The University of Massachusetts Amherst

COVID-19 Task Force Demands

AMHERST, MA. – The COVID-19 Student Task Force, formed by the SGA, has created a list of 30 demands sent to the Chancellor it expects the administration to meet regarding UMass Amherst’s transition to remote learning. These demands are intended to guide students through these difficult times both academically and financially. You may the demands and sign onto the petition for the administration to meet them at bit.ly/sga-demands.

The letter addressed to the Chancellor with the demands attached can be found here as a PDF.

The full text of the letter has been included below for reference.


March 18, 2020

Dear Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy:

It is critically important that the administration and the student body enter into this new online learning experience arm-in-arm with a clarity surrounding students’ academic and financial futures. As such, members of the Student Government Association, the RA/PM Union, the Center for Education Policy & Advocacy, and other concerned students in consultation with staff members and officers from the Graduate Student Senate have collectively worked to create a list of expectations for the administration to meet through this transition. This list is not all-inclusive: as the situation evolves more issues may arise. This document is a successor to the initial list of demands presented by the SGA taskforce when the shift to online learning was expected to last two weeks.

Working with representatives of the student body and faculty throughout this transition is not a request, but rather an obligation and expectation empowered by the Wellman Document. As such, we expect our bodies to have seats at the table when further discussions and negotiations take place surrounding this transition and its implementation. We also understand that many of these demands are financial in nature, and we are dedicated to supporting the administration in advocating to the state and federal governments that the University receives full compensation for meeting any such demands and obligations it may have difficulty financing alone.

Attached is the collective list of our current expectations established by our aforementioned partnership. The current list is organized by category and presented in no particular order, as each and every one of the following demands are critically important to members of the UMass community.

Sincerely,

COVID-19 Student Task Force

This task force was comprised of the following members:

Student Government Association
Timmy Sullivan, SGA, President
Hayden Latimer-Ireland, SGA, Vice President
Jacob Binnall, SGA, Student Trustee
Sonya Epstein, SGA, Secretary of University Policy and External Affairs
Michael Suchecki, SGA, Secretary of Public Relations and Marketing
Ilina Shah, SGA, Attorney General
Tamar Stollman, SGA, Chief of Staff
Julia Fox, SGA, Associate SpeakerIvory Moulton, SGA, Chair of the Outreach and Development Committee
Carla Montilla, SGA, Chair of the Social Justice and Empowerment Committee
Julia Carino, SGA, Chair of the Academic Oversight Committee
Adam Lechowicz, SGA, Vice Chair of the Undergraduate Services Committee
Andrew Jensen, SGA, Vice Chair of the Undergraduate Registry Oversight Committee
Brandon Barker, SGA, Senator
Kyle Kendall, SGA, Senator
Barkha Bhandari, SGA, Senator
Solomon Bennett, SGA, Senator
Alexandra Young, SGA, Senator
Lauryn Smith, SGA, Senator
Sean (Simon) Vo, SGA, Senator
Suthaney Sundar, SGA, Senator
Patrick Collins, SGA, Senator
Julia Curto, SGA, Senator
Evelyn Rodriguez, SGA, Senator
Hannah Lynch, SGA, Senator
W. Christopher Smith, SGA, Senator
Audrey Gabriel, SGA, Senator
Tim Scalona, SGA, Senator
Renos Zabounidis, SGA, Senator
Ryan Dunn, SGA, Senator
Kirsten Crowe, SGA, Special Assistant to the Social Justice and Empowerment Committee

RA/PM Union
Chels Trombly, SGA Senator, Co-Chair RA/PM Union
Natalie Luftman, Co-Chair, RA/PM Union
James Cordero, Interim Co-Chair, RA/PM Union
Saloonee Adhikari, RA/PM Union Organizer

Graduate Student Senate
Charles Hsueh, GSS, GSS Coordinator
Laura Hancock, GSS, Treasurer

Additional Supporters*
Nathalie Amazan, Campus Advocacy Orgs; SLSO, Intern
Isabelle Marseille, Class of 2020, Undergraduate Student
*a petition to have the demands met by the administration topped over 2,000 student signatures within the first 48 hours.

 

 

Demands Made on Behalf of Student Body Concerning COVID-19

  1. Account Adjustments:
    • Students who do not remain on-campus shall receive an account adjustment for the cost of their housing and associated fees for the remainder of the semester.
    • Students who do not remain on-campus shall receive an account adjustment for their dining and associated fees for the remainder of the semester.
    • All Students shall be compensated for any consequential difference in tuition and fees pursuant to the transition from in-person to online classes and campus operations for the remainder of the semester.
    • Students who have chosen to study abroad in the Spring of 2020 shall be reimbursed for all expenses, including return travel costs and program expenses.
      • Should Summer 2020 Study Abroad Programs be canceled, any student who has already paid fees for the canceled program shall be reimbursed for said fees.
    • All students’ parking citation balances shall be zeroed in order to ease financial difficulties surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic.
    • All UMass students with campus parking passes shall be reimbursed for the proportion of the semester cost remaining, as most students will not be eligible to use the passes on campus due to the transition to remote learning.
  2. Housing:
    • Any student who must stay on campus due to personal circumstances shall be allowed to remain without having to present a reason or documentation, given the plethora of possible extenuating circumstances and the difficulty of producing documentation for certain circumstances.
    • University Administration shall advocate to landlords to have flexibility for student tenants during this pandemic (e.g. changing to payment plans for rent).
    • University Administration shall publicly support HD.4935, “An Act Providing for a Moratorium on Evictions and Foreclosures During the COVID19 Emergency,” as a means of protecting students from the cruelty of evictions during this pandemic.
  3. Academic Affairs:
    • In accordance with Professional Staff Union’s (PSU) request, there should be no classes for the week following Spring Break, following the lead of many other universities and colleges, in order to allow more time for faculty and support staff to move course content online; this will also ensure that students are better able to take these courses in an alternate format.
    • All attendance requirements shall be called off for every class for the remainder of the semester; lectures shall be recorded so that students who may be unable to remotely attend do not miss class material.
    • The Registrar shall allow students to withdraw from courses without receiving a “W” on their transcript; additionally, the withdrawal date shall be extended to Friday, April 10th, to allow students an adequate decision period about whether or not a course works remotely.
    • For laboratory, studio, and capstone courses (including, but not limited to, Music, Dance, Theatre) the Registrar shall allow extensive flexibility regarding incompletes and withdrawals, pursuant to the fact that these courses do not translate easily to remote learning models.
    • All courses shall be made available to be taken as incompletes that may be completed any semester prior to graduating to ease the transition to remote learning.
      • Any course taken as an incomplete can be transitioned to the equivalent letter grade earned should the incomplete not be finished prior to graduating (i.e. how students can decide to make a course taken pass/fail count as a letter grade after the fact).
    • All courses this semester shall be made available to be taken as Pass/Fail to ease the transition to remote learning. This proposal has already been adopted by other Universities and has been advocated for by many UMass Amherst faculty members within and beyond its faculty senate.
      • Even if taken P/F, courses shall count as fulfilling the major requirement so long as no minimum course grade is required to enroll in sequential courses.
    • For students who chose to study abroad Spring 2020 in order to fulfill a major requirement, that requirement shall be considered fulfilled or they may choose to participate in another study abroad program in a later semester.
    • If there is no way to take a course that was being taken abroad online through UMass, the associated course and credits shall be considered complete and earned.
    • Students who are on track to graduate in May 2020 upon successful completion of their courses shall be guaranteed their diplomas. This shall occur even if their graduation requirements are disrupted by matters related to the transition to remote learning.
  4. Labor:
    • Every student employee shall continue to be paid as normal for their position, regardless of whether they remain on campus or are able to complete their work.
      • Should the University fail to provide people their expected pay, we will see an increase in food and housing insecurity among student populations. As a measure of public health, then, the University must commit to compensating all student employees for the remainder of the semester.
    • All campus employees shall continue to be paid as normal, regardless of whether they continue their work or have been laid off for the semester.
      • Once more, as a matter of public health, the University has a financial responsibility to ensure its employees do not experience food and/or housing insecurity in the midst of a pandemic.
    • All employees who remain working on campus shall be assigned workloads that take into account their health, safety, and wellbeing during this pandemic. Employees shall have the right to refuse work if it threatens their health, safety, or wellbeing.
    • All campus employees who will be working remotely shall receive information on any position description adjustments and remote work expectations as soon as possible or be given a timeline on when to expect the aforementioned information.
    • Student businesses, which will not be functioning for the rest of the semester and therefore cannot make profit, must be subsidized by the university to ensure their long-term sustainability and individual employees’ incomes.
  5. Further Support:
    • Students in need of financial assistance to afford their return to or travel back from campus in response to the pandemic and the University’s transition to remote learning shall be granted aid to cover the expenses, regardless of where they may be returning to or from.
    • Should the libraries not be regularly operational for the remainder of the semester, accommodations shall be made to allow student access to the libraries’ archives, materials, equipment, and services not available remotely. This is critical for thesis, dissertation, and research work that is often time-sensitive.
    • Accommodations shall be made to students in need of accessing the resources in the Assistive Technology Center at the W. E. B. DuBois Library to ensure all students are able to succeed given the campus response to the pandemic.
    • Students shall be updated weekly by email regarding the status of campus operations. Students shall be kept in the know to a significantly higher degree than they have been. Even if decisions have yet to be made, there shall be regular, comprehensive updates on everything linked to the University response to the coronavirus pandemic.
    • The Center for Counseling and Psychological Health shall remain open and accessible at no cost for the remainder of the semester by phone for students given the impact this transition may have on students’ mental health.
    • University Health Services shall investigate the efficacy of offering Telehealth Medical Service options for those reliant on medical assistance from UHS who are unable to continue utilizing these services in-person.
    • At whatever point an in-person Commencement for the Class of 2020 can be safely held, in accordance with CDC guidelines, it must be, and any financial support to facilitate the Ceremony shall be provided to students and their families.

For questions or additional information, please contact us here.

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