UMass details proposed changes for fall reopening 

  • UMass Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 6/9/2020 4:24:42 PM

AMHERST — As University of Massachusetts Amherst officials formulate plans for starting a new academic semester amid the pandemic, a newly released report outlines preliminary changes to the university’s academic calendar, facilities, capacity and student life in the fall.

“It is clear … the campus cannot operate at full residential capacity due to health and safety concerns,” UMass Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy wrote in university’s Fall 2020 planning report, which was released on Monday.

Among the outlined changes, which were created by six administrative working groups, the university anticipates adjustments to the academic calendar such as starting the year one to two weeks earlier than usual, canceling some breaks and sending students home by Nov. 20 to finish the semester remotely, Subbawamy wrote. Nonessential travel and visitors also will be restricted.

The plan involves reconfiguring residence halls, instructional spaces, research spaces, dining areas and foot traffic pathways to better meet social distancing guidelines. Overall, Subbaswamy wrote, “the number of students we can have on campus is capped not by our campus capacity, but limited by social distancing norms,” particularly staying 6 feet apart. High-risk students, faculty and staff are advised to avoid campus.

Under the tentative plans, most dorm rooms will be single-occupancy, and there will be no triple-occupancy rooms. Double-occupancy rooms may be considered for “those who are known to each other and are willing to actively mitigate the potential additional risk of exposure,” according to Subbaswamy.

The university will also make “every effort” to provide remote learning for international students and students at high risk for severe COVID-19 infection who cannot make it to campus, he noted.

“Fall 2020 will require all of us to assume individual and collective responsibility for the common good,” Subbaswamy wrote. “Committing to the expectations and responsibilities of following public health guidelines will be a teachable moment and a requirement for students to be on campus.

“To that end, our faculty and staff must lead by example. Extensive and repeated education, communication, and enforcement steps will be put in place to ensure that all of us assume responsibility for maintaining our own health and that of the community,” he continued. 

Subbaswamy also reminded students that the student code of conduct designates “endangering the safety of persons (self or others) or property” as an offense “and will be strictly enforced.”

The university expects to return to normal operations for the spring 2021 semester, Subbaswamy wrote.

UMass will release its finalized plan for the fall semester by June 30. Those who wish to give input on the plans can send an email to fallplanning@umass.edu by June 12.

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


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