March 9, 2020

Dear students, faculty, staff, and families,

The COVID-19 virus continues to spread and affect many parts of the U.S. and the rest of the world. Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has announced that we are past the point of being able to contain this disease. While there continue to be no reported cases of the virus on our campus, we need to focus on mitigating its possible effects.

We know that many people will travel widely during spring break, no matter how hard we try to discourage it. The risk of having hundreds of people return from their travels to the campus is too great. The best time to act in ways that slow the spread of the virus is now. Let me make our decisions clear and then provide additional information:

  1. Amherst will move to remote learning after spring break, beginning Monday, March 23, so students can complete work off-campus.
  2. Classes are canceled on Thursday and Friday of this week, March 12-13, so faculty and staff have time to work on alternate modes of delivering courses, and students have every opportunity to secure transportation.
  3. All students are expected to have left campus by Wednesday, March 18 (this date has been updated since original communication). Only those students who have successfully petitioned and have remained in residence over spring break will be allowed to stay on campus to do their remote learning. The deadline to petition to remain on campus is noon on Friday, March 13.
  4. Campus will remain open and all faculty and staff should continue their regular work schedules.

Additional Information:

  1. How do I apply for permission to stay on campus through spring break and the remainder of the semester? 
    We understand that for a limited number of students, going to or staying at a location away from campus is not possible. For that reason, the Office of Student Affairs has created a petition process for students who believe they must remain on campus. The deadline for submitting a petition is 12 noon this Friday, March 13 (this date has been updated since the original communication). Late petitions will not be considered. Students whose petitions are approved are required to remain in Amherst during spring break.

  2. Should I take my personal belongings? What if I cannot take them all? 
    Because the duration of this disruption is unclear, we encourage students to take as many of their belongings as possible, particularly the items and materials they need to continue their studies remotely after the break. A subsequent notice to students will provide more information about packing and moving support.

  3. Will the College be closed?
    Our campus will continue to operate during this period. The work of educating our students and caring for those who remain on campus will continue without interruption. Therefore, faculty and staff are expected to do their work as usual while following the health protocols the College has already put in place, based on Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.

  4. Where can I get more information, or ask additional questions? 
    Please check your email and the College’s COVID-19 website for updates and more information. For questions that are not answered on the website, students, faculty, staff and families can email covid19-info@amherst.edu. From noon until 8 p.m. Eastern time tomorrow, March 10, staff will be available to answer your questions at 413-542-2919.

It saddens us to be taking these measures. It will be hard to give up, even temporarily, the close colloquy and individual attention that defines Amherst College, but our faculty and staff will make this change rewarding in its own way, and we will have acted in one another’s best interests. We know these decisions pose significant challenges and wish they were not necessary. Our goal is to keep members of our community as safe as we possibly can while ensuring that students can complete their coursework for the semester and the daily operations of the institution can continue.

Sincerely,

Biddy