Guest columnist Shannon D. Gurek: Mount Holyoke campus closed to public as students return

  • Mount Holyoke College officials remind residents that the college remains closed to the public with students having returned on Jan. 9. Gazette file photo

Published: 1/11/2021 3:36:07 PM
Modified: 1/11/2021 3:35:45 PM

As just under 800 students return to live and study on the Mount Holyoke College campus in January, we again ask our friends and neighbors for their help in making this important next step in our joint response to the pandemic as safe and successful as possible for the college and the community.

As an educational institution, Mount Holyoke has had a number of objectives in meeting the crisis. These include protecting the safety of our students, staff, faculty and the surrounding community and continuing to deliver on our educational mission and maintain our position as an important part of the Valley’s economic and cultural life.

That is why, beginning last Saturday, Jan. 9, we closed our campus to visitors until further notice. In turn, our students will participate in a campus quarantine until Feb. 1 and will not be permitted to travel outside of a 10-mile campus radius for the remainder of the semester. These steps are intended not only to do all in our power to protect members of the campus community, but to protect the surrounding community as well.

Recent spikes in the infection rate indicate that every reasonable measure must be taken to cut off opportunities for the virus to spread. While we have taken great pride for many decades in the openness of our campus to the community, we feel that taking the step of closing the campus now will hasten the time when normalcy, or maybe a “new normal,” can return. We expect to reopen the out-of-doors portion of the campus to the public sometime in the spring.

It is only through working together as partners throughout western Massachusetts that we will return, at the earliest possible date, to a resumption of lives that we perhaps too often took for granted in the pre-COVID era. While there have been setbacks in the commonwealth’s success rate in recent weeks, it is our expectation that our collaborative approach will win out over time. We are honored to face this crisis side-by-side with our friends and neighbors throughout the region.

Shannon D. Gurek, of South Hadley, is vice president for finance and administration and treasurer of Mount Holyoke College. Marcella Runell Hall, of South Hadley, is vice president for student life and dean of students of Mount Holyoke College.

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