UMass, Hampshire College to require student vaccinations

  • University of Massachusetts Amherst campus GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 4/22/2021 8:50:51 PM

AMHERST — All students at the University of Massachusetts living and studying on campus in the fall semester will be required to receive full COVID-19 vaccinations.

UMass Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy, in a letter sent to the campus community Thursday, announced that the university is preparing for a return to normal campus operations on Sept. 1 that will include face-to-face instruction, full residence halls and traditional student events and activities.

“We will require all undergraduate and graduate students who wish to live or learn or conduct research on campus, or access campus resources, to be fully vaccinated prior to the beginning of the fall semester, on the basis of expected additional state, federal and legal guidance and vaccine availability, and subject to religious and disability accommodations pursuant to state and federal law,” Subbaswamy wrote. “Evidence to date concerning the present and expected approval status and effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccines supports the university’s position.”

Similarly, Hampshire College is requiring vaccinations of all students, though requests for exceptions for medical or religious reasons will be evaluated. President Ed Wingenbach said the mandate will create a campus environment similar to before the pandemic.

“We demonstrated a remarkable dedication to the health of everyone in our community this year by maintaining safe practices, even as it has grown tiring to do so, and I know we will continue to be guided by shared commitments to scientific evidence and care for one another,” Wingenbach said.

The decisions by UMass and Hampshire College come a day after Smith College became the first of the Five Colleges to announce such a mandate. Smith will begin providing students Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine doses Saturday and Sunday; Hampshire will have a vaccination clinic for students and staff Sunday.

Mount Holyoke College is expected to make an announcement about vaccinations Friday, according to a college spokeswoman. No announcement has yet been made by Amherst College.

Subbaswamy’s announcement is based on a report from the Fall Planning Group that developed a framework for the campus operational plan for the fall semester. That group included representatives from the Student Government Association, the Graduate Student Senate and the Faculty Senate.

Its report, covering aspects of public health, teaching and learning and student affairs and campus life, is online at

Faculty and staff who have been working remotely will be expected to transition back to on-campus work and will be strongly encouraged, though not required, to get vaccinated prior to the beginning of the fall semester.

In addition to the face-to-face classes and laboratories, all student support services, such as the Learning Resource Center, Registrar’s Office, International Programs Office and cultural centers, will be available in person.

At UMass, resumption of campus operations is being aided by funding from the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund, part of the federal government’s $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan. The university has lost $200 million in revenue since the pandemic began in March 2020 and faces a projected $9 million deficit for fiscal year 2021. The American Rescue Plan is allowing for the second consecutive year of an in-state tuition freeze, relaxation of the current hiring freeze for faculty and staff vacancies, and resumption of pre-pandemic levels of research activity through investments in faculty start-ups.

Subbaswamy’s letter also goes on to thank students, faculty and staff for their perseverance during the pandemic.

“It is because of you that we will emerge from this momentous crisis stronger and more resilient than ever,” he wrote.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at


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