Announcing Amherst’s Plan for Fall 2020

July 1, 2020

Dear Students, Families, Faculty, and Staff,

I am writing today to share our plans for the fall semester. First, I want to thank the many students who responded to our two recent surveys. Your responses revealed just how much you miss being on campus with one another and with the faculty and staff who teach and support you. I would also like to thank the student advisory group; they reinforced this sentiment and have been valuable thought partners, pointing out key issues and contributing great ideas for the fall. 

Letter to Our Neighbors and Townspeople

August 11, 2020

Dear Neighbors of Amherst College,

As you may know, as of today, we will welcome approximately 975 students to campus for the fall semester. They will begin to move into their residence halls this weekend.

Statement on ICE Change Impacting International Students

July 7, 2020

Yesterday afternoon, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced changes to the Student and Exchange Visitor Program for non-immigrant students on F-1 and M-1 visas for academic and vocational study. The changes would force international students to leave the country or transfer to an institution offering in-person classes if their colleges and universities are offering classes entirely online during the fall semester. We are baffled by what we consider a terrible decision, and we condemn it. The announcement goes so far as to suggest that if institutions offering a mix of in-person and remote classes go completely remote during the semester, international students would then have to leave the United States.

April 24, 2020: Staying in Touch

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

This week the ravages of COVID-19 came closer to home. We learned of our first confirmed case on the campus when one of our custodians tested positive for the virus. As you may have read in an earlier message I sent, the staff member is at home and has been doing well. 

Also this week, a close friend and colleague lost her mother to COVID-19. Like so many others, she has had to forgo the in-person rituals that help us care for those we love and, when we suffer a loss, to grieve. Today I learned that yet another friend has symptoms that may well be early signs of COVID. She is not able to get tested and I have spent much of today feeling for her and also noticing my own pent-up anger about the lack of adequate testing, not only here, but across the country. I think of the lives that could have been saved—and still could be—with widely available, reliable testing, how much less suffering there could have been among physicians, nurses, and other essential staff.

June 13, 2020: Staying in Touch

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

You may have noticed that I’ve fallen off the weekly schedule with these messages, now that much of the country is beginning to open up. I will continue to stay in touch, on a looser schedule, and will provide updates as we reach decisions about how the fall semester will look. I thank all of you who have replied to these messages over the weeks, sharing your stories, reflections, criticism, news, and words of support. Although I have not been able to reply to each of you individually, I have appreciated your messages and been moved by what you have shared. It says a lot about our community that you have been so forthcoming and have stayed in touch yourselves.

May 23, 2020: Staying in Touch

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

Usually at this time of year and this time of day, seniors and their families would have heard presentations by honorary degree recipients and some would be gathered on the lawn at the president’s house or attending department events to celebrate their majors. All of us would be looking forward to tomorrow’s glorious Commencement ceremony. We have just finished a Zoom Board of Trustees meeting, the May meeting that usually begins a weekend of festivities in honor of our seniors and the families of the soon-to-be-graduates. I am thinking of our seniors and their families. I look forward to next Sunday when we will honor graduates with a virtual event that will include the conferring of degrees. Next spring we’ll host the class of 2020 for a celebration like no other. Thanks to all the many alumni and families who have contributed and continue to give to the COVID-19 fund that will, among many other things, help make it possible for the class of 2020 to return.

May 16, 2020: Staying in Touch

Dear Members of the Amherst Community, 

My short Friday notes are turning into Saturday missives.

The spring semester is coming to an end. We continue to work hard on planning for at least three different scenarios for fall, each with variations, and doing everything we can to prepare for each eventuality. But the purpose of my weekly notes is not to provide updates on fall planning. You will receive an update in the next couple of weeks—though, as you know, there will be no decision until the end of June.

May 1, 2020: Staying in Touch

View from Memorial Hill

May 1, 2020

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

When Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz ’64, H’74, was asked during our first COVID Conversation webcast on Tuesday what he missed most about Amherst, he first recalled a world history course that focused on what the course called “encounters,” an early version, he noted, of what we now call globalization. “So when I started to write about globalization,” he said, “I reflected a lot on what I'd learned in my Amherst class, as a freshman and sophomore, about encounters, about globalization over time. And it really did shape my mind in a very important way.”

April 17, 2020: Staying in Touch

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

Thank you for your warm responses to last week’s note. The gratitude you expressed to and for our staff and our frontline workers was remarkable. One alumna has offered to host any Amherst College staff members who find themselves in Poland once we are able to travel again. Another has volunteered to help with the “cheering up” efforts on campus by joining Val staff in writing encouraging notes to students. 

April 10, 2020: Staying in Touch

Members of the Amherst Community,

This is a brief message. I know you are unaccustomed to brief messages from me, but I am going to practice brevity in my effort to stay in touch with you. Every Friday, you will receive a short note for the purpose of staying in touch and sharing thoughts in the hope you might share some of yours.

Today I want to acknowledge the work of our frontline staff in dining, custodial services, facilities, student affairs, public safety, and in other domains. I learned this past week that a staff member in Val has gone to the trouble of learning the name of every student still on campus, all 179 of them, so she can greet them personally when they pick up their food. I’m told that students’ faces light up in response to her personal greetings and care.