Update on Planning for the Fall

June 2, 2020

Dear Students, Faculty, Staff, and Families,

Since we last wrote to you, the semester has come to a close and, on Sunday, we honored the class of 2020 in a virtual celebration that is available to view. We have reached this point because of the perseverance, sacrifice, and creativity of the Amherst community—all of you. We are grateful for your extraordinary achievement.

We continue actively planning for the fall, and we are writing now to give you another update on our effort to bring as many students as possible back to a safe learning and living environment on campus. As you know, there are many hurdles involved, some in our control and some not. You will probably have read announcements from other colleges and universities, some announcing decisions to bring students back to campus for the fall semester, but all with a warning that those decisions could change. We do not believe that kind of announcement will be very helpful to you. We are focusing intensive efforts on making it possible to bring our students back to this beautiful campus while also preparing to enhance significantly what we offer remotely, knowing that some members of the community will teach and learn at a distance.

Financial Challenges and Measures We Will Take

May 7, 2020

Dear Staff and Faculty,

We are writing today about the financial challenges that COVID-19 has brought and to provide you with an initial list of the measures we believe it is necessary to take. Before we launch into this update, we thank you for your resilience and dedication in the face of this pandemic and its impact. We hope you are taking good care of yourselves. 

Make-up Days, End-of-Semester Work, Exams

April 30, 2020

Dear Faculty, Staff, and Students,

With the end of classes nearing, and spring on its way, we write to announce the following make-up days to cover classes that were canceled during the spring semester, due to the preparation for the transition to remote learning:

  • On Monday, May 4, Thursday classes may be held at the regularly scheduled time.  These meetings will be held to make up for classes that were canceled on Thursday, March 12.
  • On Tuesday, May 5, Friday classes may be held at the regularly scheduled time.  These meetings will be held to make up for classes that were canceled on Friday, March 13.

First Confirmed Case of COVID-19 in Our Community

April 23, 2020

Dear Amherst Students, Staff, Faculty, and Families,

I’m writing to let you know that we have the first confirmed on-campus case of COVID-19. A custodial staff member received the news of the positive test results yesterday and is in isolation at home and doing well. I know you will join me in wishing this individual a complete and speedy recovery. The staff member’s last day on campus was April 18; at that time, they displayed no symptoms, wore a face mask while working, and did not engage with any students. 

April 24, 2020: Staying in Touch

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

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

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

4/10/20: COVID-19 Update

Dear Faculty and Staff, 

Here is the update for April 10, 2020.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Guidance for Essential Workers

To ensure the continuity of essential operations, the CDC has advised that critical infrastructure workers may be permitted to continue work following potential exposure to COVID-19, provided they remain asymptomatic and additional precautions are implemented to protect them and the community. Read the guidelines and learn more about safety protocols at the CDC website.

April 17, 2020: Staying in Touch

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

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

Grading Policy This Semester

April 15, 2020

Dear Students and Faculty,

I hope this email finds you well.

We have heard from some faculty and students who feel strongly that the college should consider a shift to a mandatory pass/fail system for this semester.  The Committee of Six recognizes the compelling arguments both for and against taking this step, many of which center around justice and equity.  In response to ongoing conversation within the community about this topic, the committee wants to provide greater clarity about whether another change in our grading policy should be considered at this time.  I write now to inform you that the members have recommended that no further changes to the grading policy be made this semester and to explain the reasons for this decision.

Anti-Asian Racism

April 7, 2020

Dear Members of the Amherst Community,

In a letter I sent to you last week I wrote about incidents of COVID-19-related anti-Asian racism that are increasing across the country as the pandemic spreads. These incidents of harassment, verbal attacks, and physical assaults are doing tremendous harm to individuals and to Asian and Asian-American communities. Estimates from days ago suggested that at least a hundred or more incidents are reported each day, including physical violence of the kind that occurred recently in Texas, where three people were stabbed, including two children. These hateful acts represent the worst forms of ignorance. I am writing again today to express what I imagine is our collective horror at this surge in racism and to ask that you join me in openly condemning it, and in doing everything you can to help end it. I also want to encourage reporting and provide information about resources.

4/6/20: COVID-19 Update

Dear Faculty and Staff, 

Here is the update for April 6, 2020.

Improved Zoom Security Settings

In response to user complaints related to Zoombombing, Zoom has announced universal changes to meeting settings to help protect legitimate users of its online meeting service.  Summarizing the changes, the waiting room setting is now on for all meetings by default, as is the password requirement. Please contact AskIT@amherst.edu if you have Zoom-related questions or concerns.

Reflections on Learning, Distance, and Bias

April 3, 2020

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

I am writing to provide you with some reflections at the end of our second week of remote learning. But, first, I want to extend my best wishes to each and every one of you. I hope that you and your loved ones are well and safe and that you are finding workable and even meaningful ways to spend this difficult period of social distancing.

4/3/20: COVID-19 Update

Dear Faculty and Staff, 

Here is the update for April 3, 2020.

Supervising Students Workers

As the semester continues, so, too, does student employment. The College is committed to ensuring that student workers can work, whenever possible, and that they will be paid. Those who employ student workers and have questions about policies or processes can find many answers in a message by Chief Student Affairs Officer Karu Kozuma that was sent to the community yesterday. 

Student Employment & Payroll

April 2, 2020

Dear Colleagues,

This week marks the second week of remote learning; we hope you are transitioning as smoothly as possible. As the semester continues, so, too, does student employment. As you likely are aware, the College is ensuring that student workers can work, whenever possible, and that they will be paid. We thought it might be helpful to answer some of the questions we have heard and anticipate you may have as this new phase of the academic year gets underway. 

4/1/20: COVID-19 Update

Dear Faculty and Staff, 

Here is the update for April 1, 2020.

Teaching and Learning Conversation and Community

The Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL) is now offering support for faculty through a weekly Zoom session aimed at decompressing with colleagues and working in small groups to share successes, concerns and teaching challenges. Bring your triumphs and tribulations--big or small--during the next conversation on Thursday, April 2, from 4 to 5 p.m.

3/30/20: COVID-19 Daily Update

Dear Faculty and Staff, 

Here is the update for March 30, 2020.

With fewer urgent or “breaking news” COVID-19-related items recently, we are transitioning this email to a Monday-Wednesday-Friday publishing schedule; we will send an unscheduled Update if/as needed. We continue to communicate valuable information, coronavirus and otherwise, via the Daily Mammoth.