Amherst College inviting all but sophomores back on campus for spring

  • Left, Jorge Rodas and Lucheyla Celestino, sophomores at Amherst College, talk last month about their experience living in the bubble the college has created to protect them from COVID. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 11/1/2020 7:54:08 PM

AMHERST — Amherst College will expand its on-campus student population for the spring semester, inviting about 1,200 students back.

The college will invite all seniors, juniors, freshmen and transfer students to campus in the spring. Most sophomores will study remotely unless they successfully petition for campus housing due to extenuating circumstances.

The college hosted about 970 students on campus in the fall, most of whom were freshmen or sophomores. According to its website, the college enrolls 1,849 students overall.

Returning students will need to adhere to most of the same guidelines that the college implemented for the fall semester. Amherst has taken a stricter approach to its COVID-19 protocols than other area colleges that brought students back to campus, creating a campus-centered “bubble” that students are not allowed to leave except for medical appointments, family emergencies, or other “exceptional circumstances” cleared with the Office of Student Affairs.

College officials decided to bring back additional students next semester “based on our experience this fall and the continued adherence to our COVID-19 safety protocols in our community,” Amherst President Biddy Martin wrote in a letter to the campus community.

Since August, the college has recorded five confirmed positive COVID-19 cases — three among students and two among staff, according to the college’s COVID-19 dashboard.

In addition to staying within the campus “bubble,” students are tested for the coronavirus three times per week, cannot host any off-campus visitors or large gatherings, and must wear masks except when in their rooms or eating, among other public health regulations.

The college will establish more gathering spaces in the spring than what it now has available as the coming winter weather limits outdoor activities, Martin wrote.

Students will not have a weeklong break in the spring, though the college is “exploring the idea of having a few days off over the course of the semester.”

Classes will be offered either all-remote or in-person at instructors’ discretion. A limited number of study abroad programs will be offered.

Repopulating the Five Colleges

In addition to Amherst College, other area colleges have also announced that they plan for more students to return to campus in the spring.

Last week, the University of Massachusetts announced that it will invite around 60% of its usual on-campus student population back for the spring semester after 1,100 students were allowed to return in the fall. Typically, around 14,000 students live on campus.

Mount Holyoke College also announced last week that after operating remote-only this semester, it will invite up to 60% of its students back to campus in the spring. The college enrolls 2,190 undergraduates.

At Hampshire College, all of its students were invited back for the fall semester, and 550 to 600 students returned to campus.

In a campus update earlier this month, Hampshire President Ed Wingenbach said the college will plan for a “robust spring semester,” including “compelling student life programs and activities” and “providing clarity about what portion of our courses will occur in person.”

Smith College, which operated remotely this fall, has yet to release plans for the spring semester. College officials intend to announce their plan shortly before the December break.

Jacquelyn Voghel can be reached at
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