UMass: Undergrads with housing can return to campus this fall 

  • The University of Massachusetts Amherst (UMass) campus COURTESY PHOTO

  • “As students evaluate how they wish to pursue their studies at UMass this fall, it is important to understand that life on campus during fall 2020 will not be anything resembling normal college life,” UMass Amherst Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy said in an announcement Monday.

Staff Writer
Published: 6/29/2020 2:07:36 PM

AMHERST — An uncapped number of students will be allowed to live on campus at the University of Massachusetts Amherst in the fall under strict public health guidelines, though the majority of classes will be taught remotely.

Under the university’s fall 2020 plan, any undergraduate students who already reserved housing can return to campus, university officials announced Monday. No students will be required to return.

“As students evaluate how they wish to pursue their studies at UMass this fall, it is important to understand that life on campus during fall 2020 will not be anything resembling normal college life,” UMass Amherst Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy said in the announcement.

Those who do choose to return to on-campus housing must agree to follow measures including physical distancing; daily self-screening and reporting of possible COVID-19 symptoms; testing on demand; no visitors allowed in residence halls; limiting social contacts; participating in contact tracing; and staying within the immediate campus area except for work, including internships, or emergencies.

Students must also prepare for the possibility that they will be sent home early again if COVID-19 cases increase locally, Subbaswamy said.

Courses involving labs and studio and performance spaces will be conducted on campus, according to the plan, and seniors will be prioritized for these classes so that they are not delayed in completing their degrees. Officials estimate that around one in seven students will have some face-to-face contact in their coursework.

The university considered feedback from some students stating that they wanted to return to the community regardless of whether residence halls were reopened, according to Subbaswamy.

All students must be tested before moving into campus housing or participating in any university program, and students who test positive must stay in university quarantine spaces or return home.

University officials collected feedback from 100 students, faculty and staff members and almost 10,000 community members, according to Subbaswamy.

At a virtual press conference Monday, university officials declined to say how many students they expect back on campus in the fall, with Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs and Campus Life Brandi Hephner LaBanc calling this still-evolving number “dynamic.”

Last year, over 14,000 students lived on campus.

The success of the plan is highly dependent on students’ adherence to the stipulated public health measures, Hephner LaBanc said, calling individual behavior “the biggest determinate in how successful we will be.”

The university will also abide by a previously announced plan to start and end classes early and eliminate three-day weekends due to holidays. Under this plan, classes will begin on Aug. 24 and conclude Nov. 20, and students will complete final exams at home.

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


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