Amherst College suspends classes and moves to remote learning

Decision made over concern of coronavirus, although not yet present at the campus

AMHERST—On Monday, March 9, Amherst College announced it will be moving students to remote learning due to COVID-19 (coronavirus), while Chancellor Kumble R. Subbaswammy is accessing the situation according to a campus-wide community email.

Sent to the University of Massachusetts students late Monday night, Subbasswammy said, “we are continually assessing the situation in terms of the best course of action for the unique needs of the University, and at this time, campus operations are ongoing without interruption.” 

Subbaswammy said that decisions like these are guided by, “campus emergency operations professionals,” who consult with multiple organizations such as the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, along with the university itself.   

He goes on to say, “Campus decisions related to this rapidly evolving situation are made in this context and may differ in some cases from those of other institutions, including Amherst College, which announced today that it will move to remote learning after spring break.”

The remote learning program for Amherst College will begin after spring break on Monday, March 23. Classes are canceled on Thursday and Friday, March 12 and 13 so that faculty have time to adjust their courses according to the press release. 

Students are expected to be off-campus by March 16. Students who wish to stay on campus can go through a petition process and must submit it by Wednesday, March 11 at 11:59 p.m. Only those who have, “successfully petitioned” are allowed to stay on campus.  

Even though students will be off-campus, the press release states that the campus will remain open for faculty and staff to continue their work and abide by the health standards set by the college from the CDC. 

As for the rest of the pioneer valley, other colleges in the five college consortium have made their own decision, but none to the level of Amherst College.

Smith College issued a press release on March 8, which prohibits all, “Smith-funded” international travel and asks students to follow the CDC’s travel advisories and, “ask all travelers to submit their itineraries to Smith’s travel registry,” said the press release.

In addition, Smith College also asks that events of 50 people or more be postponed or canceled. The press release recommends the events be continued via online alternatives.

According to the press release, Smith College will be meeting later this week, “to plan for a scenario in which all courses would move to alternate modes of instruction should COVID-19 affect our on-campus community directly.”

Similar to Smith College, Mount Holyoke College and Hampshire College have issued similar press releases. Mount Holyoke College will stop university-sponsored international travel and restrict domestic travel within a 100-mile radius, and cancel events of more than 50 people. 

Hampshire College has given students the opportunity to stay on-campus over spring break and will keep dining halls and health services open. UMass has also decided to keep residence halls and dining halls open over spring break by filling out the “Permission to Stay form.”

All five colleges have asked students to do a 14-day self-quarantine for those who do travel.

Chancellor Subbaswammy expressed his concern for students, saying, “The welfare of every member of our community remains our paramount priority, and we appreciate your ongoing cooperation. We will continue to keep the campus updated as this situation unfolds.”

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