March 17, 2020
I am writing today to provide an update on our efforts to deal with the threat of COVID-19, and also to let you know that I am thinking of all our students and of you, their families. The difficult but necessary decision to move to remote learning has meant upheaval and tremendous challenge for you, just as it has for everyone here and for people all over the world. I hope all of you will stay well or, if any contract the virus, will suffer the mildest possible symptoms.
Here on campus, the majority of students have left and are preparing to continue their classes remotely. Close to 200 students, whose circumstances require it, have been given permission to remain on campus. In the midst of change and uncertainty, I have been moved and inspired by the many alumni, parents, and friends who have reached out to offer support, kind words, and assistance for students as they deal with the challenge and sense of loss that the disruption of their on-campus experience inevitably brings.
Whether here on campus or away, we want students to be able to focus on their health and safety and on their studies, not on financial concerns. Here are some of the steps the College is taking to make sure that travel changes, new arrangements, and technology needs are not cost-prohibitive to students and families as we transition to remote learning:
- We will reimburse room and board on a pro-rata basis for the duration of time away from campus so that students and families have funds to cover the student who would otherwise be at Amherst.
- Students who have left campus who had on-campus jobs will continue to be paid, even if the work they were doing cannot be done remotely; we have plenty of remote work opportunities we will offer them.
- We are offering logistical support with travel arrangements and packing and storage of belongings to all students. For students on aid with significant need, we are providing financial stipends—not loans—so that students can return home and access the technology they need to continue their studies.
In response to the many alumni, parents, and friends who have asked what they can do to help students facing financial challenges, we have created the COVID-19 Student Support Fund, which will help defray these unexpected costs to the College. Thank you to all who have contributed so far. Their—your—generosity is a testament to the strength of the Amherst community. We will continue to do all we can to ensure that students on and away from campus are taken care of. Please see our updated FAQ for more information.
Our faculty and staff are working with creativity and resilience to provide the highest quality experience for all of our students. In order to continue to help mitigate the effects of COVID-19 in our community and do our part to slow the spread of the virus, we are moving to a model of remote work for faculty and staff for all except essential staff members. All offices, including the Office of Student Affairs, the Loeb Center for Career Exploration and Planning, Health Services, and the Counseling Center, are committed to working with individual students to meet their needs and stand ready to conduct appointments by phone or Zoom meeting. Amherst will continue to pay all faculty and staff through the semester, including part-time and casual employees. Neither regular nor casual employees will lose pay or leave time for any COVID-19-related absence this semester.
I’m sure that everyone is feeling the stress and anxiety of this threat to public health and the disruptions and uncertainties that come with it, including the isolation that social distancing can involve. I am grateful for this extraordinarily caring and connected community, whose bonds cross years and continents. I will stay in touch. I would love to hear from you as you work your way through this difficult experience with your Amherst student. Meanwhile, I send my warmest wishes for the wellbeing and safety of you and your loved ones.
President Biddy Martin