Individual faculty are working now to adjust their syllabi and determine if a remote course will be taught synchronously (live streaming at designated class meeting times) or asynchronously (recorded video), or a combination of both.

What will remote classes really be like this fall?

The rapid switch to remote classes last spring was abrupt and far from ideal. Taking mostly (or all) remote courses this fall will create challenges for some students, but faculty will be better prepared to teach these courses, and are already planning for new teaching and discussions methods. The LRC and Student Success Toolkit Series can also help you be a more effective remote learner.

I have an essential face-to-face course but cannot live on campus, what should I do? (This applies to students living outside the US who may not be able to travel to Massachusetts, or students with an underlying health risk who choose not to return to campus this fall, for instance).

Consider speaking with your academic advisor about rearranging your fall schedule. Although some adjustments can be made for students who cannot attend their face-to-face courses, the nature of the course work is specifically designed for in-person interaction.

If I want to take the semester off what do I need to do? Are there negative consequences?

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. See the FAQ on deferrals.

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.

Additional information can be found in the Teaching and Learning FAQs, and many department contacts are available to help you with specifics questions. We look forward to assisting you as you move forward in your UMass education, even during these challenging times.

Sincerely,   

Patrick Sullivan, Ph. D.
University Registrar
regtrans@registrar.umass.edu

Carolyn S. Bassett
Associate Provost for Student Success
studentsuccess@umass.edu

Fall Reopening Information for Staff

Mon, 2020-06-29 16:03
Fall Reopening Information for Staff nmiller Mon, 06/29/2020 - 16:03

Dear UMass Amherst Staff,

This afternoon, Chancellor Subbaswamy shared the Fall 2020 Reopening Plan with the campus community. I encourage you to review his letter and the full plan, which is also available on the Reopening Website.

The plan outlines a fall semester that will be unlike any other. It will see many of our residential students return to campus, but with significant restrictions for public health and safety, including the vast majority of classes being offered remotely and strict social distancing guidelines.

Appropriately for this stage, the information and details needed by students are prioritized in the plan. However, it provides a framework for ongoing planning and implementation relevant to staff. The next few months will clearly present its share of challenges, but they are all challenges we will jointly tackle and overcome. UMass Amherst staff have consistently shown that you are highly-skilled, resilient, and care deeply about students, which gives the university great confidence in a successful semester.

At this time, we expect that many staff will continue to work remotely for the foreseeable future. The university is currently analyzing its staffing needs for both the summer and fall. It will be necessary for some staff positions to be on campus, to prepare dorm rooms for the fall semester, restart critical research endeavors, maintain core infrastructure and conduct other necessary work.

As the fall semester commences, there will be a need for additional staff to be on campus to support our students. On-site work may look different — with the university exploring all options to ensure safe work environments, including training on health and safety standards and work spaces amended to provide distancing and new foot traffic patterns. Some details are still being worked out. For example, there will be a process for individuals who are at high risk to explore other options rather than returning to campus, and to determine how we will manage testing and other elements of the health and safety protocols for on-site staff.

Throughout the pandemic, the university has been in daily communication with its union partners. In the coming weeks, we will be having many discussions about the campus’ reopening with the various labor unions representing our employees. These discussions will bring additional clarity to how the reopening will be operationalized for staff. As details are finalized, they will be added to the website.

Your ongoing efforts to support campus have been inspiring. I thank you for your hard work and dedication to ensuring the continuity of our operations and of our students’ education.

Sincerely,

Bill Brady
Vice Chancellor & Chief Human Resources Officer

A Message from the Provost about the Fall Reopening Plan

Mon, 2020-06-29 15:57
A Message from the Provost about the Fall Reopening Plan nmiller Mon, 06/29/2020 - 15:57

Dear Faculty:

Chancellor Subbaswamy recently announced the Fall Reopening Plan for the campus, and I am certain that you will have many questions as we work together to implement this plan. I am writing now with an update to facilitate your planning for the fall semester and to encourage you to keep the lines of communication open with your department head/chair, your dean, and my office, so that we may continue to support you. These are certainly unprecedented times and our role as faculty members teaching and mentoring our undergraduate and graduate students has changed immensely under the conditions in which we find ourselves in the midst of this pandemic. I continue to be inspired by your hard work and dedication and your flexibility and patience, as we work together to balance the mission of the University with the health and safety of the campus community.

Some of you may be concerned by the invitation to allow students to return to campus. The reasons that the Chancellor gives are compelling, but I can assure you that the health and safety of our faculty and staff was a priority in making the decision to restrict on-campus face-to-face instruction to those courses where hands-on work is necessary, prioritizing these courses when needed to bring advanced undergraduate and graduate students to degree completion. We will also be encouraging faculty to hold completely remote office hours, perform any faculty advising and mentoring of students remotely, and conduct all in-person activities such as oral exams, thesis and dissertation defenses remotely as well.

Below, I highlight information that may be of help to you as we take the next steps in preparing for the Fall 2020 semester.

Essential face-to-face and remote course designations

Courses that have been already requested and approved by my office as face-to-face and essential for delivery in the fall, will be offered face-to-face. These courses include labs, studios, performance and hands-on courses that are required for degree pathways, licensure or accreditation for upper level students and graduate students who are close to degree completion. All other courses will be offered fully remote (online). Faculty can find the instructional modality for their course(s) by looking at their Faculty Center in SPIRE. In the My Teaching Schedule>Fall 2020 Room field the essential face-to-face courses will have a building and room location identified while the fully remote courses will have “Fully Remote Class” in the Room field. Students will also be able to see the instructional modality of all of their courses in their Student Center in SPIRE.

It is important to note that only essential face-to-face courses that have been previously identified and approved will be able to meet in person on campus. And some of these courses will have the lecture component offered remotely while the lab, studio portion will be offered face-to-face. For the health and welfare of the broader campus community, faculty should not independently hold face-to-face classes if the course has not already been identified as an essential face-to-face course. If you have been assigned a face-to-face course and are in a group that is at high risk for severe COVID-19 illness as defined in CDC guidelines or have other reasons for seeking an accommodation, you should contact your department chair and Human Resources.

All honors thesis projects/independent studies should be held remotely unless it involves essential lab-work. Faculty should request approval for students to work in laboratory or field research work via the research laboratory and field work operating plan process. It is recommended, though, that projects be adjusted to remote work if possible. The Honors College will also be communicating directly with faculty and students regarding lab-based honors thesis work and alternative arrangements that may need to be made to accommodate health and safety protocol.

Academic Calendar and Class Day/Time Matrix

Fall 2020 instruction will begin August 24 and conclude November 20, with classes held on Labor Day, the second Monday in October, and Veterans Day. Final exam week will be held Monday, Nov. 30-Friday, Dec. 4th and will be conducted remotely. With this earlier start to the semester, some students may experience difficulty in moving into their off-campus housing in time to begin face-to-face instruction on campus. Faculty teaching face-to-face courses will be asked to assist these students with make-up accommodations or other alternatives so the students can remain enrolled in the class. In addition, we may experience a higher-than-usual occurrence of students being absent from class due to health reasons. Whatever flexibility you can offer and accommodations you can provide to assist these students will be greatly appreciated. And please avoid attendance policies that might encourage students to attend class when they are not feeling well.

The day/time course schedule will also be adjusted to increase time between classes to 30 minutes to reduce interactive foot traffic on campus and provide time for increased cleaning of lab and classroom spaces when needed. Classes being offered fully remote should adhere to their day/time assignment if they have synchronous activity so as not to conflict with another course assigned day/time in the student’s schedule.

Faculty Assistance and Support with Fully Remote Instruction

Extensive assistance and support in converting courses to fully remote (online) delivery will be provided to faculty. The Center for Teaching and Learning, the IDEAS group, Information Technology, and the Libraries have worked together to outline best practices and step-by-step guidelines for faculty to use in planning, creating and implementing their fall courses. These resources include short videos and guidelines for course redesign, a full series of webinars on various instructional technologies, faculty course modules offered through Moodle and Blackboard, information on the use of Echo, Zoom and other technology tools, as well as a range of consultation and help services offered to support faculty and departments in course design, technology use and accessing library resources. These resources will be accessible through a central web portal and include a centralized help request for all services. This­­­ team will email all faculty and instructors, including graduate teaching assistants, with instructions on how to access services.

Thank you again for ALL you are doing to provide the best quality educational experience we can to our students in the midst of this challenge. We look forward to working together with all of you in the weeks and months ahead in preparation for the Fall 2020 semester.

John McCarthy,

Provost & Senior Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs
Distinguished Professor

UMass Amherst Announces Fall 2020 Reopening Plan Under Extensive Public Health and Behavioral Restrictions

Mon, 2020-06-29 14:09
UMass Amherst Announces Fall 2020 Reopening Plan Under Extensive Public Health and Behavioral Restrictions nmiller Mon, 06/29/2020 - 14:09

The University of Massachusetts Amherst today announced its Fall 2020 Reopening Plan, noting that while almost all of the university’s courses will be taught remotely this fall, 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.

Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy said, “Students who choose to attend UMass Amherst do so not only for the quality of the faculty and the academic programs, but also for the immersive experience, which offers opportunities for enrichment that can be undertaken with a diverse group of peers. As best we can – and there are severe limitations in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic – we will strive to sustain the community connections that represent UMass at its best.”

The plan makes clear that there are inherent risks to joining a residential campus environment this fall, and it provides students the opportunity to consult with their families and decide what is best for them. Subbaswamy emphasized that “it is important to understand that life on campus will not be anything resembling normal college life.”

In announcing the plan, UMass Amherst joins a small number of schools giving students the option to determine whether to spend the semester on campus or at home. The decision to invite first-year, transfer and returning undergraduate students to live on campus was informed in part by the overwhelming feedback from students that they want to pursue their studies on campus – and indeed intended to seek out rental units in the area even if residence halls were not reopened.

For students who choose to reside in on-campus housing or expect to spend any time on campus, standards will be exacting. Students must agree not only to the standard Code of Student Conduct, but also to a set of protocols outlined in The UMass Agreement, a commitment that they will be required to sign.

Protocols for students include strict physical distancing, wearing face coverings outside personal living spaces, limiting social contacts to a minimal number of people per day, the prohibition of guests in residence halls, subjecting themselves to virus testing on demand, daily self-monitoring and reporting, assisting with contact tracing, and limiting travel away from the immediate campus area for work and/or emergencies only.

Health and Safety

The university will establish a Public Health Promotion Center to be the central coordinating and operational center for COVID-19 on campus. It will focus on the following: asymptomatic testing (symptomatic testing will be conducted at University Health Services); contact tracing; coordinating isolation and quarantine; flu vaccinations; and communication outreach focused on health promotion with public health ambassadors.

The university is developing a comprehensive surveillance, testing, isolation and contact tracing program that students must comply with both on- and off-campus. All students, faculty and staff will be asked to self-monitor on a daily basis for COVID-19 symptoms before coming to campus. All students returning to campus will be tested prior to arrival. During the fall semester, any student experiencing even the slightest symptoms will be tested by University Health Services.

Students living on campus who test positive for COVID-19 will have the option to return to their home to isolate for the appropriate amount of time, or they will be placed in isolation housing on campus and be provided with support services and a daily wellness call. Off-campus students are also encouraged to develop an isolation and quarantine plan with their family and roommates. The university will provide support services in a student’s off-campus location or home, but it will not provide on-campus isolation or quarantine space.

Teaching and Learning

The university previously announced an altered academic calendar for fall 2020, with a start date of Aug. 24 for classes. Classes will end Nov. 20, at Thanksgiving Break, when students will move out of residence halls. Final exams will be conducted remotely after Thanksgiving break. Classes also will be held on Labor Day, the second Monday in October and on Veterans Day.

A majority of the fall 2020 curriculum will be fully remote, with only essential labs, studios, performance and hands-on courses offered in-person and focused on the upper-level curriculum to provide seniors with timely progress toward degree completion. Some students who live on campus may have a fully remote curriculum, a factor they should consider in their decision whether to come to campus.

Classroom capacities will be limited to adhere to social distancing guidelines. Additional sections of courses may be added to reduce class sizes. Course schedules will be adjusted to increase time between classes to reduce interactive foot traffic on campus and provide time for increased cleaning of lab and classroom spaces when needed. Students will be encouraged to be patient and flexible regarding classroom assignments and course schedules.

Libraries are currently working on a phased reopening plan for restoration of in-person services and onsite access to their collections. Until then, the libraries will continue to provide access to their materials through its Library Express service.

Residential Life

While all courses that do not require physical presence on campus will be offered remotely this fall, all undergraduate students who have reserved on-campus housing for the upcoming semester, and for whom there is space available, are invited to live on campus under strict public health behavioral restrictions.

After July 1, Residential Life will communicate with students who have a current housing assignment about their eligibility to live on campus. Students who plan on canceling their housing assignment should contact Residential Life immediately to inform them of their change of plans.

Life in the residence halls will be altered to include pedestrian flow restrictions, restrictions on group gatherings and limited face-to-face contact. No guests will be allowed in residence halls until further notice.

Move-in for fall semester will take place over multiple days to reduce the amount of people on campus at any time, and students may bring only two family members or helpers to assist them. Students are advised to bring less items to campus this fall, and to plan for 12 weeks of residential time as opposed to an entire school year due to the uncertainty of the pandemic. Also, if COVID-19 cases spike in the Commonwealth or region, the university may close down residence halls and send students home.

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. All health and safety protocols on the main campus will be in effect in Newton, but the total residential population at the Newton campus will be limited by available housing to less than 500 students. All courses taught in Newton beyond essential face-to-face courses for on-site programs (e.g., Veterinary Technology) will be offered remotely.

Campus Life

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the university is offering its immersive residential experience, which is conducive to students’ learning and academic progress, in a manner that is intended to provide safeguards for the health and well-being of the entire campus community. Given this situation, campus life will be a different experience in the fall, with all members of the campus community playing an important role in mitigating the infection and spread of the virus.

Most student services will be offered remotely, including the services of the Center for Counseling and Psychological Health. The Recreation Center will be open, but there will be limits and restrictions on activities. The center will also livestream fitness classes through the Intramural leagues.

UMass Dining will adapt its services to current federal and state guidelines for food service. It will offer new grab-and-go stations, online ordering for many of its retail locations and tents for outdoor dining on campus.

Student activities will center on small group, in-person events, and larger virtual events.

The complete reopening plan, including a detailed set of frequently asked questions, can be found at www.umass.edu/reopening.

Communication’s Devon Greyson Warns of Public Opinion Survey Contributions to COVID Misinformation in Recent Research Brief

Tue, 2020-06-23 13:35
Communication’s Devon Greyson Warns of Public Opinion Survey Contributions to COVID Misinformation in Recent Research Brief nsossen Tue, 06/23/2020 - 13:35

In a recent research brief, , Devon Greyson, assistant professor of communication, warns that the COVID-19 pandemic has been accompanied by an “infodemic” of misinformation and disinformation, which has been fed by numerous public opinion surveys aiming to assess how health messages have been received.

Read the full news story.

Global Team Develops Open-source N95 Respirator

Thu, 2020-06-18 14:20
Global Team Develops Open-source N95 Respirator nsossen Thu, 06/18/2020 - 14:20

In one of the latest COVID-19 response projects at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, the Advanced Digital Design and Fabrication (ADDFab) laboratory is collaborating with a global network of design, engineering and manufacturing experts to help develop an open-source N95 face mask.

Read the full news story.

Revised Academic Calendar for Fall 2020

Wed, 2020-06-17 08:04
Revised Academic Calendar for Fall 2020 nsossen Wed, 06/17/2020 - 08:04

Dear Campus Community,

While we are still finalizing our fall reopening plans regarding on-campus housing and the mix of remote and in-person instruction, today we are announcing a revised academic calendar for the fall.

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, adopted by the Faculty Senate Rules Committee, is designed to establish as safe an environment as possible to manage the risks associated with COVID-19. When the university’s complete reopening plan is shared with the community by June 30, details will be forthcoming about on-campus housing assignments and how off-campus students can access instruction in August if their leases don’t start until September.

Key dates in the Fall Academic Calendar include:

Aug. 24: First day of classes

Sept. 7: Labor Day, classes will be held

Oct. 12: Columbus Day, classes will be held

Nov. 11: Veterans Day, classes will be held

Nov. 20: Last day of classes

Nov. 20: Thanksgiving recess begins after end of classes

Nov. 27-28: Reading Days

Nov. 30-Dec. 4: Final Exams

Dec. 14: Final grades due by midnight

 

Research & Library Operating Plan (RLOP) Form Now Available

Wed, 2020-06-03 17:44
Research & Library Operating Plan (RLOP) Form Now Available nsossen Wed, 06/03/2020 - 17:44

From:       Michael F. Malone, Vice Chancellor for Research & Engagement

To:           UMass Amherst Faculty, Postdocs and Graduate Students,
                Deans, Directors and Department Chairs, Business Managers

Cc:           Chancellor K. R. Subbaswamy, Provost John J. McCarthy,
                Campus Leadership Council, Faculty Senate Rules Committee,
                Research Council, Chairs of IRB, IACUC, Chemical, Biosafety, and
                Radiation Safety Committees, Research & Engagement Staff

Date:        June 3, 2020

Subject:    Research & Library Operating Plan (RLOP) Form Now Available

 

We are excited to share that the Research & Library Operating Plan (RLOP) form through Kuali Research is now available. Access the RLOP form directly here (NetID & password required - VPN required for the Building/Space Capacity dashboard linked in the form).

Use the RLOP to submit operational plans for re-starting research or re-occupying other spaces on-campus or in off-campus facilities controlled by UMass Amherst. RLOPs will be proposed by faculty (and other group leads) and approved by departments and schools/colleges in coordination with the Office of Research & Engagement.

For more detailed information, please view our Reopening Research & Libraries PDF from 5/28/20. Please note that the COVID-19 Interim Operating Plan document has been updated to version 1.3 (Word). If you see a previous version when you open the link, please clear your browser’s cache and open it again.

We are offering three workshops: Research and Library Operating Plan (RLOP) Form Walkthrough (Via Zoom). Click a date below to register through Workplace Learning & Development.

Please share this with colleagues and research staff in your area and send questions to our special email address focusing on the reopening: reopening@research.umass.edu.

Further information, including a Reopening Research FAQ, a RLOP Kuali Form Procedure Guide, and a Building/Space Capacity dashboard will be available on our COVID-19 Resources & Guidance site.

Thank you very much for working through this process to reopen safely and sustainably at this difficult time.

Sincerely, 

Mike

 

Michael F. Malone                                                 
Vice Chancellor for Research & Engagement
University of Massachusetts Amherst
(413) 545-5270
Assistant: Christine Burnett, caburnett@research.umass.edu

Update on EH&S Services for Labs

Tue, 2020-06-02 19:20
Update on EH&S Services for Labs nmiller Tue, 06/02/2020 - 19:20

Dear Colleagues,

Welcome back to campus! We want to let you know about some services EH&S and our campus partners are providing to support you as you return to research.

  • All of our training is currently online and can be accessed through OWL.
     
  • Lab Coats can be ordered from our lab coat website via a Google Form. We have also included a sizing chart so that you can select a size that's right for you. Laundry services are now operational.
     
  • If you have new lab members who need eye protection, please have them contact us at askehs@umass.edu to request a pair.
     
  • If you have trouble getting personal protective equipment (PPE), let us know. Please visit our PPE Google Form and tell us what you need. We may be able to assist with a bulk purchase of items, and the data you provide will help to inform that process.
     
  • We have been receiving some questions regarding the use of face coverings in labs. Since it may be difficult to always maintain social distancing in a typical shared lab environment, and personnel will often be in the lab for hours at a time, face coverings should be worn. In specific situations where there is no possibility of violating social distancing requirements (e.g., working alone in a room), face coverings are optional. Two (2) cloth face coverings are available for each of our designated on-site employees, and OEM is working with department personnel managers on the distribution of these face coverings. Since there will be an increase in people in public spaces and sometimes less than 6 feet of separation (e.g., in doorways or entry/exit points) face coverings should be worn.
     
  • To ensure availability of cleaning supplies, Physical Plant Custodial will provide hand sanitizer, disinfectant, paper towels, soap, and tissues for your laboratory. When your plans are set, please email askcustodial@umass.edu with your name, contact information, and the location where you would like it dropped off.  Limited supplies of gloves are also available on request.
     
  • If you have vendors or service providers who need to enter your lab for instrument service or other reasons, please ensure they follow the guidance provided by EH&S.
     
  • If you need assistance with implementing COVID-19 precautions in your lab, please let us know. We are happy to help.

Please share this with your colleagues and contact us at askehs@umass.edu if you have any questions.

We look forward to working with you to support your amazing research. Stay safe and be well.

Environmental Health & Safety
UMass Amherst

Cloth Face Coverings Available for UMass Employees

Tue, 2020-06-02 13:22
Cloth Face Coverings Available for UMass Employees nsossen Tue, 06/02/2020 - 13:22

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 of COVID-19. Working with our state partners at the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA), UMass Amherst has acquired cloth washable face coverings for each designated on-site employee.

The Office of Emergency Management is currently working with department personnel managers to distribute the face coverings over the next couple of weeks.  Each on-site employee can receive two washable coverings to use while on campus. 

“We have a long history of collaborating with MEMA, and we are very appreciative of our continued partnership in receiving these face coverings for designated on-site employees”, says Jeffrey Hescock, director of emergency management.

As we all to support each other’s health and well-being of our UMass community, remember Wearing is Caring!

 

UMass College of Engineering Researcher on Team Developing COVID-19 ‘Breathalyzer’

Fri, 2020-05-29 09:44
UMass College of Engineering Researcher on Team Developing COVID-19 ‘Breathalyzer’ nsossen Fri, 05/29/2020 - 09:44

Professor Jonathan Rothstein from the department of mechanical and industrial engineering is part of a multi-institutional research team developing a new collection system for COVID-19 testing that will allow  rapid diagnosing via a device similar to a breathalyzer.

 

Read the full news story.

Reopening Research and Libraries

Thu, 2020-05-28 15:18
Reopening Research and Libraries nsossen Thu, 05/28/2020 - 15:18

From:       Michael F. Malone, Vice Chancellor for Research & Engagement

To:           UMass Amherst Faculty, Postdocs and Graduate Students,
                Deans, Directors and Department Chairs, Business Managers

Cc:           Chancellor K. R. Subbaswamy, Provost John J. McCarthy,
                Campus Leadership Council, Faculty Senate Rules Committee,
                Research Council, Chairs of IRB, IACUC, Chemical, Biosafety, and
                Radiation Safety Committees, Research & Engagement Staff

Date:        May 28, 2020

Subject:    Reopening Research & Libraries

 

Based on the state plan and requirements for Reopening Massachusetts, UMass Amherst will reopen research labs, onsite library services and access, and other facilities for research and creative activities. This reopening will take place in stages, beginning as soon as the university can certify that the Sector Specific Safety Standards for Laboratories and Office Spaces are met. Success will require the engagement of faculty, students, and staff in our shared efforts to protect health and safety while resuming our important research activities.

Here is more detailed information on Reopening Research & Libraries (PDF) at UMass Amherst.

Please share this with colleagues and research staff in your area and send questions to our special email address focusing on the reopening to: reopening@research.umass.edu.  

Thank you very much for working through this process to reopen safely and sustainably at this difficult time.

I hope that you and yours are well and staying safe.

Sincerely, 

Mike

 

Michael F. Malone                                                 
Vice Chancellor for Research & Engagement
Professor of Chemical Engineering
University of Massachusetts Amherst
(413) 545-5270
Assistant: Christine Burnett, caburnett@research.umass.edu

Notice of Fraudulent Unemployment Claims Exploiting COVID-19 Pandemic

Wed, 2020-05-27 15:51
Notice of Fraudulent Unemployment Claims Exploiting COVID-19 Pandemic nsossen Wed, 05/27/2020 - 15:51

Multiple federal and state agencies are reporting an increase in fraudulent unemployment claims exploiting the COVID-19 pandemic, specifically of public sector employees. Within the UMass system, there have been several cases where unemployment claims have been fraudulently submitted to the Department of Unemployment Assistance by unknown individuals posing as university employees.

As the university is not able to file for unemployment on your behalf, if you receive information (either via U.S. Mail or email) related to the filing of an unemployment claim that you did not submit, you should contact both offices below:

Lastly, if you receive claim information that you did not submit which contains your social security number, please also visit the Federal Trade Commission website, to learn more about how to protect your personal information, including a review of different monitoring options.
 

Regards,

William Brady
Vice Chancellor and Chief Human Resources Officer

Matthew Dalton
Chief Information Security Officer
Director of Instructional Innovation

Returning Safely to UMass: Video Provides Best Practices and Protocols For Employees

Tue, 2020-05-26 16:52
Returning Safely to UMass: Video Provides Best Practices and Protocols For Employees nsossen Tue, 05/26/2020 - 16:52

UMass Amherst has developed this new training video focused on best practices and protocols to keep the university community safe as we undertake a phased reopening of campus.

The four-minute training video covers critical health and safety information regarding COVID-19 best practices for employees, including but not limited to daily self-screening, social distancing, face coverings and workspace cleaning. All employees are encouraged to view the video, whether they are now returning to work on campus or have been serving as on-site personnel.

Thank you for your continued efforts to keep the UMass community safe and to prevent the further spread of the virus. Your support and participation make an important difference.

 

Jeff Hescock
Executive Director of Emergency Management

Public Wireless Available in New UMass Amherst Location as Part of COVID-19 Response

Fri, 2020-05-22 10:07
Public Wireless Available in New UMass Amherst Location as Part of COVID-19 Response nmiller Fri, 05/22/2020 - 10:07

Public wireless service is now available in a new outdoor location in the southwest area of the UMass Amherst campus. Anyone with a wireless-ready device can connect to the unrestricted UMASS-OPEN network in Lot 11 near McGuirk Alumni Stadium.

The selection of Lot 11 as a new wireless hotspot was strategic and intentional. The Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) identified Lot 11 as a key location for COVID-19 response; it was designated as a potential Point of Distribution (PDO) and State Staging Area where supplies could be stored and distributed to local communities in case of need. Wireless connectivity is critical in such locations to ensure rapid and effective coordination of emergency response operations.

Furthermore, Lot 11 can also serve a large-capacity COVID-19 drive-through testing location and is a convenient drive-up Internet site to support nearby residents in rural communities with limited Internet options during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.

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