March 23, 2020

To Students, Families, Faculty, Staff, and Alumni,

Earlier today I sent this note to our seniors. It will come as no surprise to many of you that we have postponed Commencement until a time when we can safely have the Class of ’20 on campus for an in-person ceremony. We are soliciting ideas from our seniors for how to celebrate their class and time here at Amherst.

Given the information we have, it makes sense for us to cancel on-campus reunion for 2020 as well. This is an enormous disappointment for us all. Our alumni classes put together fantastic programs--informative, analytical, creative, and community-building. I hope any virtual panels and discussions in the works can and, if possible, will be made widely available. I know our alumni will be disappointed. I want to make sure our alumni know that those of us on campus are disappointed, too.

I took one of my walks around campus on Saturday. It was a beautiful, sunny day, relatively warm for Amherst, but much too quiet. I had hoped to encounter some students, at a six-foot distance, but, apparently, I walked in the wrong directions at the wrong times.

As our students, faculty, and staff know, classes started up again today. Our IT department sent me a video clip from one of the math classes that occurred this morning. I cannot claim to have understood the math, but I was impressed with Zoom’s whiteboard function and enjoyed listening to the explanations and student questions.

Provost and Dean of the Faculty Catherine Epstein and I have thanked the faculty and staff for everything they’re doing to make students’ educational experience rewarding, even in the face of this unprecedented challenge. We continue to work hard with our faculty on academic policy questions that students have raised and will communicate important decisions as soon as we have them. Meanwhile, the essential staff at the College are doing extraordinary work to make sure students are housed, fed, safe, and well, while also ensuring that necessary operations continue. Their know-how, can-do attitudes, and willingness to take risks on behalf of others inspire and support us all. I also know that among our alumni are scores of people who are treating the ill, ensuring our health policies are slowing the spread, and working on new and novel treatments or vaccines.

I want to thank everyone associated with Amherst for your patience and support as we make our way through this crisis. I hope all of you are staying well, that your loved ones are as well, that those who may have been infected are healing, and that all the many burdens on you, which I know are considerable, are not overwhelming.


Biddy Martin