The University of Massachusetts Amherst

Provost McCarthy's Communications 

Provost McCarthy's Communications 

Requests for Medical Accommodations – June 21st Deadline - A Message from the Provost


TO: All faculty, graduate student employees, Deans, Department Chairs/Heads, and GPDs

FROM: John McCarthy, Provost and Senior Vice Chancellor

DATE: May 25, 2021

SUBJECT: Requests for Medical Accommodations – June 21st Deadline

Dear Colleagues,

As another semester concludes, I want to again thank you for your resilience, flexibility, and excellence over the course of this last year. As you know, the campus has committed to a return to face-to-face instruction and on-campus living for our students with a goal of having Fall 2021 be as close to pre-pandemic times as possible. We expect all our faculty and graduate student employees to return to campus to provide our students the world-class residential experience they’ve come to expect. In anticipation of the Fall 2021 semester, I am sending along information about how faculty and graduate student employees may request an accommodation in the rare circumstance where instructors require modification to their responsibilities and/or method of work.

Requests for Medical Accommodations - June 21, 2021 Deadline

Faculty and graduate student employees with certain current and ongoing medical conditions that could limit or delay them from returning to onsite work may seek an accommodation by completing the application found here. Faculty requests will be evaluated by the Accessible Workplace office in the Department of Human Resources.  Graduate employee requests will be evaluated by Disability Services. These offices will collect necessary medical documentation and consult with the relevant department and/or college about the request.

Requests for accommodations must be submitted by June 21, 2021. This deadline is critical to ensure that all requests receive sufficient attention and to allow for responsibilities to be shifted if necessary and coverage arranged to ensure a robust on-campus learning experience for our students. Of course, this deadline does not apply to employees who develop a medical condition after June 21, 2021.

Finally, all members of the campus community are strongly encouraged to get vaccinated as soon as possible. The campus has its very own Covid-19 Vaccine Clinic to assist with this effort. Further, individuals who choose not to receive a vaccine due to religious beliefs should contact HR at to discuss their return to campus.

Questions can be directed to

Please continue to care for your health and safety over the summer as we prepare for a return for normal campus operations while ensuring the health and well-being of our campus community. 



A Message from the Provost: Wellness Wednesday & Ramadan - April 5, 2021

April 5, 2021


Dear Colleagues, 

I am writing to you about the upcoming “Wellness Wednesday” on April 14. As you know, the academic calendar for this semester eliminates spring break and the Monday holidays. These temporary changes were made for public health reasons: to discourage students from traveling to their homes or other areas with higher positivity rates.  

Because students have been working flat out since February 1, this semester’s calendar includes two Wellness Wednesdays to give them a mid-week break. To make it a real break, I ask you not to give homework over the upcoming Wellness Wednesday on April 14. All of us are aware of the pressures students are under and their feeling of being burned out as we come to the end of the toughest academic year any of us have experienced.  Please give them the small joy of a day with nothing to do. 

I also want to remind you that the Islamic holy month of Ramadan begins on Monday, April 12, and continues until May 11 or 12. Students who observe Ramadan will fast from all food and drink, including water, from dawn until dusk every day. I encourage you to work with any student who would like to request an accommodation based on their religious observance of Ramadan.  For example, one reasonable accommodation would allow them to take their exams earlier in the day, rather than towards the end of a day of fasting, and to be required to take no more than one exam in a day. Students and faculty should work together to reach a reasonable accommodation that fits with their particular situation and abides by the University policy on religious observances, which can be found in this document.

I will conclude by expressing once again my gratitude and admiration for all that our faculty and staff have done to sustain our mission through this most difficult time.  


John McCarthy 

Provost & Senior Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs 

Message from the Provost (Student Compliance with Testing Protocol) - March 1, 2021

March 1, 2021


Dear Colleagues, 

As we begin the second month of the Spring 2021 semester, please know that you have my gratitude and the gratitude of the Chancellor, the Deans, and others for all of the effort that you have put into educating and supporting our students under challenging conditions. Know too that the health and safety of our students, faculty, and staff have been and remain our primary focus.  

Since the announcement of a change in operational posture from High Risk to Elevated Risk on February 19th, we have received questions from faculty regarding processes in place to ensure students’ compliance with our testing protocol.  Undergraduate and graduate students need to be tested twice a week if they meet any of the following conditions: living on campus; taking or teaching in-person classes, labs or studios; working in a research lab; or working in an on-campus job.

Undergraduates who do not access campus but live in the immediate area are also required to be tested twice a week, because they are likely to be in contact with on-campus students.  Graduate students living in the area but not coming to campus are strongly encouraged, but not required, to be tested. Testing is, of course, free. 

As the February 19th announcement conveyed, the campus is instituting even stricter measures to validate students’ compliance with public health requirements, particularly compliance with twice-weekly testing.  Students in compliance with the required testing protocol will have a Green Checkmark in their Health Hub.  If instructors would like, they can ask students to show their Green Checkmark before allowing students to participate in an in-person class, lab, or other activity.  For further information, see my February 19th message

Students out of compliance with the testing protocol will receive multiple notifications and interventions, in this order: (1) an email from the Public Health Promotion Center informing them that they are out of compliance with testing; (2) an email from the Dean of Students Office (DOSO); (3) a personal phone call from the DOSO Student Conduct and Community Standards department, which could lead to the initiation of a violation of the Code of Student Conduct.  Students will also receive an Informational Notification regarding their non-compliance with the testing protocol whenever they log into our Learning Management System (LMS – Moodle or Blackboard).  No student will be removed from a face-to-face class or lab or lose access to the LMS for fully remote courses unless they are found to be in violation of the Code of Student Conduct. Instructors will be informed when this sanction takes place, and they are not required to provide accommodations to the student to make up missed work, as this is considered an unexcused absence.   

Cutting off a student’s access to in-person and remote classes is a serious penalty, but it is in keeping with the seriousness of the offense, an offense that jeopardizes the health and safety of our University community. Under the process described above, non-compliant students will have multiple opportunities to become compliant, or to explain why they are not subject to the policy (e.g., because they have moved out of the area). It is my fervent hope as an educator that it will never be necessary to impose this penalty, but we will do so if necessary. 



John McCarthy

Provost and Senior Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs

A Message from the Provost (Face-to-Face Courses) - February 7, 2021

February 7, 2021

Dear Colleagues:

As the announcement earlier this morning indicates, because of a rise in Covid-19 cases involving students on and off-campus, the University has raised the operational posture from “Elevated” to “High”.  This means that face-to-face classes/labs/studios must move to fully remote delivery while we are in this status for a minimum of two weeks of class.  

Most of our students and our faculty and TOs are familiar with fully remote instruction and the technology tools that facilitate online instruction (Blackboard, Moodle, and Zoom). As in-person instructors temporarily move their classes to a fully remote format, it may be easiest to adopt synchronous online class sessions as temporary substitutes. Faculty with TAs who run face-to-face discussion or lab sections should contact your TAs directly with guidance about the shift to remote instruction.

To facilitate the immediate move of your in-person classes to fully online faculty and instructors will want to take the following steps:

  • Request Moodle or Blackboard for your course(s) if you have not already done so.
  • Create a Zoom link for your synchronous class sessions. See Meeting with your Class in Zoom for instructions on accessing Zoom, running a Zoom meeting and sharing your Zoom Meetings with Students.
  • Communicate your course plans with your students as soon as possible (either through your Moodle or Blackboard course or by using the class roster function in SPIRE). If you will be using Zoom, include the Zoom link you will use for your class and a link to How to join a zoom meeting for students who may be unfamiliar with Zoom.

IDEAS provides instructional support for Blackboard, Moodle, and Zoom. IDEAS consultants are available 9 am to 4 pm today (Sunday); please email for assistance.  Beginning Monday, drop-in Faculty Support Zoom sessions are open Mon – Fri 9:00 am – 3:00 pm. 

CTL, IDEAS, IT, and the Libraries maintain a central help request form. Faculty and instructors needing assistance in redesigning a syllabus or assignments, accessing Library E-reserves, using classroom technologies, or any other assistance related to moving their in-person classes to fully remote can submit a request for assistance through this form.

While we are fully remote, the Provost's Office will pause the Positive Test Notification Process informing instructors of records of positive tests occurring with students in their face-to-face class.  This process will resume when we are back in the classroom in person.

Thank you for all you do in supporting our students in this very difficult time.


John McCarthy

Provost & Senior Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs


Message from Provost McCarthy - Spring 2021 - October 23, 2020

October 23, 2020

Dear Colleagues,

I am writing to you with a brief update about plans for the spring term. A similar message is going out to staff via HR.

As you know, over the past month a Strategy Group and seven Working Groups have been analyzing possible options for the spring semester. Earlier this week, Chancellor Subbaswamy received their recommendations and later today he will share his plan for next semester with the entire campus community.

The Chancellor and I are deeply grateful to all of you, our faculty and librarians, for all that you have done to give our students a high-quality educational experience and to continue to advance scholarship, discovery, innovation, and artistic creation during the fall term. You will play an equally critical role during the spring semester in ensuring that we continue to advance all aspects of our mission and that we do so with excellence. We still have many details to work out and more information about what spring will look like will be forthcoming. Your input and contributions will be crucial in moving from the Chancellor’s broad plan to its actual implementation.

I know your work and home lives continue to be impacted by the pandemic and I want to thank you for your ongoing commitment to our mission, our students, and the entire UMass Amherst community.


John McCarthy

Provost and Senior Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs

Distinguished Professor

Preferred Pronouns - October 19, 2020

Date: October 19, 2020

To: Deans, Heads/Chairs, & Directors of DEI

From: John McCarthy, Provost & Senior Vice Chancellor; Nefertiti A. Walker, Vice Chancellor for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, and Chief Diversity Officer; and Claire Hamilton, Associate Provost and Director, Center for Teaching and Learning

Subject: Preferred Pronouns


Dear Colleagues:

As we make our way through this semester of remote instruction, the Office of Equity and Inclusion has heard from numerous students that their preferred names and pronouns are not consistently included on instructors’ class rosters. Staff in IT and the Registrar’s office continue to attest that students are updating their information correctly, but despite this, many are still being listed and addressed in class by names that they no longer use, and that do not reflect their identities and preferences.

In order to promote learning environments that are inclusive and respectful, we ask that instructors do the following:

  • Continue to update course rosters, to ensure that any changes to preferred names and pronouns are reflected. We also ask that departments utilizing external systems for student records and course registration pull data from SPIRE with more regularity, to ensure that your instructors have access to the most recent information.
  • Encourage students to edit their names in Zoom, to reflect their preferred names and pronouns. For example, “First name Last name - she/her/hers.” Students can access the ‘rename’ function during their Zoom sessions by either right-clicking their name, or clicking the three dots in their thumbnail. Changes should carry over to every Zoom they’re on. If this is disabled for security reasons, please let students know they may edit their names and add pronouns, that reflect their preferences as stated in SPIRE.
  • Be mindful and respectful of students’ preferred names and pronouns, and model this in your courses by addressing each member of your class as they have requested.

We also encourage you to continue to refer to the Dignity and Respect in the Classroom resource, for additional tips and best practices for creating an inclusive and respectful learning environment.

Thank you. 

Graduate Student Employees - Spring 2021 - Appointment Start Dates and Time Off - October 15, 2020

To:      Graduate Student Employees

From:  John McCarthy, Provost & Senior Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs

CC:   Deans, GPDs, Heads and Chairs

Date: October 15, 2020

RE: Spring 2021 - Appointment Start Dates and Time Off 

As we conclude the first month of the fall semester, we are all mindful of the ongoing uncertainties and concerns caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The same public health considerations that led to a compressed Fall 2020 academic calendar have resulted in similar changes for the Spring.

The Faculty Senate set Monday, February 1, 2021, as the first day of classes for spring 2021 semester. Classes will be held on President’s Day (February 15) and Patriots' Day (April 19), and there will be no spring break period in March.  The Monday holidays will instead be observed on Wednesday, February 24 and April 14. Classes will conclude on May 4. Final grades will be due on May 17.

Appointment Start Dates and Time Off for TAs/TOs

Spring contract dates for TAs/TOs will remain January 3, 2021, through May 15, 2021, per the payroll schedule. However, the start date for Graduate Employees who have been appointed to Teaching Assistantships (TA’s) and Teaching Associateships (TO’s) for the spring semester will be January 19, 2021, with an end date of May 22, 2021 (19 weeks) as the grading deadline has been moved to May 17, 2021. It is expected that those required to enter grades meet the May 17th grading deadline. There will be no spring break in March and TAs and TOs will instead have the week of January 11 through January 15 as paid vacation unless they reach an agreement with their department head for an alternative schedule that would be acceptable. These changes in start and end dates will not alter the length of appointment, compensation, benefits, and pay dates for TA’s and TO’s.  There will be no gap in pay or benefits as a result of the later start date. Classes will be held on President’s Day and Patriots' Day and TA’s and TO’s will be expected to work.  These holidays will instead be observed on February 24 and April 14.  

Appointment Start Dates and Time Off for RA’s, PA’s, and All Other

Graduate students appointed to Research Assistantships (RA’s), Project Assistantships (PA’s), and Internships will maintain their same spring appointment period with a start date of January 17, 2021, and end date of May 29, 2021. Graduate students appointed to Assistant Residence Director (ARDs) positions, including ARD/Apartment Living and ARD/Learning Communities Graduate Assistants, will maintain the same appointment start date of January 17, 2021 

Appointment Start Dates and Time Off for ARD’s

Graduate students appointed as Assistant Residence Directors (ARD) will begin their appointments effective January 10, 2021 with an end date of May 15, 2021 (18 weeks). As in previous semesters, ARD’s are eligible to request vacation time at any point in the semester, pending approval from their supervisor. ARD’s will observe the regular holidays of Presidents day and Patriots day on February 15 and April 19 and be expected to work the Wellbeing Wednesday’s on February 24 and April 14.

Additional Resources

All graduate student employees should be aware of the following resources that are available to them:

Graduate Assistantship Office

Human Resources

International Programs Office

Graduate Employee Organization



Please contact Academic Personnel at  

Fall 2020 Reopening Agreement with GEO-UAW - September 25, 2020

To: Deans, Department Heads/Chairs, GPDs

From: John McCarthy, Provost and Senior Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs

Re: Fall Reopening Agreement with GEO-UAW

Date: September 25, 2020

Dear Colleagues, I am pleased to announce that an agreement has been reached between the campus administration and the Graduate Employee Organization (GEO) regarding the University’s fall reopening plans.

The agreement addresses some of the most pressing subjects impacting graduate employees during the fall semester. It includes a clear process and criteria for accommodating on-site graduate employees who are at high risk of severe illness related to COVID-19, an expansion of the current family and medical leave provisions to address certain unique medical and caregiver needs related to COVID-19, and guaranteed access to University-provided personal protective equipment for on-site workers. The agreement also confirms that certain holidays (Labor Day, the Second Monday in October and Veteran’s Day) will be observed by TAs/TOs after the December 14, 2020 grading deadline. I encourage you to review the agreement on the Provost’s website for more information.

Any questions about the agreement should be addressed to Academic Personnel at Additional information on policies and procedures can be found on the Graduate School’s website.

Revised Academic Calendar for Spring 2021 - September 17, 2020

September 17, 2020

Dear Campus Community,

Today, the Faculty Senate approved a revised academic calendar for the Spring 2021 semester. As we continue to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic, changes were implemented to the spring semester to take into consideration the safest way for us to proceed by limiting risk to the campus community. A copy of the revised calendar can be viewed at the bottom of this email.

The Spring 2021 semester will begin on Monday, Feb. 1. This two-week delay will put us further along into the traditional flu season in Massachusetts, and perhaps even near the end of it. Starting two weeks later than normal will also provide more time for outdoor opportunities and activities in warmer weather.

There will not be a Spring Break nor the two long weekends we traditionally observe in the spring – Presidents' Day (Feb. 15) and Patriots' Day (April 19). This should minimize students and other community members from leaving the local area to travel to potentially high-risk COVID regions and then return to the Amherst area. 

In place of the long holiday weekends, we will observe two Wellbeing Wednesdays on Feb. 24 and April 14. On those days, there will be no classes, and instead programming and activities surrounding well-being for students and faculty will be planned. The lost instructional days on those Wednesdays will be made up on a Monday and Tuesday during the semester.

The semester will end one week later than normal. Classes will end on Tuesday, May 4, and final exams will end on Wednesday, May 12.

Undergraduate Commencement and Graduate Commencement have been rescheduled to be held Friday, May 14, and the Stockbridge School of Agriculture Commencement is set for Saturday, May 15. No decisions have been made about whether the ceremonies will be virtual or held in person.

While we know this academic calendar will present challenges to some, campus leaders and the Faculty Senate feel it is of utmost importance to protect the health and safety of campus in the spring. Please note that no decisions have been made yet regarding how instruction will be delivered (in-person or remote) or how many students will be allowed to live on campus. It is difficult to forecast the trajectory or impact of the pandemic going forward, but we will communicate these decisions in ample time for our students and their families to create plans.



spring 2021 calendar

Reminder and Update - Workload Adjustments for Developing High-Quality Fully Online Courses - August 20, 2020

To: All Faculty

From: John McCarthy, Provost

Date: August 20, 2020

Subject: Reminder and Update - Workload Adjustments for Developing High-Quality Fully Online Courses

Faculty who convert a traditional face-to-face course to a high quality fully online course are entitled to a workload accommodation or modification that must be articulated in writing between the faculty member and the department chair.

In order to request a workload adjustment for course development the faculty member will need to initiate and complete a Workload Accommodation submission in the University’s Academic Personnel Workflow System (APWS) for review and approval by the relevant department chair/head.

In consultation with the MSP, the following deadlines have been established for faculty to initiate a Workload Accommodation submission in APWS in order to receive timely feedback from department chairs and heads and for workload accommodations to be appropriately documented.


Monday, August 31, 2020:  Deadline for faculty to submit their workload accommodation submission in APWS. Faculty should describe their plans for converting their course to fully-online and how the design and delivery of the course will fulfill the University’s Quality Standards.  

Monday, September 7, 2020 (Add/Drop Deadline): Deadline for Department Heads/Chairs to review and respond to the faculty submission.

At the end of the Fall 2020 semester faculty should upload a report that briefly describes the efforts made to convert the course to fully online. The report should include a self-assessment of what worked well in the course design and delivery and what the faculty member would improve in the future.


For more information please see the frequently asked questions document on the Provost’s website.

Please direct all questions to



Workload Accommodation for Faculty Converting Courses - August 11, 2020


To:         All Faculty

From:     John McCarthy, Provost

Date:      August 11, 2020

Subject:  Workload Accommodation for Faculty Converting Courses

As you are aware, the University reached an agreement with the MSP to ensure that much of our traditional in-person curriculum is transformed into high-quality, fully online courses that will incorporate significant student engagement and the academic rigor that UMass Amherst students have come to expect. 

Faculty who convert a traditional face-to-face course to fully online must engage extensively with Information Technology, instructional design and pedagogy experts from the Instructional Design, Engagement and Support group (IDEAS), the Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL), the Libraries and other relevant resources to ensure the course meets University Quality Standards for Fully Online Courses. Faculty who meet this requirement are entitled to a workload accommodation or modification that must be articulated in writing between the faculty member and the department chair.

In order to meet the requirement that workload accommodations or modifications be articulated in writing between the faculty member and the department chair, faculty must initiate and complete a Workload Accommodation submission in the University’s Academic Personnel Workflow System (APWS). It is presumed that the faculty members and their respective department heads/chairs have already discussed and agreed upon an accommodation prior to the submission.

Once submitted, the application will be forwarded to the respective department head or chair for review and approval. Department chairs/heads will have the option to return the submission back to the faculty member for revision if necessary. Deans will then be provided an opportunity to review and comment on the submission which will subsequently be routed to the Provost’s office for tracking and reporting to ensure consistent application of the agreement. At the end of the Fall 2020 semester faculty will need to upload a report briefly describing the efforts made to convert the course to fully online. The report should include a self-assessment of what worked well in the course design and delivery and what the faculty member would improve in the future.

For more information about the one-year extension agreement, please see the summary of key changes and frequently asked questions document on the Provost’s website. Please contact with questions. 

Emergency Technology Assistance Fund: Invitation to Apply - July 27, 2020

July 27, 2020

 Dear Colleagues,

The Provost’s Office is pleased to announce the establishment of an Emergency Technology Assistance Fund to support MSP bargaining unit members who have technology-related needs in order to perform their work remotely, or who have an outdated computer that is eligible for replacement. Faculty and librarians will have the option of choosing from a pre-approved catalog of University-supported computers, laptops or tablets, or request a custom configuration of equipment. Additionally, bargaining unit members may also request funds for additional technology-related needs necessary to enable them to perform their work remotely such as peripherals or reimbursements for upgraded Internet packages.

In an effort to expedite requests, the Provost’s Office partnered with Central IT to centralize the processing, procurement and configuration of approved funds for equipment on the pre-approved catalog. Faculty who apply for funds for additional technology needs such as a peripheral or reimbursement for upgraded Internet packages should work with their departments to finalize the transaction once approved. Reimbursement requests will require the same supporting documents that are required for similar business expenses, such as a receipt or other proof of purchase. Faculty who applied for funds through the Chancellor’s Computer Replacement Fund (CCRF) in the spring of 2020 will be prioritized.

The Emergency Technology Assistance Fund is accepting applications through the University’s Academic Personnel Workflow System (APWS) from July 27, 2020 to Aug. 5, 2020. MSP bargaining unit members may apply for funds by navigating to the Create a New Submission tab, selecting the Technology Assistance application and following the instructions.

Faculty should reach out to or with any questions.

Provost Announcement of One-year MSP Agreement - July 27, 2020

July 27, 2020

Dear Colleagues,

I am pleased to announce that UMass President Marty Meehan has just approved an agreement reached between the campus administration and the Massachusetts Society of Professors (MSP) to extend the current collective bargaining agreement by one year with certain modifications.

The one-year agreement freezes salaries and other cost items at current levels and covers the period beginning July 1, 2020 through June 30, 2021. The contract extension includes innovative “crisis response” provisions that will facilitate the University’s carefully designed reopening plans. These provisions will ensure that much of our traditional in-person curriculum is transformed into high-quality, fully online courses that will incorporate significant student engagement and the academic rigor that UMass Amherst students have come to expect. The crisis response provisions include summer and holiday work requirements, a compression of the traditional academic work year and required compliance with University Quality Standards in the development and delivery of online courses.

We are grateful to the MSP and the faculty and librarians they represent for their collective dedication to our students and for their partnership with us during these challenging times. I want to publicly acknowledge the excellent work of the bargaining teams in reaching this agreement that will enable a safe reopening of the University this fall without compromising the student learning experience. The agreement also reaffirms our commitment to excellence in research, outreach and engagement by giving faculty flexibility in the future to refocus on their cutting-edge research programs and service to the community and profession through phased workload adjustments and enhanced sabbatical leave. Among other things, the agreement creatively repurposes existing collective bargaining funds to provide resources for technology and equipment necessary to transform our face-to-face instruction to high-quality online instruction and to offset child and eldercare expenses.

Implementation of the agreement is currently underway in consultation with campus partners. I encourage you to review the agreement as well as the summary of key changes and FAQ documents posted on the Provost’s website for more information.

Any questions about the agreement should be addressed to Academic Personnel at


John McCarthy

Provost and Senior Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs


Request/Message to Grad Employees - July 14, 2020

July 14, 2020

To:      Graduate Student Employees (TAs, TOs, RAs & PAs)

From:  John McCarthy,
           Provost and Senior Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs  

As we approach the start of the fall semester, we are all mindful of the ongoing uncertainties and concerns caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The abrupt and disruptive departure from campus in March as a result of COVID-19, and the transition to remote learning affected the entire campus community, including our graduate student employees. The Fall 2020 planning process drew from the insights of 100 faculty, staff, and students across six working groups, including feedback from many graduate students. We are grateful to the graduate students who participated in the planning process and those who shared thoughtful questions and feedback by email and in the online forums with our campus leaders.

As you know, the Faculty Senate set Monday, August 24, 2020 as the first day of the fall 2020 semester, with classes held on Labor Day, the second Monday in October, and Veterans Day. Classes will conclude on November 20, at which time students will be expected to move out of campus residence halls. Final exams will be conducted remotely after Thanksgiving.

Appointment Start Dates

The start date for graduate students who have been appointed to Teaching Assistantships (TA’s) and Teaching Associateships (TO’s) for the fall semester will now be August 23, 2020 (previously September 6, 2020), with an end date of January 2, 2021 (previously January 16, 2021). TA’s and TO’s are expected to complete their grading responsibilities by midnight on Monday, December 14, 2020. TA’s and TO’s appointed on academic year appointments will now have an end date of May 15, 2021 instead of May 29, 2021. These changes in appointment dates maintain the same period of appointment, compensation, and benefits but accommodate the revised academic calendar. Graduate student employees who are required to teach on Labor Day, the second Monday in October, or Veterans Day will receive compensatory time off.

Graduate students with TA or TO appointments who have exceptional personal situations that might prevent them from starting their work on August 24th should contact their faculty supervisor or Graduate Program Director to discuss alternative arrangements.

Graduate students appointed to Research Assistantships (RAs), Project Assistantships (PAs), and Internships will maintain the same appointment period with a start date of September 6, 2020 and an end date of January 16, 2021.

Graduate students appointed to Assistant Residence Director (ARDs) positions, including ARD/Apartment Living and ARD/Learning Communities Graduate Assistants, will maintain the same appointment start date of August 13, 2020. As the Chancellor’s message to the campus community said, 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. ARDs should consult their supervisors directly for information about their work assignments related to supporting the residential population.

Orientations and Onboarding paperwork

All graduate student employees must complete the required hiring packet provided online by Human Resources. Human Resources information and resources for graduate employees can be found here. International graduate student employees can get additional information from the International Programs Office. Information about the Graduate School’s orientation for new Teaching Assistants will be available on the Graduate School’s website in the first week of August. Graduate student employees should also consult their departments directly for additional information about program-specific orientations and events.

Resources for TA’s and TO’s

As the Chancellor’s message to the campus community indicated, most courses will be offered remotely during the fall 2020 semester, with the exception of some courses that have been designated by colleges/departments as face-to-face and essential for delivery in the fall, including labs, studios and other courses requiring hands-on work. Graduate students who have been assigned as TA’s and TO’s should confirm the modality and schedule of their course assignment with the department head or their supervisor. TA’s and TO’s can check the assigned day/time and also modality (face-to-face or entirely remote) in SPIRE. Fully remote classes must be offered on the assigned day/time if they have synchronous components to ensure that there are no scheduling conflicts with other courses in which students are enrolled. The Center for Teaching and Learning, IDEAS, IT, and the Libraries have worked together to provide resources and support for faculty and graduate student instructors in teaching their fall classes. These resources as well as a centralized help request form are now available on the University Quality Standards: FlexForward to Online Teaching central web portal.

Graduate student TA’s and TO’s who have been assigned to a face-to-face course and are in a group that is at a high risk for COVID-19 as defined in the CDC guidelines should contact Human Resources and their Graduate Program Director to request an accommodation.

Information for RA’s and PA’s

Graduate students who have appointments as Research Assistants and Project Assistants should be aware of the following information. UMass Amherst is reopening research labs and other facilities for research and creative activities based on the state plan and requirements for Reopening Massachusetts, which currently recommends that activities continue remotely as much as possible. The reopening of labs and other research facilities is taking place in stages, as the university certifies that the Sector Specific Safety Standards for Laboratories and Office Spaces are met. The reopening of labs and other research facilities requires Research and Library Operating Plans proposed by faculty and approved by departments and deans, in coordination with the Office of Research and Engagement. Graduate students who have appointments as Research Assistants should contact their supervisors directly about their work assignments. Graduate students who are at high risk for COVID-19 and are requested to work on campus should contact the designated person in their school or college dean’s office.

Additional Resources

All graduate student employees should be aware of the following resources that are available to them:

Graduate Assistantship Office

Human Resources

International Programs Office

Graduate Employee Organization

There are still many details that need to be worked out as we begin to implement our reopening plan, and we are committed to updating you regularly. More information, including FAQs on a number of topics, can be found on the university’s reopening website


University of Massachusetts Amherst

AFR Announcement to Faculty - July 7, 2020

July 7, 2020

Dear Colleagues:

If you are a faculty member with an appointment at 50% FTE or greater, you must complete the Annual Faculty Report and Evaluation (AFR) and submit it through the online Academic Personnel Workflow System (APWS). Your AFR for AY2019-20 will be due on or before October 15, 2020. Faculty with appointments at less than 50% are not required to submit an AFR. Nonetheless, departments should institute some means of evaluating the performance of those faculty who are not required to submit an AFR whether it be the AFR or some other instrument of the department’s choice.

The AFR provides the official record on which many faculty personnel decisions are based, and it is vital to faculty development, both as an opportunity for self-reflection and as a basis for discussion among departmental and other colleagues. In the AFR faculty must document their teaching, student advising, research and creative activities, and service -- as appropriate to their appointment. We also want to encourage faculty to list any faculty mentoring they provided, including peer mentoring, in the service portion of the AFR. 

Beginning in the Spring 2020 semester, faculty across the University experienced a significant disruption due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result of the health crisis, all faculty moved their courses online, research facilities including labs and libraries were closed and all student evaluation of teaching was suspended. In conjunction with the disruptions experienced on-campus, many faculty were working out of their homes while simultaneously providing childcare due to closures of daycare facilities and K-12 schooling. Research disruptions, shifts in teaching modalities, limited childcare, and remote work persisted into Summer 2020. As such, we invite you to include a Pandemic Impact Statement with your AFR describing the adjustments you have made, how your work in particular has been impacted by the health crisis, and your contributions to the University’s transition to remote work. A new section will be added under the Additional Activities portion of this year’s AFR for this purpose. 

Faculty, particularly those newer to UMass, should consult with their department chair or head and DPC chair to clarify departmental expectations regarding what should be documented on their AFRs. In addition, having a colleague review a draft of your AFR before submitting it can be very helpful.

AFR deadlines for AY2019-20:

  • Faculty submit completed AFR in APWS by October 15, 2020.
  • Department head/chair uploads job descriptions for NTT faculty only by October 30, 2020.
  • DPC adds its review to each AFR and advances all AFRs to the department chair/head by December 17, 2020.
  • Chair/head completes reviews of all AFRs in APWS by January 15, 2021.
  • Faculty member responds to DPC and chair/head reviews or releases the AFR without response by January 25, 2021.
  • Dean advances to Provost by February 24, 2021.

The AFRs must be completed in the Academic Personnel Workflow System using the online form under the “Create New Submission” tab. You may begin work on it at any time. You can save drafts and electronically “share” your draft with others before finally submitting the form.

Questions can be directed to the Provost’s Academic Personnel team at

Fifteen-Minute Break Time Between Classes To Be Safely Reinstituted - July 1, 2020

July 1, 2020

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

University of Massachusetts Amherst

Revised Academic Calendar for Fall 2020 - June 17, 2020

June 17, 2020

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


We are pleased to be moving ahead with this vital aspect of fall planning, and we look forward to reopening campus for you in August.

A Message from the Provost about Fall 2020 Reopening - June 29, 2020

June 29, 2020

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


The PDF of the Provost's letter can be found below. 

Attached Files

A Message from the Provost about Fall Reopening Plan.pdf

A Message to Graduate Students from John McCarthy, Provost and Senior Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs - May 8, 2020

May 8, 2020

To:       Graduate Students

CC:      Faculty

From:  John McCarthy, Provost & Senior Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs

Date:   May 8, 2020

Graduate education is central to our mission as a public research university, and our commitment to providing our graduate students with excellent educational and research opportunities remains unchanged despite the significant challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic has unleashed not only a public health crisis but also an economic crisis that has severely affected our university and all of Massachusetts. Our campus incurred an over $40 million deficit generated by the closure of campus facilities and resulting reimbursements to students. Going forward, we will have to exercise great financial discipline as we plan for the future during these uncertain times.

During this period of unprecedented disruption, we firmly believe that the university should play a leading role in helping our graduate students navigate this uncertain terrain so that they may continue their education in the months and years ahead. We realize that the public health crisis has caused immediate and real challenges for our graduate students, and we are working to support students in need. A first step was the distribution of support to graduate students who lost hourly jobs in dining and elsewhere after spring break. Now, to help graduate students stay on track with their academic progress toward degree completion, we have pooled institutional and Federal monies to create a graduate student financial aid fund of $1 million. This fund is an additional supplement to the regular financial aid process and other relief programs already available to students, as well as the assistantships awarded to graduate students. Awards of financial support through this fund will be based on demonstrated need. The application process will be announced next week.

By combining institutional and Federal funds, the university’s graduate student financial aid fund will provide relief to both our domestic and our international graduate students. The latter comprise nearly 40% of the graduate student population. Additionally, the International Programs Office (IPO) advising staff continues to be accessible via email and Zoom for individual advising and immigration needs. The IPO also continues to partner closely with the Student Legal Services Office in instances when international students need legal counsel on matters that are outside of IPO’s regulatory and legal purview. Students are encouraged to contact IPO or Student Legal Services for further information and assistance.

Many graduate students have been able to continue with their coursework and research during this period of remote instruction. We recognize, however, that there are many students whose research has been disrupted by the closure of campus facilities or an inability to access research sites elsewhere. The Provost, Vice Chancellor for Research and Engagement, and the Deans will continue to work closely with our faculty to assess students’ academic and research progress and develop appropriate contingency plans as needed. Given the variation among our 48 doctoral and 78 Master’s degree programs, this planning is best managed within the programs and colleges to ensure that students receive the instruction, mentoring, and professional development best suited to their fields of study. We are pleased to see that programs and faculty across campus are continuing to hire graduate student research assistants, teaching assistants, and instructors for this summer and the upcoming academic year. To date, nearly 800 graduate students have been hired for summer assistantships (with more appointments in process), confirming graduate students’ ongoing participation in the life of the university. In advance of the contractual April 15 deadline, I authorized the colleges to proceed with Fall reappointments of TAs and TOs. I have also exempted all students, graduate and undergraduate, from the hiring freeze in Academic Affairs.

The campus remains committed to moving forward with the construction of modern and reliable residential facilities for graduate students and their families. The Residential Life staff have been working closely with North Village and Lincoln residents and local landlords since fall of 2019 to assist in the transition to alternative, off-campus housing. These staff have provided flexible move-out schedules to conform with applicable state guidance and individual needs. Residential Life staff will continue to communicate with students about their plans in the upcoming weeks and months.

Additionally, the Student Affairs and Campus Life unit has developed an extensive list of resources and support services that are always available to graduate students. Graduate students can find information about how to access both university and community-based resources on the Single Stop Resources webpage. The offices of our legislative delegation are also prepared to offer assistance: Senator Jo Comerford and Representative Mindy Domb. Working with state government, we are investigating whether graduate students who lost jobs are eligible for unemployment payments.

In order to fulfill the university’s mission of advancing education and research, campus leaders are engaged in extensive planning for the fall semester and are exploring ways to ensure that students can continue their studies. As the Chancellor shared with our campus community last month, he has convened an administrative working group, which I chair. He has also organized six committees to gather information and provide feedback to the working group. Graduate students, including representatives from the Graduate Student Senate, sit on committees where their insights and perspectives will be most important as we work to develop plans for the fall semester. Informed by this process, a decision regarding the fall semester, whether the campus operates remotely, in-person, or in some combination, will be made by early July.

We do not know when the pandemic will end, and while our planning for the fall will depend on the progression of the pandemic – and the attendant restrictions on travel, size of gatherings, and general threat to health and safety of individuals and the community – we are engaged in extensive planning for every possible scenario, and will communicate decisions as soon as they are made so our graduate students can also plan accordingly.


A Message to the Faculty from the Provost - March 19, 2020

March 19, 2020

Dear Colleagues,

I am immensely grateful to all of you for your resilience and willingness to assume the extraordinary tasks of moving all instruction, service, and, where possible, scholarly activities to remote and online platforms for the duration of this health crisis. Just one of these efforts under normal circumstances would be arduous, and you are engaged on every front. I recognize your exceptional contributions and I thank you.

We have been discussing with our colleagues in the MSP leadership the anxieties that many faculty and librarians share about how their work during this semester will be evaluated. I agree that you have enough challenges serving our students without this additional burden, so I want to set your mind at ease. All of these special conditions have been discussed with the MSP – and often suggested by them -- and final language will be developed in consultation with them.

Changes in Timing of Decisions on Tenure, Reappointment, and Continuing Appointment

Given the monumental tasks we face this spring semester, it is unreasonable to expect that normal progress can be made in all areas of faculty activity: research, teaching, and service. The cancellation of conferences and research travel, reduced access to labs, the suspension of human-subjects research, and other factors compound the dampening effects of reduced time faculty have available for research/scholarly activity. Even high achievers, such as our UMass Amherst faculty, have limits, as they balance exceptional demands at work and home, particularly with schools closed. Because of this, and because current conditions may persist into the summer, I announce that all pre-tenure faculty members will be granted a one-year delay of their tenure decision, unless they affirmatively elect to be reviewed on schedule. In addition, upon the award of tenure and promotion, the promotion increment in salary will be retroactive to the semester when promotion would have occurred without this one-year delay. The same delay will apply to reviews for reappointment through the tenure decision year (“4.2 reviews”). Reviews for tenure, promotion, and reappointment that are already in progress will continue as scheduled, because they are based on work that was done prior to the current crisis.

Reviews of non-tenure-track faculty and librarians for continuing appointment will also be delayed by one year, if they so choose. The current semester will be credited as service for all other purposes including eligibility for continuous appointment and promotion in rank for non-tenure track faculty.

Guidance to Department Personnel Committees and Others

For all faculty and librarian reviews and personnel actions, in consultation with the MSP, I will issue guidance about the potential adverse effects of the Spring 2020 semester in each of the three areas of faculty responsibility. Moreover, this guidance will give weight to any special contributions made to advance teaching and learning during the COVID-19 health crisis, such as the leadership displayed by tech-savvy faculty who are helping their colleagues adapt to this mode of instruction. This guidance will be directed to personnel committees and other levels of review when assessing cases for promotion, tenure, or continuous appointment, AFRs or ARELs, merit, and any other academic personnel actions. We will also develop relevant language for letters soliciting external reviews.

Suspension of Spring 2020 SRTIs

The administration of the SRTI is suspended for the Spring 2020 semester. Despite the wonderful and creative work of faculty members preparing to transition their courses to remote instruction in various modes, and although there will be many students who will quickly and smoothly adapt to these new modalities, there is likely to be dissatisfaction among some students about the unusual situation in which we find ourselves. Faculty who wish to do an ad hoc evaluation for their own purposes can consult the Center for Teaching and Learning or the Office of Academic Planning and Assessment for assistance, but the results will be available to the faculty member only and no record will be kept. We will also enlist the help of the faculty in understanding how student learning and student success have fared in remote instruction.

Bear in mind that we have a variety of resources in place to help faculty members transition to remote instruction. Please see: provost/disruption-resilient-instruction. Faculty who seek individual help can reach out to:, where they can get support from IT, the Center for Teaching and Learning, and the University Without Walls Instructional Design Engagement and Support Group (IDEAS).

Pass/fail Grading

Grading policy is set by the Faculty Senate, not the administration. At times when the Senate is not meeting, the Senate Rules Committee has authority to act on behalf of the Senate, subject to review when the Senate later meets. My office is in discussions with the Rules Committee about various grading options to help meet the needs of students and faculty. Any policy change will be coming from the Senate office.

Childcare and Technology Support

Under the MSP contract, the University provides various funds to support the professional activities of faculty and librarians including technology replacement and childcare assistance. We will re-budget among these funds to areas of greatest need, such as childcare and technology support, and we will supplement these funds if re-budgeting proves insufficient to meet the need.

In conclusion, please care for your health and safety, and that of your loved ones. Know that your efforts to carry on with educating and serving students in this time of outbreak are powerfully visible and keenly appreciated. In good conscience, I encourage you to pace yourselves with respect to research and service. The time will come to rededicate your commitments in these areas when the current crisis resolves.

With gratitude for all that you do,


John McCarthy
Provost and Senior Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs
Distinguished Professor

Important: If you hear reports of possible exposure to coronavirus, contact the COVID-19 HR response team at 413-687-2283 or

URL: /coronavirus/news/if-you-hear-reports-possible-exposure-coronavirus-contact-covid-19-hr-response-team