Dear campus community,
We have endured so much together since early March when COVID-19 rapidly changed our university and our entire way of life. We reacted to the challenges it presented with an unprecedented effort to ensure that we finished the semester strong while protecting the health of our community.
At UMass Dartmouth, we are future-focused and even during the spring, we were thinking about the future, specifically the fall 2020 semester. People from across campus have been focused on this issue for months and we are now ready to present our plan for fall 2020. This upcoming semester will look different.
I am excited to announce that UMass Dartmouth will resume face-to-face classes and living on campus for the fall 2020 semester utilizing social distancing for all activities. Please review the main points below:
- UMass Dartmouth will offer a combination of face-to-face, blended, and remote learning courses this fall.
- After Thanksgiving, all instructional activities, including final exams, will be offered remotely. There are no changes to the academic calendar.
- All resident students will have the option to be housed in single-occupancy rooms.
- We will use the new dining facility and keep open the current dining facility to increase the capacity for social distancing.
- At the start of the semester, events will only be allowed with 25 or fewer attendees. Revised guest totals will be determined per CDC and Massachusetts guidelines.
- Updates on fall athletics will be announced on or before August 1, 2020.
Based on current and anticipated conditions related to COVID-19 and the need for safety, the fall 2020 semester will be different from a typical semester. Our Fall 2020 Re-Opening Plan contains a roadmap for repopulating campus and includes information about health and safety, important protocols for social distancing, personal protection, cleaning, classroom and remote instruction, laboratory safety and operations, housing and residential education, and dining services. It is the culmination of our Pandemic Emergency Response Team (PERT)’s analysis of every functional area of our University.
The health, safety, and wellbeing of our students, faculty, and staff is our priority and remains at the center of our decision-making. To provide safe and accessible educational opportunities, we plan to offer a residential campus experience with a blend of on-campus and remote classes and activities. The plan provides flexibility to navigate changing health and safety conditions and the ability to increase in-person opportunities over time as allowed by public health guidelines.
UMass Dartmouth will continue to rely on recommendations from the CDC and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. There will be an emphasis on self-screening and the importance of not coming to campus if ill (and isolate residential students as necessary). Occupancy requirements in all areas will be continually monitored and updated as needed to meet physical distancing requirements. As we have all come to expect, we must enforce social distancing, frequent handwashing, and the use of non-medical face coverings always, except while alone in residence hall rooms or private offices. We will also maintain clean facilities per public health guidelines, distribute PPE, and train all members of the campus community on their shared responsibility to achieve a safe and successful re-opening.
The University is currently at the beginning of a phased return of faculty and staff to campus for the fall semester. We will continue to prioritize at-risk faculty and staff and those with childcare or home-schooling responsibilities. We must continue to focus on the necessary support for our community members disproportionally affected by COVID-19 and the national climate, including mental health support.
While the report is the result of many months of careful analysis, it is not the end of our re-opening process. We have solicited feedback and ask that you still offer suggestions moving forward. You are experts in your areas of campus, and we need to hear your thoughts. This process will be perfected over the summer with your help.
I want to acknowledge the fact that communities of color have been hit especially hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. Many of our students will be returning from these communities, and I want them to know that our Student Affairs staff and everyone across the university are here to support you.
There are countless specific actions and bits of information that everyone needs to familiarize themselves with, so I urge you to review our Fall 2020 Re-Opening website, which contains a wealth of information for safely navigating the semester.
Unpredictability has become normal during COVID-19, but we are a dedicated community of learners and innovators who will adapt and learn as we go along. We must never lose sight of our educational mission and do whatever we can to protect the safety of our campus as well as the wider community. On behalf of the leadership team, I want to thank each of you for what you have already done and for your continued excellence as we move forward. #UMassDTogether
Robert E. Johnson, Ph.D.