Mount Holyoke College: Students can come back, but not all at once

  • Fernando Flores, an employee with the Hadley-based Mark’s Window Cleaning & Property Washing, washes windows at Pearsons Annex, a dorm on the Mount Holyoke College campus, Wednesday, July 1, 2020. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Fernando Flores, an employee with the Hadley-based Mark’s Window Cleaning & Property Washing, washes windows at Pearsons Annex, a dorm on the Mount Holyoke College campus, Wednesday, July 1, 2020. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Fernando Flores, an employee with the Hadley-based Mark’s Window Cleaning & Property Washing, washes windows at Pearsons Annex, a dorm on the Mount Holyoke College campus, Wednesday, July 1, 2020. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

Staff Writer
Published: 7/1/2020 2:48:07 PM

SOUTH HADLEY — Students at Mount Holyoke College will have the option to return to on-campus housing starting in the fall, though not all at once, as the college prepares to enact a mix of in-person and remote learning amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Under the plan, released Tuesday night, all students will have the opportunity to live on campus during the academic year, said college President Sonya Stephens, but not at the same time. Freshmen and sophomores may return to campus during the fall semester and complete the spring semester remotely, while juniors and seniors may complete the fall semester remotely and return to campus in the spring.

Many classes will be held remotely, Stephens said, and it is possible that some students who choose to live on campus will have all remote classes. 

“The plan for re-populating the Mount Holyoke campus is our plan, and takes account of the particularities of our location, residential campus, classrooms, student population, resources and conventions,” Stephens wrote in a letter to the college community. “This plan was, however, created in a pandemic and thus in a context of rapid change and continuing great uncertainty.”

As a result, Stephens noted, the plan is subject to state and federal public health guidelines, as well as general public health conditions, and may shift before or during the semester.

Students living on campus must agree to mandatory testing upon arrival, maintaining physical distancing standards, wearing masks or cloth face coverings when in contact with others outside of dorm rooms or private offices, daily self-screening for COVID-19 symptoms and following other health and safety guidelines.

“For this return to in-person college life to work at all, and for the sake of everyone’s health and safety, each of us on campus will have to take seriously the protocols and restrictions in place,” Stephens wrote. “Each of us will need to make informed decisions, put the interests and wellness of the whole community first and commit to care and caution.”

Students who cannot complete the semester remotely due to reasons such as their current location, travel and visa concerns, or health and safety issues, can apply for housing for both semesters. 

The college will provide students with a tuition credit of 4.5%, or $2,248, of the previously set 2020-2021 undergraduate tuition rate. All students will pay the same tuition rate regardless of whether they participate in remote or in-person learning, which Stephens attributed to tuition reflecting “the instruction, academic credit and other academic and non-academic services that are available to all enrolling students.”

For students eligible for financial aid, the minimum contribution has been reduced to $1,374, a 50% reduction, and students learning remotely who were awarded a work study will instead receive this funding as a grant.

Classes will begin on Aug. 24, and students will leave campus Nov. 25 to complete the semester remotely. Other area colleges, including the University of Massachusetts Amherst, Amherst College and Hampshire College, have made similar changes to their academic calendars.

As previously announced, the college will divide the semester into two seven-and-a-half week sessions, or modules, and students will take two courses per session with the option of a third, two-credit course or independent study.

Among other changes, the college will not participate in varsity athletics or club sports.

The college will hold short breaks during the modules, as well as a longer intermission in between them, but residential students must stay on campus during the breaks.

The college currently hopes to begin the spring semester in mid-January and finish in May, as during a typical year, but will not make any decisions until late November or early December.

Jacquelyn Voghel can be reached at jvoghel@gazettenet.com.

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