Important Information for Faculty about Teaching and the Return to Campus

July 14, 2020

Dear Colleagues,

I hope this email finds you well.  I write to provide an update as we continue to prepare for the semester ahead.  Thank you for your flexibility and patience, as we navigate this unprecedented time together.

In recent weeks, it has become apparent that many Amherst students will be pursuing their studies remotely this fall—in numbers that are higher than we had hoped.  For students on campus, time spent learning from you in person will be an essential part of their educational experience, while opportunities to interact with faculty in small groups and individually will be tremendously important for all students.  It has become clear to me that teaching and supporting students who are taking a course in different modalities (in person or remotely) presents many challenges and will be demanding.  Below, I provide more context and details that will be helpful to you in the coming days and weeks.

Teaching in the Fall

June 11, 2020

Dear Colleagues,

Thank you again for the extraordinary work you did this past semester and for your willingness to work during the summer to enhance our remote learning options. To say you have risen to the challenge that this pandemic represents would be a vast understatement. 

Given the questions you raised at Tuesday’s faculty meeting about expectations for in-person teaching, we want to offer clarity in writing. The Broad Institute’s ability to provide adequate testing makes us more confident than we have been at any other point that we will be able to bring students to campus. We do not yet know how many, but everyone is working hard, with the best available guidance, to reach a decision. In addition to easily administered testing, contact tracing, classrooms set up for social distancing, the opportunity to teach out of doors, the wearing of masks, and students‘ commitment to these and other measures, we are doing everything possible to make the campus environment as safe as any can be.

Make-up Days, End-of-Semester Work, Exams

April 30, 2020

Dear Faculty, Staff, and Students,

With the end of classes nearing, and spring on its way, we write to announce the following make-up days to cover classes that were canceled during the spring semester, due to the preparation for the transition to remote learning:

  • On Monday, May 4, Thursday classes may be held at the regularly scheduled time.  These meetings will be held to make up for classes that were canceled on Thursday, March 12.
  • On Tuesday, May 5, Friday classes may be held at the regularly scheduled time.  These meetings will be held to make up for classes that were canceled on Friday, March 13.

First Confirmed Case of COVID-19 in Our Community

April 23, 2020

Dear Amherst Students, Staff, Faculty, and Families,

I’m writing to let you know that we have the first confirmed on-campus case of COVID-19. A custodial staff member received the news of the positive test results yesterday and is in isolation at home and doing well. I know you will join me in wishing this individual a complete and speedy recovery. The staff member’s last day on campus was April 18; at that time, they displayed no symptoms, wore a face mask while working, and did not engage with any students. 

Grading Policy This Semester

April 15, 2020

Dear Students and Faculty,

I hope this email finds you well.

We have heard from some faculty and students who feel strongly that the college should consider a shift to a mandatory pass/fail system for this semester.  The Committee of Six recognizes the compelling arguments both for and against taking this step, many of which center around justice and equity.  In response to ongoing conversation within the community about this topic, the committee wants to provide greater clarity about whether another change in our grading policy should be considered at this time.  I write now to inform you that the members have recommended that no further changes to the grading policy be made this semester and to explain the reasons for this decision.

Reflections on Learning, Distance, and Bias

April 3, 2020

Dear Amherst Faculty, Students, Staff, Alumni, and Families,

I am writing to provide you with some reflections at the end of our second week of remote learning. But, first, I want to extend my best wishes to each and every one of you. I hope that you and your loved ones are well and safe and that you are finding workable and even meaningful ways to spend this difficult period of social distancing.

Tomorrow's Transition to Remote Instruction/Note of Gratitude from Biddy and Catherine

March 22, 2020

Dear Faculty Colleagues,

With our campus now eerily quiet and members of the community scattered around the country and the globe, the impact of COVID-19 has hit home.  Nothing could have prepared us for how this reality would make us feel—even after weeks spent monitoring the trajectory of the virus, consulting with experts, weighing different courses of action, and making and implementing the plans that have brought us to this moment at the college.  We know that many of you, like both of us, are experiencing a range of emotions.  Unfortunately, fears about our health and that of loved ones, uncertainty, frustrations, and isolation are now part of our daily lives.

Teaching from Home

March 15, 2020

Dear Colleagues,

You will have seen the most recent message from Biddy in which she writes that we all must work from home. For many of you, and especially for those of you who have poor internet service or small children at home, this will make an already challenging situation that much more challenging. 

Resources for Faculty: Teaching and Learning during COVID-19

March 7, 2020

Dear Faculty Colleagues,

An important part of planning surrounding COVID-19 is developing approaches that will allow us to continue to offer Amherst students the best possible educational experience, in the face of what could be significant challenges caused by the virus. I write now to encourage you to begin making plans for your courses, to let you know about technical training and support that is available to you, and to ask for your patience and understanding as we move ahead during this uncertain time.

IT Resources: Teaching and Learning During COVID-19

March 6, 2020

An important part of Amherst’s planning surrounding COVID-19 is developing strategies and providing technological tools that will allow faculty to continue to offer students the best possible educational experience, in the face of what could be significant challenges caused by the virus. Depending on circumstances, it may become necessary for courses to be taught online for some portion of the spring 2020 semester. Faculty are asked to begin preparing now for this possibility.

COVID-19 Update - Important: Travel

March 2, 2020

COVID-19 remains a serious and growing concern across the globe. With spring break approaching, many of you may be unsure about proceeding with your travel plans, whether personal or College-sponsored. We write with important, new information about all College-sponsored travel and with information and resources that may help you make your personal travel decisions.