UMass Amherst Reverses Decision on Housing For Students

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AMHERST – The University of Massachusetts Amherst Chancellor Kumble R. Subbaswamy announced tonight, August 6, that the “worsening conditions of the COVID-19 pandemic nationally have led us to make the difficult decision to significantly reduce our campus population for the fall.”

Students were scheduled to start classes August 24.

UMass Amherst, the flagship University in the state has more than 30,000 students. About one out of every four are from out of state.

“While we remain committed to our previously announced instructional plan, regrettably, we are reversing our previously announced offer to provide on-campus housing for students whose coursework is entirely remote. Only students who are enrolled in essential face-to-face classes, including laboratory, studio and capstone courses, which have been designated in SPIRE, will be accommodated in campus residence halls and be granted access to campus facilities and dining this fall. All other students, whose courses do not require a physical presence on campus, should plan to engage in their studies remotely, from home,” wrote the Chancellor to students and parents tonight.

“In the interest of public health,we also strongly urge our off-campus students whose coursework is remote to refrain from returning to the Amherst area for the fall semester, for they, too, will not have campus facilities at their disposal. Research laboratories, many of which resumed operation in the spring, will remain open.We recognize there are some students who are dependent on campus housing and dining, and others, including some international students with specific visa requirements and students in healthcare fields, who will need to reside on campus. These situations will be handled on a case-by case basis, and in most instances will be accommodated,” wrote the Chancellor.

Originally, UMass Amherst had planned to 7,000 students in campus dormitories and another 8,000 living off-campus.

Now only about 2,000 students are expected to be on campus, according to students.

“I realize that today’s announcement will cause disruption for many of you and is a major departure from the plan we released in June. Our intention at that time, with our plans to conduct most classes remotely while inviting all students back to campus, was to strike a balance between the immersive residential experience so important to our students’ development and the health and safety of the entire community in the Amherst area,’ wrote the Chancellor.

“Unfortunately, despite our best efforts and detailed planning, the proliferation of the pandemic has left us with no choice but to pursue this more stringent approach.Quite simply, when we make a clear-eyed assessment of the public health data and comparable reopening attempts that are playing out across the country, we feel that we have no choice but to make the difficult decision to enact these changes to our fall plan. Our deliberations were also informed by the health and safety concerns expressed by our faculty and staff and by the citizens and leadership in our host community, Amherst,” wrote the Chancellor tonight around 8 p.m.

“In addition, we determined that the risk of a mid-semester closing of the campus is real, and that making the decision not to bring students back to campus is preferable to sending everyone home in the event of an uncontrolled outbreak. We will make every effort to address your concerns and questions as they arise and to update you regularly as the semester approaches,” wrote the Chancellor.

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