President Biddy Martin and Chief Advancement Officer Betsy Cannon-Smith ’84 are joined by members of the President’s senior staff and other College administrators to take questions about the Fall Plan.
President Biddy Martin and Chief Advancement Officer Betsy Cannon-Smith ’84 are joined by members of the President’s senior staff and other College administrators to take questions about the Fall Plan.
Questions from the Class of 2024, transfer students, and their families.
Betsy Cannon Smith (00:00:01):
Good evening, class of 2024, new transfer students and families. It is an honor to welcome you to the Amherst College family. I'm Betsy Cannon Smith, class of 1984 and Chief Advancement Officer here at the College. Thank you for responding so enthusiastically to our invitation to come together tonight. We have more than 600 students and their family members from all over the world with us. Your first weeks at Amherst will certainly provide an experience that will be memorable and your class will forever mark as an important time at Amherst history. A few details. The audio of all participants will remain muted during the call, and this event will be recorded. We'll open with remarks by our President, and our senior leadership team will join the President in answering your questions. You should have received a detailed letter about the plans for the fall, including a link to some frequently asked questions late this afternoon,
(00:00:59): The same as now posted on the college's website. Many of the questions you asked are addressed directly in that communication. So tonight we will focus on some of the most frequently asked questions. For questions specific to your family, don't hesitate to call the phone bank tomorrow described in this evening's email, or email us at covid 19 info at amherst dot edu. If you wish to ask a question during this conversation, click on the Q and A feature and enter your question. I'll turn this over now to our President with thanks for the extraordinary leadership she is providing for our entire Amherst community. We'll look on this time as one without comparison in the years to come and no doubt with deep appreciation for the wisdom, forthrightness and determination, the 19th president of Amherst College, Biddy Martin. Biddy, over to you.
Biddy Martin (00:01:55):
Thank you, Betsy. Welcome to everyone. Welcome class of 2024 and your families. It's actually wonderful to be able to welcome you. And we do so warmly. I'm going to begin as one should never begin or never have to begin, and that's with an apology that you got our communication
(00:02:15): and the frequently asked question document so late in the day. So many of you will not have had an opportunity to read it. Some of you may have scanned it, but not have had time to go through all the questions. So as Betsy said, we're gonna go through the most frequently asked questions tonight and give you another shot. I'll just highlight two things that I think are absolutely crucial. One is my absolute confidence in the choice you've made and the choice we've made. You will be offered an extraordinary education by the faculty of this college when you arrive on campus and/or if you decide to study remotely. I wrote in the letter that I am inspired by the fact that over 90% of our faculty are taking time away from their research this summer to work on novel ways of using online tools to improve their teaching across all platforms.
(00:03:27): It's something I deeply respect about the Amherst faculty. Their fantastic research and their extraordinary dedication to teaching. That I'm confident about. And I'm also confident that we're doing everything we can possibly do to ensure that the campus is ready to have students here, around 1200 total. And certainly the class of 2024. We're doing everything we can to ensure that we can mitigate the spread of COVID-19. In the letter, I mentioned that our strategies for mitigating risk are not surprising. You will have heard them everywhere, but they are essential. And all of them are going to test us. They're going to test our capacity and our willingness to act in concert with each other to take care of ourselves, but not only ourselves, to develop a sense of community and awareness of the importance of caring for others. The key parts of our strategy are face coverings or masking, physical distance of at least six feet in public settings, contact tracing
(00:04:58): Should we find a positive case. The utmost in hygiene, especially hand-washing, and you'll be provided lots of opportunities across the campus for hand sanitizing and hand-washing, and then rigorous cleaning and disinfection of the spaces that we'll be using, especially those in the residence halls and the classrooms. Finally, frequent testing. We have arranged with the BroadeInstitute of MIT and Harvard to have frequent testing of everyone who will be on our campus. So students, staff, and faculty students will be tested on arrival. And then three to five days later as the incubation periodlengthens, we'll have a second test with a quarantine between those two tests. With a negative test on the second test, students will be free to move about. We will test students twice a week for the rest of the semester.
(00:06:10): We are fortunate to be able to have such frequent testing. It's part of the good fortune at this point of living in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts with the Broad Institute as a source for what we are confident will be reliable and highly sensitive tests. Those are my opening remarks to summarize some of the key points in our letter. Let me reiterate that we are all so eager to have you as students, whether you come to campus or you learn remotely or decide to take a gap year. Whatever you decide to do is completely understandable in this environment. Obviously, we hope you'll be here and we can get to know you in person, but we will get to know you and you will have faculty and staff and student contact wherever you are. This community is a very special one. You'll be learning with students as talented and as avid in their approach to learning as you are.
(00:07:24): And there is really nothing more exciting than being among your peers when those peers are as interesting and as talented as Amherst students are. We will, and I say this to students, but also families, we will take the very best care we possibly can of your students. And we look forward to meeting you as well. We'll be interacting for years, and that's a very good thing. So thank you very much for joining us tonight. We know you have a lot of questions, all of them important, and Betsy is going to pose the questions to the person on the senior team who has the best answers. Thank you, Betsy.
Betsy Cannon Smith (00:08:13):
Thank you. And you remind us why we're doing everything we're doing to take care of our students wherever they may be, and that is the academic core of this place. That's what we're all about. That is what we're working so hard to make [inaudible] central to you, to your experiences. And with that, I'd like to turn it over to our Provost and Dean of faculty, Catherine Epstein. And she will talk about a number of your questions,not limited to, but certainly some of the things we've heard most about, with questions on what will the remote classes be like? What will opportunities for in-class learning be?How are different kinds of classes affected, labs, art classes?
(00:08:56): Our first-year seminars are wonderful and those are great bonding experiences. And I'm sure Catherine will touch on that as well as the addition of our January term, which is something that your class will be the very first to experience. There has not been a January term with academic credit at Amherst in any of our memories. So, Catherine.
Catherine Epstein (00:09:21):
Hi everybody, I'm Catherine Epstein. I'm Provost and Dean of the faculty, and it's my job to make sure that you have the best academic experience at Amherst as possible. I want to echo what President Martin said. Our faculty are working really, really hard this summer in order to make sure that you can get the best possible experience in the fall and into next year. The faculty are learning all sorts of strategies to engage you best online. They're also working on teaching in a in-person classroom, but physically distanced.
(00:09:56): And so that's the challenge as well. They are very excited about working with you and they're going to do their absolute best to give you the Amherst education that you applied for and are now hopefully here to get. Let me answer some of your specific questions. What percentage of classes will be taught virtually? About a third of all classes will be taughtremotelyAll classes that are over 35 students, which is not all that many, it's about 30 classes per year. Those classes are all going to be remote. However, faculty members may well be on campus in order to do office hours with you, to do lab sections with you, to do small group work with you. So even if your class is stated to be taught remotely, there's a good chance that you will have in-person contact with some of your professors and instructional staff and others working on those courses.
(00:10:57): So the rest of the classes, about two-thirds of them, will be either in-person or also a mix of in-person and remote. You may have heard that we've rented 20 tents, and so some of your classes, particularly those first-year seminars, may well take place in tents, at least until well into October when, unfortunately, it'll get a little bit colder. So you can, that's a good that will be an unusual experience to have, but it should be quite fun to say the least. The other courses, again, some will be entirely in-person, but I expect that there will be a mix of the two. The Amherst school system, for example, is not going to be running fully, and as a result, many faculty members may sometimes have to be at home with their children.
(00:11:45): So you can imagine a variety of circumstances whereby faculty may sometimes be teaching in-person sometimes remotely. So we're expecting a good mix, but in all of these cases, the faculty are there to work with you closely and to engage in the close colloquia for which Amherst is really distinguished. So a couple of other things about classes. Some lab science classes will take place in our Science Center. For some of the introductory, classes, science classes, the labs will be online. Our science faculty are learning a lot about how to do that. In some cases, it's the labs are remote, you will be sent, or you will be given, kits in order to do whatever lab exercises are expected. Same thing with art classes, the supplies, if the class is going to be remote, you will be given the supplies necessary in order to do the art that you'd like to do. First-year seminars,
(00:12:46): some of them will be remote because some of our faculty are older, but they will be just as amazing as some of the other first-year seminars that that may be in person or in a mix. Students, I understand there's a question about or some questions about how many courses you should take next year. So a committee a faculty committee recommends that you take three classes to start and that you take a class during the January term, which will be a very intense four-week course that you will earn one full course credit. And then you take another three courses in the spring. However, if you are very eager to take a fourth class, either in the fall or the spring, you talk to your advisor about that and your advisor will make it possible for you to do so.
(00:13:37): Whatever it is that you feel comfortable with is what you should do. Keep in mind, Amherst is an open curriculum school, and we believe that you take ownership of your education. And in that process, you're going to figure out along with your advisor, what will be best for you. I really encourage you to take some of these January courses. For example, introductory psychology this year will only be offered during the January term. That's going to be a great class and there are many other great classes in the January term. I encourage you to, in your mind, be thinking about doing those January courses. The spring semester will start a little bit later than usual. I believe February 3rd. And the only difference with the spring semester is that unfortunately there will be no spring break, and that's because we don't want students to leave campus and then come back.
(00:14:29): When they leave, they might be potentially exposed to the virus, so that it's anticipated that there will not be any spring break. But otherwise, that semester will look just like all other spring semesters and we'll end at the same time and graduation, even though it won't be your graduation, will happen as usual. And finally, there was, among the questions that I see, there's a question about leave requests being extended. It is my understanding that you will be able to request to leave until January 10th and the admissions office will evaluate all requests for gap years. So why don't I stop there and turn this back to Betsy?
Betsy Cannon Smith (00:15:09):
Perfect. Catherine, thank you. That will lead us right over to an introduction of Matt McGann, who is our Dean of Admission and Financial Aid. We've had a number of questions about how financial aid packages will be impacted, what the choices are for students who are going to be remote and taking a little bit from what Catherine said, the fact that these are your choices as students to make, including being here with us at Amherst. So let me pass it over to Matt to talk a little bit about the two really important areas of the college that he oversees.
Matt McGann (00:15:48):
Good evening, everyone. It's good to see you. And I look forward to seeing you on campus. We'll talk about finances and gap year a little bit. Amherst, one of the core things about Amherst is that we always want to ensure that finances are not a barrier to a student's education, that we want to draw upon the resources that we have and the generosity of alums and of families that make our financial aid program the envy of every college in the country. What we're going to do this year is we're going to one, we're not going to at all move away from those core policies that made Amherst so famous for financial aid. So everything that you already know about Amherst's financial aid, we're not going to move back on that just because there's a financial crisis.
(00:16:47): In fact, we're going to go the other way. We're going to make it even stronger. For example, for all students on financial aid, we had already announced that we would waive the expectation or the typical commitment of a student of summer work earnings that would happen. And also we are now announcing that we will do the same with term time work. We're not going to prohibit you from working, but we don't want that to be something that you have to do. We know jobs will be limited, and we want you to be able to focus on your studies and your academic experience., All told this will have a positive financial impact for financial aid students of roughly $4,000 over the course of the year. We're very happy about being able to do that for all students.
Matt McGann (00:17:49):
Now, we know that some of you, whether by choice or being forced into the situation some international students, because of the state of the world and of immigration, we recognize you may not be able to get here. And you may start your Amherst career remotely. You'll have access to all of that incredible academics thatProvost Epstein just talked about. Also, we're going to continue to support all students there. So, for any student who chooses to study remote or is studying remote you won't pay room and board and you won't pay the student fees. And that's for a student who is paying the full cost of Amherst, that would be about $16,000 less over the course of a year. For students on financial aid, we're going to take consideration of your living expenses and provide you with an allowance against financial aid that will provide all students with a benefit. You'll pay less if you study remotely.
Matt McGann (00:19:04):
That's a little bit about the financial situation For a gap year, which is we have reopened that process if you go to your admission status portal. Now you have access to that form. We are glad to see your enthusiasm for coming to campus. We know in the recent survey, which asks the students and families to discuss, and then reply,en that 95% of first-year students said that if we offered the opportunity to enroll and be here on campus, that you would take that up. We're planning for that. We know that some students told us that they plan to learn remotely and are prepared for that as well. Our online offerings will be great. If any of you now have a compelling opportunity for the year that's more appealing than Amherst, we have reopened our deferral request form for gap years. It is available now on your admission status portal, you must fill out the form and also submit your personal development plan for the year to Dean of Admission, Kate Zolkos by July 10th for review by the admission committee, and we'll let students know if their request has been approved by July 15th. However you choose to join us and whenever you choose to join us, I'm really looking forward to having you as a part of our community.
Betsy Cannon Smith (00:20:27):
Thank you, Matt. Let me turn it over to Karu. Karu is our Chief Student Affairs Officer, and he and Liz Agosta, who are our Dean of Students, are best positioned to answer a number of questions that really have to do with student and residential life. Karu, could I ask you to just describe for people what the
Office of Student Affairs encompasses, the functions at the college, because it's quite extensive and hits on many of the topics families, asked about.
Karu Kozuma (00:20:58):
Thank you, Betsy. So good evening, everyone, good evening, new students and your families. I wish we were connecting in a different way, but I'm really excited to be able to start the connection now. I'm here to represent the Division of Student Affairs, and we are here to support students as they transition to Amherst, while they're here at Amherst, learning about who they are and who they're going to become, all the while supporting you while you're pursuing your academic interests and goals. We're comprised of many departments from student engagement and development departments to health and wellness departments and to academic advising. And it's really important to know that we're here to be able to support you, not only when you first arrive, but all the way when you're going to be graduating. And we're excited to be able to get to know you.
(00:21:39): A lot of questions I do get is who is student affairs? We're many people who are part of the division, who are committed to working with students directly. You will find people living in the residence halls from a residential life office. You'll find people who are going to be working with you in terms of your extracurricular interests, whether it's ones that you had where you were at high school or new ones that you want to explore. When you come to Amherst College, we have people in counseling center, health services, health education, all focused on your health and wellness. And especially during this year of COVID-19 and we are making the proper adjustments to make sure we can meet those challenges. So you're going to meet a lot of people over your time at Amherst, while you're at Amherst. And one of those people actually are critical to getting to know is the Dean of Students, Liz Agosto. And she's going to talk a little bit about life at Amherst College, and then things that you should be expecting.
Liz Agosto (00:22:32):
Hi, everybody as Karu said, my name is Lis Agosto, I'm the Dean of Students. I have had the pleasure of being in this role for just over a year now and what a strange year it's been. But I'm very excited to welcome you all to our community. I'm going to talk a little bit about the questions around move-in, orientation, and what it will be like to live on campus. As you know, we are working really hard to translate the excitement and experience that new students would have coming to Amherst and their families entering our new community, welcoming them. And usually, it's a giant festive affair. So we're thinking about how do we translate that energy into a space where we need to be physically distant from each other and we need to put limitations. So for orientation a good chunk of our orientation program will be moved virtually.
You should have already started to receive emails from Marie Lalor, who is the director of our new student program, and Dean Rick Lopez, who's the Dean for new students. They will be introducing you to all of the possibilities that are available for pre-class engagement getting to know your peers and the virtual pieces that we're putting together in what we call Moodle, which is an online learning environment that many of our courses use for information. I imagine most of them will be using them in some way or another as we move into the new hybrid learning model. We are planning an in-person piece of orientation. The dates of that have not been finalized yet, partly because we are continuing to respond and finalize move-in dates based on continuing evolving guidance around quarantine and testing.
(00:24:23): We will be communicating those dates by mid-July so that you have more information and can make plans. If you're choosing to come back to campus, the in-person portion may happen before classes begin. It may happen after classes begin but there will be opportunities coordinated and planned for new students to engage in small groups less than 10, with one another to continue to build relationships and to find ways to engage. Our goal as always is to make sure that you have the information that you need to access resources, to engage with your faculty, to select classes and to understand what it means to be a part of our community. And particularly in this moment of time where we are so reliant on one another, our interdependence is so important to make sure that we maintain a healthy and well community.
(00:25:17): So there'll be a lot of conversation of what is, what does that mean? What are health expectations and what is the role that you play in making sure that we are, we are the best community that we can be. I know that parents are particularly anxious to learn about moving. So we will be doing a staggered and scheduled move in. Again, the dates are not defined yet. We are finalizing those in the next weeks. You should expect that there will be limits to how many people can come to campus with the new student. There'll be financial limits on how much belongings you can bring. Remember that students will be moving out before Thanksgiving. And so we want people to be prepared and, you know, we want people to be prepared in case there is an unfortunate situation where we need to evacuate the campus sooner rather than later.
(00:26:10): We hope that all the measures that we're putting in place will prevent that. But we also want people to be planning for how they might need to leave should that happen. Students upon arrival will be expected to be tested. And then there will be a period of quarantine. Again, we are responding to the guidance from the state and other public health, health officials about how long that quarantine should be. We are anticipating as president Martin said the first test, and then within three to five days a second test, we hope that that will be the limits of the quarantine for students who test negative for both tests. But recognize that we may need quarantine units for up to 14 days. So we are finalizing that looking into that guidance and we'll plan to, to be sharing that information in more detail in the coming weeks in terms of life, in our residence halls.
(00:27:06): New students, every student on campus, will be living in a single room, and we have done that in order to reduce the density in our halls, so that students have their own space to both study if they are doing remote learning or have remote classes or other kinds of appointments that need to be done via Zoom or other virtual spaces, but also to reduce risk of transference of illness. It also reduces the number of students that are using each of our restrooms so that we can maintain a good standard of cleanliness and students can engage with one another in a thoughtful way. One of the questions I saw was about whether we expect first-years to pick their six people to live with. That part of the housing process is really the focus for our returning students.
(00:27:59): First years we assign in a random order in order for them to build relationships with one another. New students will be assigned to a hall. We will be sending out the housing preferences and all sorts of other information, adjusting for accommodations and other things like that. You will expect to hear from residential life very shortly in order to start making those assignments in the coming days. Our residential experience will naturally have to be different than it would normally be. Students would only have access to their residence hall. They will not be able to access other halls. There'll be no guests allowed on campus. We are asking students to not leave campus once they arrive on campus. Again, we are working very hard to build a bubble that allows our students to stay healthy and well, as well as protects the rest of our community, our staff faculty, and the larger Amherst community.
(00:29:00): There will be a lot of things that are different. That said all of our staff are working tirelessly to create opportunities for outdoor engagements, for clubs and organizations to continue to thrive connections to our Book and Plow farm. We live in a lovely, wonderful, beautiful place. And during the fall, we'll be able to explore that outside with one another and really have opportunities to engage. It just will not be necessarily the way that we would normally do it. We're excited to welcome you and to continue to share information. You will hear from me, new students, pretty regularly in the coming days with a lot
(00:29:42): More information about what you can expect, a lot more details about what life will look like on campus, what the expectations are, et cetera. And I'm always happy to answer questions. Thank you. And I can't wait to meet you all.
Betsy Cannon Smith (00:29:56):
Thank you, Liz. You talked about some of the new things that we're putting in place on campus to try to find new ways to have fun together and do things. And with that question, I think I'd like to turn to Kevin Weinman, who is our Chief Financial Officer. He is the person who is impacted by every single one of these conversations and decisions, making sure that the college is able to meet its commitment to you, our new students, and to help with your experiences. So, Kevin, would you share some of the many projects in which you've been involved toward that creating a new kind of experience on campus?
Kevin Weinman (00:30:33):
Sure. Happy to. Welcome, everyone. First, I want to put in a shameless plug to encourage as many of you as possible to look for ways to become involved in the financial and administrative life of the College. There's a lot of really exciting ways to do so. We have internships, for example, within our investment office, for those of you who are interested in becoming involved in how we invest our endowment. There are a number of ways that students can become involved in advisory work with our budget setting process really important voice for the students and how the college sets us budgets and spends its money. We've put students on search committees for key roles here at the College. There are any number of ways that students can become involved in how the College is run and I really encourage you to do so.
(00:31:18): I also love it when students drop into my office. They don't do so very frequently, but when they do, we have a lot of really terrific conversations about the finances of the College, what the endowment is what it means for Amherst and so forth. I encourage any of you when we're back on campus together to drop into my office, to send me an email. Anything that I can do to help you become involved in the life of the College would be something I would welcome. This upcoming year is not going to be normal in any way. We are investing heavily in a lot of different ways to make that student experience as good as possible, many of which have been mentioned already by others. As Catherine noted we've invested heavily in our online learning platforms.
(00:32:03): So you all certainly heard in the spring about how faculty and students had to quickly go home and classed moved to Zoom over just a period of a few days. We spent a lot of time preparing for a better online learning experience and investing very heavily in technology and training for faculty to teach effectively using these new tools, and this has been a terrific investment for us. We will invest in speaker series and other ways that even if we continue to be a remote environment next year that all students, whether they learn on campus or remotely, will have opportunities for these unique learning experiences. Amherst has attracted some really amazing speakers over the years, and there's no reason why we can't and won't continue to do so in a remote environment.
(00:32:49): And as Catherine already mentioned, the January term is something we're really excited about. It's an investment that we've made in providing this extra learning opportunity available for students at no cost to them. In addition, we're spending a lot of money on making campus safe for those students who want to and can come to campus. A very robust testing program where we will test students, faculty, and staff very frequently, contact tracing. We've brought in supplies, masks, thermometers, pulse oximeters. When you arrive on campus, you'll get a little bag that has a number of things that will help keep you safe, masks, and thermometers most importantly. Some work of the campus, even though the number of students that will be on campus will be less, will actually go up. We're going to need to invest very heavily in custodial services and support. Dining
(00:33:36): Will be very different next year, much more packaging and grab and go, which is very staff and labor-intensive. And so the budget will need to grow in a number of those places. Finally, Matt mentioned all of the enhancements that we're very excited about with respect to financial access and affordability and making sure we're very aware that students and families are experiencing challenges with respect to the virus and the economic challenges that it has brought. There were some questions that I saw that came in around if financial circumstances change because of the virus or as time goes by if the economy remains challenging and family circumstances change, absolutely. We will work with you to make sure that your financial aid packages reflect your family's situation. And so we look forward to working with you not only over this next year, but over your four years here at Amherst. So welcome. And I look forward to meeting as many of you who are interested.
Betsy Cannon Smith (00:34:31):
Thanks, Kevin. And Kevin reminds me that we too, in advancement, are really thrilled to have you here and hope that you'll take advantage of a lot of the opportunities that maybe not so many this year around [inaudible] with reunion and homecoming, but we hire many, many students throughout the year. And many of those jobs involve interacting with our alumni. I will tell you, there are 23,000 alumni out there who are really, really excited for you to begin your Amherst journey and four years from now to become one of them. They're the people who you will find over the course of your time at Amherst and well beyond who mentor you, who will help you with internships, who will give you leads on different jobs who will come to campus and engage with the Loeb Center and speak and just be very present as a part of the life of the College. So that's a group of people you haven't even met yet, but they're very excited you're here. Let me ask turn this back to the President for a moment.
(00:35:38): And we've had some questions about NESCAC, which is our athletic conference, many related to athletics, but our President, as you might imagine, has been involved in many conversations with presidents, certainly within the Five Colleges, but across New England, and in fact, across the country, as all of our colleges and universities have worked really hard and struggled too to make these decisions. So let me turn it back to our President.
Biddy Martin (00:36:07):
So NESCAC, there's a NESCAC meeting later this week, but the conference, as a group, has not yet made any statement about what will occur in the fall. The last statement that was made by the league basically indicated that colleges would do what is best for any individual college. We won't be competing, there won't be NESCAC competition this fall, but we will also welcome student-athletes to campus, who want to come for the academic experience, who want to train, who want to practice while observing physical distancing guidelines.
Biddy Martin (00:36:53):
And certainly, your coaches will be prepared to help you do that. We don't know about winter and spring sports. Of course, we're all hoping that that will be possible, that competition will be possible. There's even some hope among some in the league that we might have some fall sports in the spring, but that is looking less and less likely as a possibility. In any case, as somebody said a few minutes ago, there is plenty of opportunities here to be outside and also inside in the gyms, but outside and train and stay fit. It's a gorgeous, gorgeous place to be and we hope that our student-athletes will join us.
Betsy Cannon Smith (00:37:44):
Thank you. COVID-19 is not the only thing that has been framing our thinking in our experiences of these past weeks. And I would like to turn it over to my colleague Norm Jones, who's our Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer, to share with you some of the work that our College, our students, our faculty, our alumni, our staff the anti-racism work that's being done on at the College and some of the plans in store for you upon your arrival. Norm?
Norm Jones (00:38:14):
Thank you, Betsy. I just want to echo everyone's words of welcome. Certainly excited to meet all of you in one form or another. As Betsy mentioned it is certainly a bittersweet time when we think about what's going on in our nation and our world. And when we refer to anti-racism work, I think one of the important things to, to name is the importance of pausing to realize and acknowledge that there's certainly nothing new about the moment that we're in and to appreciate the labor that has gone into the work of anti-racism efforts both at the College and beyond the College for many, many years. We are certainly engaging with our students and alumni around the work of anti-racism, and I'm proud of the work that many of our alumni and students are doing in their respective communities to really plug in, civically, in smart ways to do what they can to move forward conversations around equity and inclusion in their respective areas.
(00:39:28): We are busy doing that work at the College as well. And we continue to build our resources around racial justice. For many of our community members, that is really about a lot of reading and conversation. For other community members, it's really more of a reflective process to think about one's own [inaudible] position to the conversations we're having right now. And so we're pausing to make sure that we're engaging with individuals to really find out the best ways to deepen the learning that's necessary to sort of move an agenda forward as it relates to equity and inclusion. We have certainly increased the number of trainings that we're offering in our Office of Inclusive Leadership for our faculty and staff, as it relates to anti-racism work understanding implicit and unconscious bias the work of allyship not only as relates to race, but also other identities.
(00:40:30): And certainly, in the Office of Student Affairs, our resource centers and other colleagues in student affairs are very much so focused on identity-based programming that allows us to hold space for our students around a variety of topics related to the moment that we're in. I also wanted to mention the importance of history in this current moment, and as we move toward our bicentennial to celebrate the 200-year history of the College we are trying to be very intentional about going back into our own archives and doing oral histories with our alumni to really engage with our own history as a College and our own relationship with racism and the work of anti-racism, both historically and in this contemporary moment, so that together we're sort of co-creating an agenda for the kind of community that we want to be, and having the kind of conversations that we need to have to create spaces where people really feel like they can be honest about their experiences and the impact of the environment on them relative to their identities.
(00:41:47): Then the last thing that I would mention is our current effort to build a bias response protocol so that we are building systems and structures that allow people to put on record or register with the College experiences that they may be having that are impacting them negatively as it relates to their held identities. As we're building that bias reporting protocol, that we're also thinking about the kinds of policies that we need from our legal office that prohibit behaviors of harassment and/or discrimination related to protected identities. So we're trying to make sure that whether it's in the structures and processes of the college, or the programming that might be more conversation-based, that we are being realistic with one another and honest with one another about the challenges that are in our community and ways to move our community forward so that we're releasing out into the world, people who are engaging with these hard conversations. We welcome you into those conversations. We are not afraid to lean into discomfort and conversations that are hard in service of really understanding difference and seeing it as an asset and not a liability.
Biddy Martin (00:43:17):
Betsy, I think you're muted. I am. Now I'm unmuted. Thank you, Norm.
Betsy Cannon Smith (00:43:28):
Let me turn to a very important subject to every single person who will be here, and that's food. May I ask Jim Brassord, our Chief of Facilities, to speak to that issue?
Jim Brassord (00:43:47):
Okay, thank you. Good evening, everybody. It's always our goal to provide students a nourishing, appealing, and safe dining experience. This holds especially true during these challenging times. To accomplish this, we're shifting from a traditional dining model with a central servery and a dine-in seating arrangement to a grab and go model with multiple serving locations across the campus. Our culinary teams are committed to creating a menu that is creative, varied, and broadly appealing, including focus on vegan, vegetarian, and allergen-free options. They've been developing menus and choices over the
(00:44:32): past couple of months, specifically for this new grab and go model. To help you as students to customize your meals, we're launching an app that will allow you to make selections in advance of the meal. The app will also allow you to select a convenient time to be able to pick up your meals over the course of the day. To ensure variety within the menu, we're going to be partnering with local vendors and other suppliers and restaurants to add some variety and some spark to the menu. Finally, I'll mention that Dean Agosto mentioned the Book and Plow farm. That's a mainstay of our dining experience. The Book and Plow farm produce roughly 40,000 pounds of produce for the menu. And it is widely appreciated and quite delicious. And I'll also put in the plug as well to that and invite you to learn about and participate in the Book and Plow through the orientation early in the semester. I think it would be a great enhancement to your experience at Amherst.
Betsy Cannon Smith (00:45:49):
Thank you, Kevin, could you go back and just touch a little bit on the question of why Amherst chose, is not able to change the tuition. That's from a number of our questions.
Kevin Weinman (00:46:04):
Thanks, Betsy. As Matt had noted before, our emphasis has really is on meeting student financial need and we've substantially enhanced our student financial aid offerings between the waving both of the summer earnings expectation and the earnings expectation during the year. And for students who are studying off-campus, providing a substantial allowance for living expenses, even though they won't be living within the Amherst community. In addition to any student who is learning remotely, whether they qualify for financial aid or not, of course, will not be required to pay the room and board element of the comprehensive fee. So since you all are new to the Amherst community, we take a comprehensive fee approach towards billing in a normal year.
(00:46:56): The comprehensive fee covers all of our fees. And every student is billed that fee. It includes tuition room, board, and mandatory fees, which mostly are made up of the fee the student government charges other students to fund programming that students put on for themselves during the year. So students who will be studying remotely will not pay anything but the tuition element of the comprehensive fee. That will be a savings of $16,000 if students study remotely for the entire year and $8,000 per semester. So many students next year will pay substantially less than they would in a normal year with the bulk of that concentrated towards students with the greatest financial need.
Betsy Cannon Smith (00:47:45):
We've had a number of questions about internet and the support of students on campus, around all of their devices. And I think we'll send that to David Hamilton who lives among all of those devices and makes up all those decisions for us. David?
David Hamilton (00:48:01):
Hi folks. We have more than adequate internet connection. We're going to have fewer students than we normally have on campus. So I don't have any concerns about our ability to deliver bandwidth to the students or the faculty staff who are working on campus this fall.
Betsy Cannon Smith (00:48:19):
Thank you. I think I'll toss this one back to our President, and this is a really tough one. It's in the letter and it's probably something that people can't [inaudible], but many people have asked about being able to come and visit the campus, visit your children if there were performances and things like that. We'd all love to see them. Those are unlikely, but I'm going to ask our President to respond and tell you how we're going to embrace your children, who you're sending off for our good care. We're going to do our best to do that. But Biddy, could you share some of your thoughts on that?
Biddy Martin (00:48:54):
Well, the bubble that our Provost referred to earlier, that we're trying to create to the extent possible, there can be no actual perfect bubble suggest that we not have visitors to campus.
(00:49:08): And that is a policy that we're gonna put in place as we begin. If things go well, perhaps we could revisit it at another point, but I'm sure you can understand the difficulty that's involved. When we start making exceptions to what we know from all the best guidance will be the best way to keep the campus safe from an uncontained spread. So you will, many of you I'm sure, will bring students to campus. We are not we're not going to have parents or family members inside the residence halls for the obvious reasons. And that means you will miss out on what is a very important ritual, which is to help students make up their rooms and make themselves comfortable. And we're extremely sorry about that. We're asking that students travel light and bring only those things that it's easy for them to get into their rooms. I can't even tell you how, sorry we are about this. And if it were in our control, we would definitely change it, but we need to get off on the best possible footing and do everything possible to avoid an outbreak.
Betsy Cannon Smith (00:50:39):
Thank you. And while you have the podium, would you share with everyone a little bit of the kinds of conversations that have happened over the past months and how those will continue so that the College is ready to pivot, if we need to, if we need to make a change, move off-campus. If COVID-19 continues to explode in different states around the country, how does that, how do we think about that? What do we do and how are you tackling all those challenges?
Biddy Martin (00:51:11):
Well, we'll do what needs to be done. We proved to ourselves back in March that we can pivot on a dime when we need to. That was quite a test to decide that we needed to send students home before spring break, and we managed to do it. And I think that the team did it extremely well. We are planning for best-case scenarios, but as you can imagine, also for worst-case scenarios.; We have exit plans that are in preparation. We have a lot of space that we've set aside for isolation and quarantine. Some of it is on campus in dorms that we're setting aside for that reason. Some of it is in The Inn on Boltwood just down the street and some in a hotel locally. We hope, and in a way doubt, that we will need to use all that space, but it will be available if it's not wise or safe to send people out into the transportation network home especially those who would need to fly. We will shelter in place, and we will do what we did with fewer students over the course of the past several months. We have some practice, which is
Biddy Martin (00:52:37):
Some good news that we have practice. It's for an unfortunate reason and that is the necessity in the spring of having to make a very fast transition, keep education going and get students safely home, or those who couldn't get home, or didn't have a home, stayed here on campus. So I think we're as well prepared as it's possible to be. And we have a number of options because of that preparation. We'll follow the guidance that we get. And certainly any mandates from our state or federal government, although they're not really into mandates, so we'll do what's necessary. And that's who we are. We try to do what's necessary and what's right.
Betsy Cannon Smith (00:53:30):
Thank you. And this question will be our last, and this is for you and for our Provost. And it is, with some of the new things that are going to be happening on campus from the January term to the faculty learning and developing new courses remotely, to the more obvious things like being able to order your own meal on an app and have a choice of a lot of different things, what, Biddy and Catherine do you imagine looking back, hopefully in a very busy, robust Amherst, in another year from now with lots of people on campus and maybe taking from this experience with us and still having it in place something that we put in place because of the experience we're in, but then we might actually embed into the ongoing Amherst experience?
Biddy Martin (00:54:24):
Catherine, do you want to go first?
Catherine Epstein (00:54:25):
I'll go first. Cause it's always easier to go first in these situations. I think what we're going to take from it is that the faculty will be even better and more nimble pedagogues if you'd like. They will become even better teachers. They will have a variety of teaching methods at their disposal. And I think this will make for even more lively and more engaged classes, if one can sort of believe that because our faculty are already quite amazing pedagogues, but our hope is that they will learn many new strategies of student engagement and come up with many new, interesting assignments and new ways of teaching, thinking about new things to teach and different ways to organize teaching. So I think that this will be a really exciting sort of pedagogical moment at Amherst where teaching will really flourish and you will be the students to sort of enjoy the excitement that the faculty have about this project.
(00:55:21): Every professor who comes to Amherst is really excited about teaching students and that's showing up right now, and you can feel the excitement of all the new ways and things that they're going to be doing with you. So our hope, and part of why we're investing so heavily in making and providing resources for faculty to learn new methodologies and new ways of thinking and teaching, is that this will last and have a lasting impact. So that's a silver lining, you know, that's one way of looking at it. I also just want to say you will all be embarking on a really interesting adventure that I think will have some really positive elements to it. We don't yet know what those are, but I think that this can be a very exciting moment in higher education and actually an exciting time to be on campus.
Betsy Cannon Smith (00:56:11):
Biddy Martin (00:56:13):
Yeah. I agree with that. I would pick up right where Catherine left off and say, I sometimes ask myself in my ample spare time, you know, what would I do
(00:56:24): If I were about to enter college and I give myself many different answers, but I'm only going to give you one. And that is, I think some part of me at least would want to be part of this extraordinary adventure. I don't mean to make light of it. There's nothing light about it, but it is going to be a defining set of circumstances for all kinds of reasons. And I think we will be tested. We're already being tested and coming to campus and learning under these circumstances will be novel. It will probably be, I hope not unprecedented in the rest of your studies and in life. And so it's in that sense of once in a lifetime opportunity for us to test ourselves and to test the whole notion of community and whether we have it in us, as I said earlier, to take good care of ourselves and also to think of the good of the whole, that is the challenge.
(00:57:29): And that is the test. And I think together we can pass it. The other thing I think I've learned already from this experience, and I imagine I'll keep learning tt, is how much longing there is for what a residential liberal arts education offers. It is the great academics at a place like Amherst, having been at other institutions, I can say with great confidence that the education here is probably unparalleled, but it is also what we learn with other people and with other people with similar interests and similar eagerness to learn. Friendship. Friendship matters. Friendships, not just among peers, but friendships with faculty, which are eminently possible here. And lifelong friendships with faculty are one of the great joys of our alumni. So I would say while I'm excited too, about all that our faculty is learning in this moment by necessity, but also with great curiosity and some glee. I think what we're also seeing is that people need community. They need the kind of circumstance that residential education provides to grow holistically as a person and as a community. And I'm glad that we're learning that.
Betsy Cannon Smith (00:59:01):
Thank you. We are just a few minutes past eight, and I want to thank all of you for joining us. For the class of 2024, we're as new to this as all of you. So as our President said, we are all going to be in this together. Families, hope you'll take advantage and you'll hear about all of the lectures and the virtual events and conversations. And you can watch those from home while your students are watching them on campus, and while we're watching them from our homes. There's a great lineup of people coming up and we'll continue those throughout the year. So we're going to find as many opportunities as possible to let you feel like you're here with us and part of this experience. Do you have one last word, President Martin, and we'll close it from there?
Biddy Martin (00:59:52):
One last word. I'm tempted to say goodbye, but what I really want to say is I welcome you and can't wait to meet you all. Thank you all. Goodnight, and we'll see you soon.
Questions from returning students and their families.
Betsy Cannon Smith (00:00:00):
Welcome. I'm Betsy Cannon Smith, Chief Advancement Officer. Thank you for calling in. More than 900 students and their family members are with us. Our goal is to answer as many questions as possible. The President and senior staff will address questions submitted in advance, and we will also be answering questions submitted in real-time during this conversation. Those will be posted to the Q & A box as they are answered by members of college staff. To ask a question, click on the Q and A box and enter your question in the text field. The audio of participants will remain muted, and this call is being recorded. To accommodate the many questions that you submitted, we're extending the session up to 30 minutes. Now, let me turn this over to our President, Biddy Martin.
Biddy Martin (00:00:54):
Good evening, everyone. I extend my thanks as well that you've joined us and we're going to get right to the questions that you most want answered.
Biddy Martin (00:01:05):
So I'm going to jump right into it. We are keenly aware of the fact that some of you are joyful about the fact that you'll be coming back to campus, that some of you are apprehensive about that possibility, that some of you will choose not to come back to campus. And that many of you are disappointed that you will have to wait until spring. In particular, our juniors and a number of our seniors will have to wait. We have read your letters. We have read through your questions and I know how disappointed you are. I don't think it will help you much, but I also want you to know how disappointed we are that you won't be here, that we can't bring everyone back for both semesters. I think we left some things unclear in our announcement, and I want to clear up one thing right away. If we're not able to add students in the spring to those who were here in the fall, we will bring juniors and seniors to campus. And those who've been here in the fall will study remotely. I want to make sure that's clear because apparently we didn't make it clear enough in our announcement.
Biddy Martin (00:02:34):
So we know that there's a lot of disappointment and anger and probably a whole range of feelings among those of you who will have to wait. And we're really deeply sorry. Now some of you have asked why we wouldn't bring everyone back given that other places will. As you know, there is a wide range of decisions about what to do in the fall. And they're changing on a daily basis. Just today, the University of Southern California, having announced recently that they would bring back some, but not all students, decided that everyone should study remotely. That's of course, in part, because of the spikes that are occurring in California and across the Southwest, as well as the South and elsewhere, unfortunately, and they have made that decision. And as I said in my letter, depending on the circumstances, closer to the time of the beginning of classes, we may have to make a different decision as well.
Biddy Martin (00:03:45):
We're in a pandemic. And unfortunately, our choices are limited, all of our choices, but you have some choices, and I wanted to make sure that you know, that. We know that some of you will come in the fall. We know some of you will choose to take a leave. One of you asked whether it's possible to take a leave for a semester, and it is possible to take a one-semester leave as long as you're not a first-year student. Some of you will choose that. Some of you will choose to study remotely, even though you've been part of the groups that are invited back to campus. Some of you will study remotely or take the leave because you're not in those groups.
Biddy Martin (00:04:32):
Now, why, for example, as many of you have asked, if Williams can do it, can't Amherst do it? Amherst and Williams are very similar in many ways. They are the second-best liberal arts college in the country. And we have very similar academic strengths. We're in beautiful locations. We compete in sports. Typically we win, but some of the similarities end there. Williams, as many of you know, and it may be one reason why you chose Amherst, is isolated. We are in a Five College Consortium here in the Valley, and we are literally in the same small town as UMass Amherst, UMass Amherst has made the decision to have all students return. And that makes a difference not only for Amherst College but for the town of Amherst and for the entire region. Williams has a hospital with capacity that they can count on without having to worry about a major research university and tens of thousands of students across the street.
Biddy Martin (00:05:50):
We're lucky to have a major research university just down the road from us. Very lucky indeed. We've been collaborating with UMass students, take courses there. The consortium as a whole is a wonderful gift for students who come to Amherst College. But this year, because of the pandemic, we will not be able to allow students to take courses in person at the other colleges, nor will those colleges allow their students to take courses in person on our campus. We're in a pandemic. And there are a great number of things about this virus that remain uncertain. Just today, there was an announcement that there may have been a mutation that makes it more transmissible. It's not yet known whether that's the case, but that's the sort of thing that I think responsible decision-makers have to take into account. The range of uncertainties. So, the isolation of Williams is one factor in our differences.
Biddy Martin (00:06:58):
Another is that 75% of Williams' dorm rooms are singles. So for them to get to a situation where everyone could have a single room means acquiring only a little bit of additional space or using it. That is not true at Amherst. And even though a couple of you challenged the notion that we should have everyone in a single room, we have listened to the public health experts with whom we've been consulting throughout and they believe, and we believe that students should have their own rooms, not only for the good of the students but for the good of the entire campus. These are some of the differences. Now, when it comes to tuition, which many of you have asked about, we don't talk about tuition. You can probably tell from what I've said just now that presidents of not just liberal arts colleges, but major universities have been meeting regularly over the past several months. We have been cooperating, sharing ideas, trying to come to terms with the uncertainties that we face.
Biddy Martin (00:08:14):
But the one thing we don't talk about is tuition. We don't talk about tuition because we're not allowed to, and we're not allowed to for a very good reason. It could easily be a kind of price-fixing. So I don't know why Williams chose to reduce tuition by 15%. I don't know their thinking. I do know that they dropped their January term and that could play a role. Amherst added a January term. For the first time in anyone's living memory, we will have a January term in order to create flexibility, but also innovation because the courses that will be offered in January are going to be really interesting. Several key interdisciplinary themes and faculty working together to offer you something new.
Biddy Martin (00:09:10):
We are working hard to make sure that students on aid have what you need, whether you're studying remotely or not. And especially if you're studying remotely, there are additional efforts that our Dean of Admission and Financial Aid will explain in just a bit. Is there a difference between learning on campus and learning remotely? Obviously there is. We have invested enormous amounts of time and also money, but the time is what really makes the difference. And our faculty, over 90% of them, are taking time away from research for the summer to greatly enhance and in many cases transform the way they use online tools precisely so that those of you who will be learning remotely will have an excellent experience. And I believe you will. When you left suddenly in March, our faculty was certainly not prepared, and how could they have been, to go online?
Biddy Martin (00:10:21):
They worked hard with our IT staff and our teaching and learning staff to do the very best job they could. And in your surveys, even those of you who said the experience was not the best, and certainly some of you said worse than you had imagined for which we're sorry, but even then, many of you wrote in your comments that you could see how hard the faculty was working to make it a great experience. Well, what they will do in the fall will be very different. They will have invested the time and we will have invested time and money in making it so, because we want every student, wherever you're studying to get an excellent education from the Amherst faculty. That's our reasoning. I think that an Amherst education, even in a pandemic and an Amherst degree, is worth it. And I hope you'll agree.
Speaker 1 (00:11:28):
Someone also asked me to compare our decision to Bowdoin's. There's not much to say, except that we're bringing significantly more students to campus than Bowdoin has decided to do, but we're certainly in the same range of decision making when it comes to caution about density, the density on the campus when it comes to care and concern about health care and hospital resources. Those are some similarities, but we're also in a very different position. And that leads me to say, finally, that as similar as institutions of higher education are in the United States in different sectors, let's say among liberal arts colleges, for example, every single institution has unique circumstances that make it really essential that the people responsible for those decisions think hard about those forms of uniqueness and make decisions on the basis of them. We are not moved to make decisions simply because others have. We certainly have paid attention
Biddy Martin (00:12:50):
as I said. We've collaborated closely with others. We've helped each other figure out what's needed. And in the end, every institution is doing what it believes, its leaders believe, is best for their students, their faculty, their staff, and their communities outside of the colleges. We're in good company. We're with Swarthmore, Wellesley, Stanford, a number of additional institutions that are making decisions very similar to ours. And there are some who, as you know, are going completely remote. We are going to offer students who are studying away, studying at home, not only much better courses and more access to faculty in small groups and one-on-one, but our student affairs staff is also working on ways to help students who are working remotely, living remotely, build community and enjoy more social activity with one another and with students on the campus. That again is something there was no time really to organize and plan when we suddenly had to leave campus in March. So these are efforts that we are making, that we have been making, that we'll continue to make, and that we're happy to make in order to make your experience an Amherst experience to the degree that it's possible in a global pandemic. That's my opening effort to respond to some of your bigger questions. And I'm now going to ask our Provost and Dean of the Faculty, Catherine Epstein if she could answer a few of your questions about academic life.
Catherine Epstein (00:14:50):
Good evening, everyone. I'm Catherine Epstein and the Provost and Dean of the Faculty. And I'm going to answer some of your questions about academics. So how will the college ensure that students that have to learn remotely aren't at a disadvantage? A number of you asked that question. About 35% of all classes are going to be remote anyways. That's because all classes that have more than 35 students have to take place remotely, and a number of other faculty members need to teach remotely either because they are older or because they have underlying health issues, or because they have to take care of small children at home. The school systems will not be entirely open in the fall. So for a number of reasons, many classes will be remote. Even those classes that aren't remote, the 65% of classes that are intended to have an in-person component, a significant in-person component, some of those will have to take place, in part, remotely.
Catherine Epstein (00:15:50):
And if not, faculty members will ensure that you will have, if you are studying remotely, that you will have the same access to information and the same opportunities for discussion and other elements of the course. So no one studying remotely will be at a disadvantage in terms of getting information, you wouldn't necessarily be in exactly in the same room, but I think it's really important to know that faculty are doing everything they can to ensure an equitable and a truly engaging experience for all students, both those in-person and those who are studying remotely. So that's really important to keep in mind. There are some other questions such as what will grading look like. Our sense is that grading will be the same, the faculty, the same for both students studying remotely and those in-person. The faculty is currently considering grading policy.
Catherine Epstein (00:16:45):
We'll see where the faculty comes down on that. There are a number of other questions. Someone asked about the discrepancy in policies between departments, in the departments and major course requirements. Majors at Amherst demand a range of requirements. Every major has to have at least eight courses. Some majors have as many as 14 courses as their requirements, and majors can decide what they'd like to do, or departments can decide what they'd like to do. One or two departments have chosen to lower the number of elective courses required for the major, either from 10 to nine, or nine to eight, but there actually have not been very many changes in terms of requirements for the majors. There's also a question about whether students might be allowed to change their decision about writing thesis.
Catherine Epstein (00:17:42):
Many of you preregistered to do thesis for the fall. If you have either chosen not to do a thesis, or you would like to do s thesis, you should certainly be in touch with your academic advisor. In addition, if you're considering writing a thesis, you should be in touch with the department chair of the department you were majoring in or a potential thesis advisor. Other questions that have come in. If a student wants to take a fourth course for both fall and spring, and also the January course, will they be allowed to do that? Yes, students, we are encouraging and permitting students to take three courses per semester. You're welcome to take a fourth course each semester. You talk about it with your advisor. And in addition, the January term will be available to everyone.
Catherine Epstein (00:18:29):
Next year you can take between six and nine courses and receive those credits. There have been a number of questions about credit. You need to, if you're enrolled in Amherst this academic year, you have to have passed 30 courses in order to graduate. That's for any student enrolled this academic year. If you choose to take six courses this year, you are on the track to graduate at your regular time. Also questions about if you study remotely, how will you complete the lab portions of science classes or take studio art or other courses that have a hands-on component? The science faculty and the arts faculty are working very hard to provide remote experiences that are both meaningful and effective. I know that both the science departments and the arts departments are working on putting together kits of supplies so that you can get access to the materials that you need to do
Catherine Epstein (00:19:30):
various assignments with. One of the things that you might wish to consider is if you're thinking about taking a particular course in a semester when you can't be on campus and a similar course is being offered in a semester, when you have been, when you will be invited to campus, you may want to pay a little bit attention to that and come to campus and take the course that is a particular kind of lab course in the semester that you are on campus. Even so though, professors will be doing everything they can to make sure that students who are learning remotely will have access to very excellent learning experiences. Why are we encouraging students to take three courses instead of four? We really think that this is a hard year coming up. Many of you studying remotely felt that it was hard to focus on many things, [inaudible] four remote courses.
Catherine Epstein (00:20:26):
Some of you will be on campus and taking some of your courses remotely but hopefully a good number of them in-person. Others of you will be studying entirely remotely. It is in order to give you the most flexibility that you can have. We believe that you are the owners of your education. And if three courses is the right thing for you to do this semester, then that's what you should do. We also want to spread out the workload for you over the course of the year. So one of the things that we're actually hugely excited about is the January term, where you'll be able to take a full course for full credit during that January time period. So the idea is to sort of spread the academic work out a little bit over the year and for you to focus as deeply and in the most engaged manner with the courses that you are taking. So I hope that explains a bunch of the academic questions. Other questions about academics that come in, I will answer on the chat function.
Betsy Cannon Smith (00:21:27):
Catherine, thank you. We will come back to you in a little bit to talk about some of the athletic questions that have been raised, but let me turn now to Matt McGann, who is our Dean of Admission and Financial Aid for a number of questions on those topics. Matt?
Matt McGann (00:21:43):
Good evening, everyone. I'm glad to join you today and help answer some questions about finances for the coming year and to give you a little bit of insight into that. For many of your financial aid questions that are being asked in the Q and A chat, are being fielded by Dean of Financial Aid, Gail Holt. We hope to get to as many of those as possible, and you can always email or call the financial aid office during working hours. And we'll be happy to help you and give you insight into financial situation things. First thing I want you to know is that even in these very difficult financial times, Amherst is not going back from its bedrock principles of making sure that finances are not a barrier for any student to study. The generosity of the College, which is the envy of many colleges around the country and around the world,
Matt McGann (00:22:43):
we are not backing away from that one bit. We want to make sure that every student is fully supported during these times. So not only are we not going backward, we're going forwards. We want to make sure that every student is really well supported during these times. As we came into the summer and recognized that the availability of jobs would be limited, the summer employment contribution to students, we have chosen to replace that with Amherst grant aid. So we are already committed to doing that. And in the announcement that we made yesterday, we furthered that commitment and the term-time work component of a financial aid package we're replacing that with money that you would be expected to contribute with Amherst grant once again. So all told for most students on financial aid, this is a $4,600 enhancement to your financial aid package.
Matt McGann (00:23:54):
And we're really happy to be able to support students in this way. It doesn't mean that you can't have a job, whether you were on campus or remote. We do think that campus employment will be more limited this year, but there will still be some on-campus and remote work available, but we want to take care of the financial aid component of that by replacing that with the Amherst grant. We also want to just clarify a bit about studying remote. It's, I mean, it's obvious that if you're not here, you wouldn't pay room and board. That's obvious to anyone. Now the way that that would work with a financial aid package is that the only benefits for that would accrue to those who are already paying the entire cost of the Amherst education.
Matt McGann (00:24:50):
Many of the students here are on financial aid. We want to make sure that all students are supported and getting something that helps with the room and board expenses that they have, whether they're on campus or remote. So the personal allowance, which is typically $1,800, will be increased to $9,000 a year. And you'll see that reflected in your financial aid package and your bill. So most students who have something that they contribute, we'll see that reduced. And for students with a very low contribution where you may see that as a credit on your account. I'm happy to take more questions about financial aid and jobs here live, and also in the chat, but hopefully, that clarifies some questions we've gotten. Thank you.
Betsy Cannon Smith (00:25:45):
Matt, thank you. Did you want to say anything more about leaves and limits to leaves and things like that?
Matt McGann (00:25:50):
Yeah. The eave process is available to all of you. On Monday, July 6th, you'll receive a note from Dean of Students, Liz Agosto, who you'll hear from a little while, and she'll ask you to complete a form which will declare your intent for the fall. And one of the options for all students will be to request a voluntary academic leave, and we'll want to know a little bit about that, but we are willing to grant that for any student and that will go through the Office of Student Affairs. We'll ask if you would like to take a leave for one semester or for two semesters, or if you don't know, or are uncertain at the time, and we will guarantee that you can re-enroll, whatever semester in the future you choose to. The only caveat is that housing may be limited in future semesters. We'll have to see what that looks like in the future, but nothing will go against your ability to re-enroll. So take a leave if you feel that that's what's right for you. That is an option for you. Absolutely.
Betsy Cannon Smith (00:27:15):
I think when you heard the joyful noises of children at Matt's house, We all have lives going on, don't we? Let me turn next to Liz Agosto, who is our Dean of Students. There are a number of questions about campus life, going off-campus, and things like that. So, Liz, can you help us with some of that?
Liz Agosto (00:27:36):
Sure. Hi, I'm Liz Agosto, Dean of Students. I know there's lots and lots of questions about what life will look like on campus. I've been answering a whole slew of them in the Q and A for students and parents. I want to start with housing. As the message said, all students will be housed in a single-occupancy room. We're doing that to both allow for students to have the healthiest option as President Martin said, but also to reduce density in our halls for restroom uses, et cetera.
Liz Agosto (00:28:10):
We will be sending out information about housing selection next Tuesday. So students have more information about what that will look like, how we will, how students will select and what that process will mean. I know there's questions about theme housing, about what does the six students mean that was in the message. Students will have the options to select six students including themselves, so a total of six that they want to live in close proximity with. So in the same residence hall, in the normal housing selection process, if we call those timed groups, so we're adjusting some of the processes in order to accommodate the fact that students will only have card access to their own residence hall and not to the other halls on campus. Students will still be expected to manage all of the safety and health protocols in the residence halls as they would across campus.
Liz Agosto (00:29:05):
But we want to make sure that in the residence halls, students have others that they feel connected to. We are creating a community living agreement that will talk about the various expectations for students on campus. That includes the wearing of face-covering or masks at all times, maintaining physical distancing, following all protocols around health, safety testing, things like that, travel. So there'll be no guests allowed on campus. There will be no travel outside of campus. I know I've seen a bunch of questions about, does that mean we can't leave campus? Certainly, for the beginning of the time on campus, that's what that means. It means that we will be asking students to remain on the Amherst campus. The reason for this is we are working very hard to create a bubble and a space where students in our communities,
Liz Agosto (00:30:01):
so staff and faculty can be as, as healthy as possible and to mitigate as much risk as possible, particularly during the period of time where we are introducing everyone back into, onto our campus, and working through initial testing protocols, initial quarantines, et cetera. As President Martin said, there will be a lot of college students in the area and a lot of other staff, faculty, community members. And we want to make sure that we are reducing our risks to our students, as much as possible. We will obviously make accommodations for students that need to go to a doctor's appointment or have a family emergency or have some other thing that requires them to leave campus. We expect that they'll communicate with us, and then we will engage in that process. Some other key points.
Liz Agosto (00:30:54):
On the more positive side, while there will be limitations to what social life looks like on campus, we will be offering, opportunities and working with student organizations to offer opportunities for connection, for gathering in small groups, and ways to make sure that our remote, our students who are living and learning remotely, can feel connected to all of the programs that they would normally feel a part of. We expect that our student leaders will work with Paul Gallegos and Student Activities, members of the resource center team, et cetera, to continue to build that community as much as possible. We have shifted some of our residential staffing model in order to work more closely with our students who are in residence in order to help one build community agreements. We expect students to be working with one another, to identify what are the expectations, including things like, how are we managing shower schedules?
Liz Agosto (00:31:58):
How are we managing, other use of the residence halls so that there are fewer people in spaces, so that we are limiting or reducing contact in spaces that are high risk. There's a lot of work going into both the health and safety portions of our rules, as well as making sure that we still have space for fun and laughter and engagement with one another, but it will look very different than it has in the past. And I will continue to answer questions on the Q & A, and we'll get called on again.
Betsy Cannon Smith (00:32:37):
Liz, thank you. And thank you for answering those questions as they're coming in. I'd like to turn now to Karu Kozoma, who is our Chief Student Affairs Officer. Karu, could you comment for us on questions about mental health, in particular, the students who are not going to be on campus and who are studying remotely, some of our plans around that.
Karu Kozuma (00:33:00):
First I just want to acknowledge how challenging the situation is for all of us, including students who are going to be here, and also the students who are not going to be here. And that's been front and center for our minds of how to support students and their emotional, mental health and wellbeing. We are going to continue to work with the folks who are there and the safety net, whether it's the Class Deans, the Case Management office, the faculty who have been great eyes and ears when students are struggling in their class, you know, inform us if folks need some support.
Karu Kozuma (00:33:29):
In addition, our Counseling Center is investing into a company that will allow us to increase our video and telehealth capabilities across different state lines, internationally, even make sure that within the 50 States that people need referrals are going to have connections to people more local, our religious and spiritual life office has really learned to be able to conduct their resources online, whether for students on campus or off-campus. They've been doing one-on-one sessions with people. They've even conducted a religious service virtually. So we see a lot of those things continuing. And I think this is where it's going to be key, to be able to make sure that people know that a lot of us continue to talk to each other when we are concerned about a student. So if a student is missing a few classes, we will notice those things and be able to connect them to the right people. And that's the model we use that even though you may be interacting with a lot of different people, whether it's faculty, staff, we do touch base with each other and then make sure we can track how folks are doing.
Betsy Cannon Smith (00:34:31):
Karu, thank you. And I'll take it back to our Provost and Dean of the faculty for some comments on athletics. We've had a number of questions about the seasons and practice schedules and opportunities for students to continue with teams depending on their situation. Catherine?
Catherine Epstein (00:34:50):
Hi everybody again. Unfortunately, competitive athletics will not take place in the fall. There will not be any intercollegiate competition. However, we do expect a good number of athletic opportunities for students on campus. Certainly recreational. We expect that students will be able to engage in conditioning, practices, if social distancing is practiced, so to speak, cross-country running, those sorts of activities, again, always with physical distancing will be permitted over the course of the semester. It is possible that more members of the team will be able to come together, again with physical distancing requirements.
Catherine Epstein (00:35:35):
And so the hope is that there will be a number of recreational activities available. We are also planning wellness and yoga and other kinds of physical education classes that may take place in a tent or tents outside. So there should be good opportunities for fitness and strengthening and conditioning. Let's see. There's been some questions about whether fall athletics might be moved to the spring. Based on our facilities and the NESCAC, the way NESCAC is thinking about these things at this point, probably fall sports won't have a regular season of competition in the spring. However, it will be possible to have offseason practices for teams. So if you are a spring athlete, there may be fall practices permitted, a period of time the fall practices. And similarly, if you're a fall athlete, there should be possible a spring, a period during the spring when you will be able to practice with your team.
Biddy Martin (00:36:45):
Catherine, some students who are student-athletes have asked, and in particular juniors and some seniors, just for acknowledgement of how difficult it's going to be for them not to be able to practice with their team because they won't be here.
Catherine Epstein (00:37:03):
That's true. And we feel really badly about that. There's no question about that. I know that's hard for you and hard for your teammates as well. They will miss you. And hard for you to coaches as well, who had hoped that you would be playing for them. So we are very sorry about that.
Betsy Cannon Smith (00:37:21):
Catherine, thank you. Biddy, while we're talking about athletics, this is only part of that, of course, but might you say a few words about the NESCAC and your conversations with those presidents and working together through these decisions?
Biddy Martin (00:37:34):
The NESCAC presidents have met twice over the past six weeks or so, and as you all, those of you who are athletes, and many of you who aren't may have paid attention to the statement that was released. And essentially it said something similar to the point I was making at the end of my initial remarks. And that is that the league, as a league, really made no decision and that different campuses would do what they feel is safest on their campuses. So there has been no NESCAC league-wide decision to cancel fall sports, but many NESCAC schools have either canceled fall sports or are yet to make a decision.
Betsy Cannon Smith (00:38:28):
We have some questions that are related to food on campus and options for dining,
Betsy Cannon Smith (00:38:36):
as well as some questions about facilities like the gym and library. So, I'll ask Jim Brassord to answer some of those. And then if the other facilities questions might turn over to Karu. Jim?
Jim Brassord (00:38:50):
Thanks, Betsy. I wanted to just note and acknowledge that next year will be a challenge for dining facilities, and for the program, but we're endeavoring and are committed to delivering the most nourishing and creative menu that we can into grab & go model. Some have asked why we aren't allowing seatings within Val, and that is largely related to the fact that three of the grab & go stations will be located in Valentine proper, and it doesn't leave adequate space for the type of social distancing that would allow for a dine-in option. , I also know too, that some questions have come across the board about special dietary needs. One of the grab & go stations that will be in Lewis-Sebring will be devoted to providing allergen-sensitive food, allergen-free food and addressing special dietary needs.
Jim Brassord (00:39:48):
So the culinary team right now is devoted to developing new menus focus on vegan and vegetarian fare. And in fact, also partnering with some outside organizations to bring even more variety to supplement the offerings. There's also some questions that emerged about a convenience store. Our dining services team will be running a convenience store in Schwemm's and we have launched it this summer as a pilot. It will have about two to 300 commonly used products ranging from health, and hygiene products to snacks, to office supplies. And we'll be looking for your feedback and how we can broaden that inventory of needs. With that, I think maybe I will turn it over to Karu, relative to some of the facility uses, or Catherine, perhaps, when it relates to academic facilities,
Karu Kozuma (00:40:51):
The facilities component is always a challenge right now because we know indoor spaces are really something where we are trying to make sure we can create the social distancing. So that's why we are investing in the outdoors as much as possible. And I think that's where a lot of the activities, while we can be creative and use those the outdoor space, the tents, spaces on campus. And we do have an opportunity to, because we're in a beautifu valley to be able to use the space. Other spaces that you might be thinking about that are shared,I think we have to look more closely about how we can use those spaces. We haven't made a determination fully yet. But I think the access to those spaces, the size of those spaces, there are going to be some limitations. So Liz and I are thinking all those questions
Karu Kozuma (00:41:34):
And then we'll be trying to provide more information in the coming weeks.
Betsy Cannon Smith (00:41:42):
Thank you, crew. Jim, might you comment on a logistical question? The students are interested in how they might retrieve items they left in storage.
Jim Brassord (00:41:53):
Yeah. Thank you. In March many students left belongings in their rooms, and our assumption at this point is for students who will be studying remote during the fall semester, that we will be able to make arrangements to ship those belongings to someone's home. That's if that is the desire. The other option is, is that we can retain some of those belongings on campus. If a student prefers to keep them here until the spring semester. So we're going to have some flexibility on that front, and we'll be working closely with you to determine what your preferences are.
Betsy Cannon Smith (00:42:34):
Thank you. We've had a number of inquiries about off-campus living and what the college's posture is toward that video. Biddy, is that something you'd like to address relative to the UMass population?
Biddy Martin (00:42:48):
I'm not dying to address it, but I will. At least, initially certainly, well, I'm sorry. No, I'm going back to a prior question, please. Forgive me. We cannot have students come live off-campus and then come into classrooms and residence halls. Coming on and off-campus, as Liz said, especially in the early period before we know how things are going, simply won't work. It'll put too many people at risk. It will put the effort to create as much a bubble as we can at risk. And so we don't encourage students, I would even say we discourage students from, living off-campus and hoping then to have some campus life. We just don't know whether that will be possible. And it definitely won't be in the early weeks.
Betsy Cannon Smith (00:43:47):
Thank you. Uh, we have a number of questions about quarantine isolation. Can parents come and visit if their children are ill? Can they take them home and bring them back? So I think that would be to Liz, that question?
Liz Agosto (00:44:06):
I'll start with parents cause that'll be the most direct question. We are not allowing guests to come to campus, so that includes parents and families. During the semester we would expect that you would not come to campus to visit your student. In terms of quarantine and isolation, we have reserved
Liz Agosto (00:44:32):
residence halls on campus to serve as a quarantine and isolation space. We have a robust testing regimen that includes regular asymptomatic testing as well as symptomatic testing should students develop any symptoms. Based on the outcome of those results, we would isolate students who have tested positive and offer all the support they need in order to continue their studies remotely during that time, provide them with continued medical care, food and other support mechanisms. We feel confident that we'll be able to support the needs of students who may fall ill while they're on campus. Particularly if all of our community members, faculty, staff, and students are following guidelines around mask-wearing, social distancing, et cetera. Upon arrival to campus, students will be expected to take a test to see if they are positive. We'll have a period of quarantine afterward and then a second test to make sure that they continue to remain negative. We will be supporting our students through that process in a wide variety of ways and Karu, I'm not sure if there's additional details that you'd like to add.
Karu Kozuma (00:45:55):
You covered it right now. I'll, of course, continue to answer any questions that you have.
Betsy Cannon Smith (00:46:02):
There have been some specific questions about international students and whether there'll be different quarantine rules applying to students who are coming from outside of this country and actually from different states at this point.
Liz Agosto (00:46:17):
I think we're still figuring out, exactly how the 14-day quarantine for students or individuals who may be coming from states not New England, New Jersey or New York will play out particularly considering what as I described are pretty robust asymptomatic testing procedure. We will be expecting all students to engage in some period of time in which they're in quarantine upon arrival. We will be sending and sharing more detailed information about what that looks like in the coming weeks. Obviously a 14-day quarantine is a long time, and so we're thinking very carefully about what that means and whether that meets our obligation or how we would allow students to move in or be on campus during that period of time. More information will be decided within the next few weeks.
Biddy Martin (00:47:14):
Liz, I think it might be helpful to say that we want students to have to spend no more than one week in quarantine during class, once the classes start. So we would want to bring students back in enough
Biddy Martin (00:47:30):
time that their quarantine period would not conflict with their ability to go to classes. And so we're hoping for that. I think one thing we have to say over and over again is we will have to rely or comply, to put it more straightforwardly, with the state of Massachusetts guidelines and regulations. As you know, different states continue to make different decisions about what needs to occur when people cross state lines. We have no idea what will be the case in mid-August, mid-to-late August. And of course, neither does really anyone else, but we will stay on top of it. And again, what we want to do is make sure that students don't lose two weeks of classes to quarantine. And again, to put a fine point on something Liz said, we're hoping that a 14-day quarantine wouldn't be necessary given our testing regime, if we're testing on arrival, testing again three to four or five days later, and maybe doing a third test that first week, and they're all negative,
Biddy Martin (00:48:44):
I can't imagine that state regulations would require that students then stay in quarantine. But we're looking into all of that.
Betsy Cannon Smith (00:48:55):
Biddy, you've struck a theme around with there are a number of other questions, and that would be how will plans for fall 2020 be impacted if a second, much larger wave arrives? How do we make that decision about what happens with this semester, and what are the criteria for switching to all remote, or in other words, sending all students home as we had to do in March should the threat of COVID-19 worsen?
Biddy Martin (00:49:20):
You know, I wish I could answer that. And if I could, I'd probably be on TV being interviewed by people on the various networks. I don't think anybody knows the answer to that. If they say they do, I'm not quite sure what it would be based on. We're going to have to follow the state of things, the course of the virus and public health guidance as the summer progresses. It's hard to believe we're already as far into the summer as we are, but we do have six weeks. And as we've seen, things change quite rapidly in the course of just a few weeks with this virus. So it's really not possible to say right now. And again, I imagine if things get even worse than they are now, which I hope will not be the case, but could be the case, then we're probably going to be adhering to various state and public health regulations and restrictions rather than making our own decision, which is another reason why it's hard to say what we would do.
Biddy Martin (00:50:21):
We did decide early. We were one of the earliest to shut down in March. We weren't the only early one. It's funny how many colleges and universities lay claim to having been the first to shut down. I don't know why that is a, why that seems to people to be a form of flattery, but in any case we will pay close attention and we'll do what's best. Now if we have a major outbreak in this community on the campus, or if there's a major outbreak on the borders of the campus, we will have a couple of options. Because we have a lower the density by having fewer students here, and because we have allowed for so much quarantine and isolation space, not only on campus, but we will use the Inn at Boltwood.
Biddy Martin (00:51:14):
and we also have an agreement with a hotel to allow for more quarantine and isolation space if it becomes necessary. So one option is that we shelter in place and we take care of those students who are ill and others. Then students would obviously be taking their classes remotely. Everybody would be learning remotely if that were to occur. And since we have such a testing regime, my guess is we could also test students if things got very bad and students didn't want to be on campus. If students tested negative, I don't see a reason why parents couldn't pick their students up. Obviously those of you who come from far away would not want the risk of transportation in all probability. And a lot of communities wouldn't want us sending a lot of ill students into the transportation system. So the options would be shelter in place for the remainder of the semester, and take care of students who get ill, take care of all students, whether they get ill or not. And the other would be that we send people home, but again, under certain conditions, sending everyone home at this point, unlike early March, would be potentially a public health crisis. So, I hope that helps. It's not a question that can be answered definitively right now.
Betsy Cannon Smith (00:52:53):
Thank you, Biddy. Students, one area that students have needs both on and off-campus would certainly be in there IT needs. And David Hamilton, would you comment just on how your team is able to help the students who are working remotely as well as the students on campus in very different circumstances?
David Hamilton (00:53:13):
Sure. Good evening, everyone. Thanks for the question. We hope you think we did a reasonable job equipping everyone as we had to abandon campus this spring, and the College is well resourced and able to provide a
David Hamilton (00:53:26):
loaner equipment, laptops, software, mobile hotspots in the case where one is needed, tablets in the case where one is needed for specific modes of instruction. So we're pretty well equipped to meet the needs of the student body as it makes us aware of them. And ask it at Amherst dot edu if you need help. We're really good at answering quickly.
Betsy Cannon Smith (00:53:48):
They are good at answering quickly. Thank you, David. Karu, there are questions about who'll enforce distancing and other measures. Could you comment a little bit about student life and how we plan to manage ourselves as a community?
Karu Kozuma (00:54:03):
Betsy, I think you touched on it, I think it's all of us. I think a lot of us are going to be expected to be able to make sure that we're adhering to these guidelines and also be able to be support for others and remind them, you know, so someone forgets a mask, how can we make sure we provide them a mask? Student Affairs will be there, those reminders I think are also there to be able to make sure that the things that are prohibited, we can intervene appropriately and make sure the students understand why. Again, we're not trying to get people in trouble or anything like that. It really is about the public health of the community. So that's really important that everyone understands who's coming back that they play a role in this. And the conversations we can have for arrival are, they're going to be key in that conversation. So the residential life staff are going to be involved. I'm going to be involved. Liz is going to involved. These are the folks who are going to be there with you and be able to understand what it really means to be a member of this campus community while on Amherst's campus with these restrictions and maybe these occurrences. So we hope that we can really achieve that as a community.
Betsy Cannon Smith (00:55:07):
Betsy Cannon Smith (00:55:07):
I think I'll turn back to some academic questions. Catherine, there are a number of new questions and I'll just share a few of them about the college considering offering a summer term? Courses from local colleges, will the College, will Amherst College accept credits from other colleges this coming year? And then, questions about the ability to take five classes, not just four, for a student who might be unable to participate in the January term.
Catherine Epstein (00:55:38):
Thanks, all, for the additional questions. Amherst did consider a summer term, but one of the questions we asked in previous student surveys was whether students would be interested in it. And there was very little interest from students in a summer term. And the faculty also were not that enthusiastic about a summer term. So we did not decide to offer that, uh, the question about if a student takes a gap semester, it takes courses a local college.
Catherine Epstein (00:56:04):
Those credits will not be accepted at Amherst. So we do not accept transfer credit. That's a long-standing policy and will continue during the pandemic. Is it possible to take five classes next semester? At Amherst, you are permitted to take five courses. You go through a process that involves getting both the signature of your academic advisor, as well as your Class Dean. So it is possible, but there will be conversations as there always are when students take five classes. Finally, someone asked about being a STEM major and as many of you know, lab courses now count for 1.5 classes. If lab courses are involved, and it adds up to five courses, you do not need special permission to do that, even though the credits add up to five courses. So that should, that should not be a problem at all.
Catherine Epstein (00:56:59):
Someone has asked about whether major requirements for graduation requirements are going to change. Earlier this summer, the faculty voted that students need 30 credits to graduate from Amherst. That's for students who are enrolled at some time during this academic year. Normally it's 32 courses to graduate, credits to graduate, although you can graduate with 31 as long as you've incurred, as long as the course didn't count during your first three years at the college. So the graduation requirements have changed somewhat, particularly in order to allow students to take six courses over the course of this academic year if that is your choice. Departments, very few of the departments have changed their major requirements. Just a few. I think I mentioned this earlier in this call, most major requirements are staying the same. The January term will be remote only, except for there may be a few cases where senior thesis writers who are doing their senior research, senior thesis research, and need to be in the laboratories. We are hoping that that will be possible.
Catherine Epstein (00:58:14):
Can you use the flex grade option for a course over the January term? The faculty are currently discussing grading policy and that is another issue to be discussed. If you're working on your thesis both fall and spring semester, will you be able to come back for both semesters? Our hope is yes, but we can't answer that definitively. If we really need to make sure that fewer students are on campus again in the spring, we'll have to see how that plays out. It is our hope that all seniors will be on campus this spring.
Betsy Cannon Smith (00:58:49):
Thank you, Katherine. We're back to a whole list of student life questions, many of them around what opportunities those students who are studying remotely will have to participate in taking leadership roles, being TAs, being on search committees, and so forth. And what other resources will be afforded again to remote students for having some sort of a student life.
Liz Agosto (00:59:18):
I'll take the first shot at that. So, in
Liz Agosto (00:59:22):
terms of student activities, student leadership we expect to offer any opportunity that you would have in terms of engaging with your organization, serving on committees, et cetera. We offer to students who are remote, many of the things that we will be doing on campus will be remote anyway. Even though there will be students and residents and staff and faculty who will be returning, in small amounts, we are still following lots of distancing guidelines, which require and limit the number of people who can be on campus, how we engage, et cetera. A lot of the experiences will be remote even for students who are living in our residence halls for the semester. There will be, on Thursday of next week, I will be sending an email to students providing a whole lot of information about campus life and a lot more information about how are we can engage. A survey that Paul Gallegos is working on to talk about engage and interest in virtual opportunities and what will work for students and what they would be interested in doing. And so we anticipate that we'll be seeking a lot of student feedback from those who aren't in residence and those who are about how we can use the virtual world to provide lots of platforms for engagement. We're looking to build a robust, a social experience even if we're not in close proximity as possible,
Betsy Cannon Smith (01:00:54):
Will students be able to work on the Amherst farm and given that there's a campus only policy for travel and so forth, would that include students being able to walk or hike off-campus, run, things like that?
Liz Agosto (01:01:09):
Students will be able to work on the farm as far as I know, and Jim can correct me if I'm wrong. We currently have the students who are in residence on campus now are currently engaged. Several of them are working with the farm. The farm has done an amazing job, supporting and following guidelines for safety and protocols. And the farm has lots of great ideas for not only work opportunities, but also social engagements, including small group fire pits, opportunities for birdwatching, et cetera. So they're very excited to find ways for students to be outdoors at the farm location. I think we are still figuring out the nuance of what does it mean to limit students to campus, our outdoor club, we hope will support us and work with our student activities to figure out how can we safely work with students to engage in the outdoors. We want students to be taking advantage of the great landscape that we have, and we need to make sure we have measures where that can be done safely, particularly around, travel to and from.
Betsy Cannon Smith (01:02:20):
Thank you. We'll stay somewhat on the housing theme, but then this time I'm going to turn to Matt. Matt, would you talk a little bit about our language in our letters that says that the voluntary leave will put housing into question somewhat. If you take a leave in the spring, does that mean on-campus housing may not be available at all, or that you don't have your first choice or that you go to the bottom of the housing list?
Matt McGann (01:02:45):
So students who take leave are always able to re-enroll in the semester that they want, and it's our intention in the spring to bring back and house all juniors and seniors. That's a core principle here now. Beyond this year, it's not exactly clear what our capacity will be. And it may be that those first years who take a gap year, and those students returning from leave, we may have to figure out their housing. We haven't firmly made policies yet on all of this. We want to guarantee that you'll be able to re-enroll when you want, but given everything, the housing is still an open question in a lot of different ways. And we would just want to be upfront about that.
Matt McGann (01:03:45):
Matt, a few more financial aid questions., The finances are still confusing. Will we get a new financial aid statement so that we know how much remote learning will cost before we have to decide? And when will that information be available?
Matt McGann (01:03:58):
If a new financial aid package that reflects remote learning is something that's going to be critical to you making your decision, I encourage you to reach out to the financial aid office. They are working as fast as they can to account for all of the changes, all the enhancements that Amherst has made to financial aid packages. But for those of you where that is a critical thing in making your decision, we'll do all that we can to be able to give you the information that you need to be able to make that decision.
Betsy Cannon Smith (01:04:36):
We've had a few questions about eligibility for January, the January term for students who take either the fall or the spring off. And I believe that the answer is yes, any student who is here at any time this year, January, fall, or spring, is eligible from January term. Catherine, is correct? [Correct.] Great. The next question, I'm going to let someone grab this I think from Student Affairs, and there are questions about activities like music. First, can remote and on-campus students participate together. How will that work and what does happen to things like performances, plays, concerts in this World we're entering this fall?
Liz Agosto (01:05:18):
I think there's probably two parts to that question, one that may actually be a Catherine question from an academic perspective in terms of the kind of co-curricular experience. Acapella groups, other musical experiences, there will be limitations on all of those experiences in order to mitigate and reduce risk. All of those will look different. I'm not sure that we will be able to engage in singing groups and things like that because of the spread and the risk that that entails. I'm not sure if Catherine perhaps has more information about how our academic departments are handling those issues.
Catherine Epstein (01:06:12):
The academic departments are handling these issues in much the same ways they are considering all options.
Catherine Epstein (01:06:20):
Some things seem easier to do than other things, small group ensembles, where physical distancing is possible, seems like something that could happen. On the other hand singing groups, because of the wa you project out potential exposure to COVID, that probably can't happen or won't happen certainly in person until later in the semester or later in the year. The academic departments are working very hard to make performances possible and they're using a lot of creativity to do so.
Betsy Cannon Smith (01:06:59):
Thank you. Will food and groceries, be able to be delivered to the students residence halls. Karu?
Karu Kozuma (01:07:11):
Karu Kozuma (01:07:11):
it falls into the same sort of bucket of not having visitors on campus. I know maybe folks have some dietary needs, and I think that's where we want to work with those particular students. Students have been working with dining services before, and they've been working with accessibility services. We'll have to take them on case by case basis if there are particular dining or dietary needs. We just can't have a flow of people coming on and off-campus. And that will include deliveries.
Betsy Cannon Smith (01:07:39):
A question on theme houses and will prior theme house placement and acceptances be disbanded, or will those be reshuffled?
Liz Agosto (01:07:49):
Theme housing will be a combination of both. We are looking at how we are setting up the different floors again for single occupancy, which will -- and because not all students who may have been accepted to a theme house will be returning to campus -- we will have to reshuffle and rethink some of the configurations, and we will be reaching out the theme house leadership in the coming week, and more information about housing,
Liz Agosto (01:08:19):
both theme houses, the housing process, housing accommodations will be shared on Tuesday, July 7th with all students.
Betsy Cannon Smith (01:08:30):
There are a number of questions about things like when students will know when they're supposed to come to campus. And so maybe just run through the kinds of things they can expect to get from you next week. That may help.
Liz Agosto (01:08:42):
Absolutely. Next week students will start to receive, actually tomorrow morning, students will receive a detailed email with all of these dates on it. But we'll restart to receive daily messages with, broken down by category to provide, a lot more nuanced and detailed information about all of these questions and issues. That will include the request to return process, health and safety measures, the housing selection process and residential life concerns, the community standards and expectations, campus life in general, student activities. We'll also be providing another way for you to submit additional questions that will inform those responses as well as our frequently asked questions.
Liz Agosto (01:09:31):
So that message will start tomorrow and then be out throughout next week and then continue in the remainder of the summer, while we continue to answer and refine our options. In terms of when students will know when they will be able to return, we will be able to start identifying dates of return once we know who's returning to campus and where they will be housed because the schedule for return will be based on kind of housing location for the most part, we think. But a good deal of that will be based on what the length of quarantine. Again, as President Martin said, if we need to do the 14-day quarantine for students, we do not anticipate that students would be quarantined for the full 14 days before classes start. We anticipate that the earliest that students would be returning to campus would be a week before the start of classes. So that should give you some idea of range, but again, we will be scheduling and staggering the move-in dates in order to accommodate the testing expectations for campus. So all of that will be detailed, will be provided in more detail in the coming days.
Betsy Cannon Smith (01:10:56):
Thank you, Liz. Biddy, you may pull a couple others into this question, but we continue to have a number of questions about how decisions were made about giving priority to students who studied abroad last year, to prioritize first year as sophomores over juniors and seniors, to
Betsy Cannon Smith (01:11:14):
to choose, to keep our campus and not use area hotels, for example, for housing students, things like that. Is that something you'd like to comment on?
Biddy Martin (01:11:25):
Sure. It's weird because what was just going through my head before you read me that set of questions was, Oh, I forgot to talk about one question that kept coming up, and that is why sophomores and not juniors, or why sophomores and not seniors. I think there's a short answer and it really is that we tried to make the decision on academic grounds. We tried every configuration. I want you to know that we have really spent day and night over the past months at working through every scenario one could possibly imagine. And we landed on irst years and sophomores for academic reasons. They don't yet have majors. I'm talking now specifically about sophomores, of course, first year's don't.
Biddy Martin (01:12:16):
They don't yet have majors. Sophomore year can be a very difficult year for that reason. There's the stress of finding a major, having a landing spot academically. Juniors obviously have already chosen a major and seniors obviously too. That is the short version of where we landed. There are good arguments for many other different decisions, and we realized that. And so some of you in your questions that we received today, and then emails to me, have made the same arguments that we made among ourselves for different decisions. And we came to this one, as I say because we have the sense that once students have chosen a major, they have an affiliation with the department, or sometimes it's two departments or even three, they have academic advisors in the field of their interest. They have contact with other majors in that field, and first years and sophomores have a harder academic transition.
Biddy Martin (01:13:26):
And that was the basis of our decision. And as I say, it can be argued differently. We know that, and we did it. So that's the reason. The other question was why students who had been abroad. I think because we believe that people who haven't been on campus very much for the past semester and year warrant an opportunity to spend more time at Amherst. That too can be argued the other way as some of you have pointed out in your notes. And we took other possibilities into account.
Biddy Martin (01:14:12):
In the end we decided that this was a set of students that should have some priority. So again, we don't have the magic ball and I don't believe there's any one right answer. And I know our students well enough to know that we really could refine arguments endlessly and come to a different place, but this is the place that we chose in the end. It's not about -- some of the notes that we received almost sounded as though we have something against juniors or seniors who don't fit into these categories, but of course, that's
Biddy Martin (01:14:58):
not the case at all.
Biddy Martin (01:14:59):
On the contrary, we not only have nothing against our students in any class, we so badly wish that it seemed wise to have everyone here at one time. We want everyone here for one semester this year, and that is our promise to ourselves, and that is our promise to you. COVID-19 permitting. So you do have to wait, but unfortunately, our note wasn't clear enough for you to avoid worrying that you were being left out for the whole year. That is not the case. So it's a matter of waiting.
Betsy Cannon Smith (01:15:46):
Thank you, Biddy. Catherine, we're going to turn back to you on academics. Again, there are a lot of questions about students thinking about timing with regard to making their decisions about a leave or not. One is, will there be an opportunity to see a mock class using a 2U partnership prior to the decision to attend? And then there are three or four more that you'll see there.
Catherine Epstein (01:16:07):
So unfortunately it won't be possible to see a mock class using the 2U partnership. That partnership is just getting underway and faculty have not yet had time to do any of the work on those courses. They'll only -- most courses, the 2U partnership is really for our larger classes. So classes that are 35 students or more, and we're hoping that this partnership goes really well. We have every reason to believe that it will and that you will have an excellent online experience.
Catherine Epstein (01:16:42):
There've been a number of questions about 30 credits, and could you only be enrolled in seven semesters at Amherst? And the answer is that at Amherst, in order to get a degree, you have to have been enrolled at Amherst for eight semesters. So even if you have enough credits to graduate, we also believe that it's important to have that number of semesters. So unless you do study-away in an approved program, which won't be possible this fall, you will have to be enrolled at Amherst for each semester or in another approved program by the college. Will details regarding the upcoming semester and writing policies be known. So, as I think I've mentioned, also mentioned in the chat, the faculty are currently discussing grading policy, and there will be a decision shortly, in the next couple of weeks. So you won't know the grading policy before you have to decide to return to campus, but I can assure you that it will not be universal pass-fail or anything like that. It will most likely be a return to our regular grading policies with an additional amount of flexibility included. The faculty are still hashing out the details.
Catherine Epstein (01:18:02):
Let's see. Are there other kinds of questions for academics? There's a question on study abroad. Could you comment on study abroad for the spring and when those decisions will be made? Okay. So, as I think you all know, study abroad for the fall, unfortunately, had to be canceled. It is still too early to say anything about the spring. We're very hopeful that study abroad will be able to happen in the spring, but we just don't know yet. So, it will probably be a couple of months before we have a sense of what will be possible.
Betsy Cannon Smith (01:18:35):
Thank you. There are a number of questions still on housing and how the students will get housed. A new question that I'm seeing here, somewhat related to that is about RCs. Karu, perhaps you could comment is the RC application process changing for this year and will RCs automatically be on the campus for the full year?
Karu Kozuma (01:19:02):
I might defer that one to Liz, but we do need student staff throughout the whole year. That's a key component of how we're going to
Karu Kozuma (01:19:11):
support our community, but I think she can give some details
Karu Kozuma (01:19:14):
when folks would find out more information.
Liz Agosto (01:19:16):
Sure. So students who were already residential life, student staff last year will receive a communication from Andrea, or they may have already received a communication from Andrea Cadyma, the Director of Res Life, either it should have either gone out today or will go out first thing tomorrow morning, talking about the continuation of your role and returning as students staff and what the position will entail. There will be some shifts to the position. We have been working very hard to both respond to concerns that were raised last spring about the role of the student staff and desire for that to be more robust and clear. And so we'll be sharing that with students. Ultimately there will also still be positions that remain open and we will
Liz Agosto (01:20:08):
push that out to the community. Many students already went through a process to apply, and so those students will receive the first outreach from residential life. And then we will, if we still need further student life students, staff in our residence halls, we will reach out to the broader community. The position again was really focused on community support. It will be focused on engaging with smaller groups of residents and really building a rapport and working with those residents to talk about what does it mean to live on our floor? How do we build community expectations and working with the residential life staff, the CDCs to further enhance that. Our students at one more point against that is that our professional life staff will also be shifting.
Liz Agosto (01:21:03):
So the CDC role, which is a community development coordinator, will be shifting their timeframe of work to be more present in the residence halls, both to support the student staff and to support the residents in the evening hours. They will be available making rounds and checking in and engaging in programming and other conversation with students during that period of time. So if you already had been in a student staff in Res Life or had already applied, you'll be hearing either today or tomorrow about those options.
Betsy Cannon Smith (01:21:41):
Simple questions: laundry. How a laundry be handled?
Liz Agosto (01:21:46):
Sure. Students will be able to use the laundry room but there will be expectations around how many students can go. We are talking about even a scheduling process and mechanism in order to reduce the number of people in those spaces. And so we will be sharing all of those in our residential life in a document that will include things like how we will use kitchens, elevators, in the halls, lounges, laundry. There's a lot of common space in residence halls that we're thinking through and creating really clear parameters to mitigate spread, but also to comply with physical distancing and other parameters.
Betsy Cannon Smith (01:22:34):
Spring question. Catherine, I think this one's for you. Since New England weather outside will not permit things to take place outside in the spring. How well social distancing and classes work in the second semester while maintaining quality for the juniors and seniors who are on campus?
Catherine Epstein (01:22:51):
So, great question. Obviously, you can't sit in a tent in February in Amherst, Massachusetts, and take classes. That won't work. One of the things we're doing is first of all making sure the January term is completely remote. And after
Catherine Epstein (01:23:06):
that you know, the pandemic permitting, we will bring students back to campus. In the first parts of the spring semester, it may be that more classes have to take place remotely if the professor and tudents are not comfortable in indoor classrooms. And then if things are going better, then classes will either continue or begin to be held outdoors again or will take place inside classrooms. We just, at this point, do not have enough information about the spring semester to be able to answer anything very definitively about the spring. So much is unknown. We just can't answer those questions and have any confidence that what we say now will be true of the spring.
Betsy Cannon Smith (01:23:53):
Thank you. Biddy, we continue to have a number of questions about why there is no distinction in tuition between remote tuition and on-campus tuition.
Biddy Martin (01:24:06):
Well, I think there are two factors. One is, as you can hear from what we're saying, they will be different, but they won't be as distinct as one might imagine. That's the lesser reason. The bigger reason is that federal regulations by our interpretation and others, don't allow differential tuition. So even if we wanted to, the interpretation that counsel here and outside counsel have given suggests that we are not allowed, and that might be why you're not seeing differential tuition being offered by universities and colleges.
Betsy Cannon Smith (01:24:58):
Thank you. This will be the last question for Matt. And then we'll go back to Biddy for some closing words, Matt. will the college cover the COVID testing for the students, or would that be billed to medical insurance?
Matt McGann (01:25:13):
The first students on campus, the COVID testing will be covered by the college. We have an agreement with the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard who will be providing COVID testing for all of our students., That, as well as masks and a variety of other safety measures, are all being taken care of by the College. These are all investments that we've made and will continue to make through the year. So for students who are on campus in the fall, that will be the case. And for students who are on campus in the spring, that will be the case. We want to use our resources to have a healthy campus, to keep everyone who is here safe, including students, faculty, and staff. So those will not be things that you will be asked to provide in any way.
Betsy Cannon Smith (01:26:04):
Thank you, Matt. Biddy, we're closing in on 8:30. So why don't I turn it over to you to wrap us up. An hour and a half has gone by quickly.
Biddy Martin (01:26:16):
It has gone by quickly. We really appreciate your questions. I'm aware that the past few minutes, 10 or 20 minutes, have involved quite a number of specific questions about what it will be like on campus. And I want to say to those of you who will not be on campus, I hope that you have gotten the answers to your questions that you joined the meeting hoping to get. And as I've said before, I am confident that you're going to get an excellent education academically, but also that our ability to plan ahead will also mean that you'll be engaged with other students in this community who might be here or somewhere else entirely, with faculty to a much greater degree. And also with staff. I want to say again that I understand how disappointed some of you are that you won't be coming in the fall and will have to wait until the spring. I completely understand the disappointment and the sorrow, the anger.
Biddy Martin (01:27:33):
We're really sorry. And it's of course, out of our control at the highest level, as you know. Everyone will be here for a semester this year. Important that we clarify that. This pandemic is testing us all and will continue to test us all. It may even change our plans going forward. This is a very difficult time. And as I said last night, I think it's also bound to be one of the most memorable and also biggest growth experiences that you may have in your lifetimes. It's that significant a challenge that we face and not only from COVID, but also from what the pandemic has exposed about inequalities and the racism that is still so rampant and seemingly even more licensed on an overt level. All of these problems are taxing. They are also opportunities for communities to work together, to change and to make things better.
Biddy Martin (01:28:58):
And we want to do that at Amherst, and we don't care whether you're studying remotely or studying on campus. In all cases, we want you to be engaged and we're going to work hard to make sure that you can stay engaged and that your voices and your leadership, to go back to a couple of the questions you asked earlier, will count. They will count. And I urge you to make sure you take leadership positions regardless of where you're going to be living. Thank you very much for listening to us. And I hope you'll feel that we have listened to you though I wish we could listen to your voices and I'm sure it would feel better if you could make your points in your own voices. Thank you.
Betsy Cannon Smith (01:29:45):
Thank you all. Goodnight