Dear UMass Dartmouth Community,
When we set out to develop our fall re-opening plan in April, we started by establishing several guiding principles, the most important of which were to protect the health and safety of our community and to ensure that students can progress towards their educational goals. Balancing those vital interests, we developed a plan that is comprehensive, innovative, and flexible, and we have adjusted as necessary as we learned more about COVID-19. I am writing today to inform you that worsening conditions within Massachusetts and across the country have required us to adjust once again.
Although most elements of our plan will remain, there are two significant changes. All lecture-style instruction will move to a fully remote modality while labs, studios, clinicals, and other instruction that require on-campus facilities will remain on campus. In addition, the number of residential students will be further reduced.
The decision to limit the use of physical instructional spaces was driven by a need to reduce the number of people on campus. The decision was not made lightly, and we recognize it will have a disparate impact on different members of the campus community. To minimize this impact, in determining residential status, we will prioritize those students who are required to travel the greatest distance to participate in required on-campus instruction, as well as students who, due to personal circumstances, rely upon on-campus housing, dining, technology, and other support services. If a student was previously confirmed to live in a residence hall this fall, VC Shannon and Student Affairs will provide further information on this process later today.
Although some campus facilities will be available to non-residential students, these facilities will operate at very limited capacity, and in certain cases, access may be restricted. This further de-densifying of the campus is necessary to ensure the safety of our students, faculty, and staff. Please note that on-campus research activity will continue unchanged per established safety protocols.
Our experience in the spring made it clear that the impact of a remote learning environment can create hardships for our students who do not have access to a conducive living/learning environment and/or technology. In the coming days, we will be working with our Deans, Department Chairs, faculty, and staff in the Division of Student Affairs to provide support for our students who are disadvantaged by this decision.
I also want to mention that any student eligible to apply for CARES Act funding should receive an email from Financial Aid Services soon. For FY21 CARES Relief Funding consideration, students must be eligible to receive Title IV aid as defined by the Department of Education, have a current Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) on file with the UMass Dartmouth Financial Aid Services Office, and be registered full-time (12 credits for undergraduates and law, 9 credits for grad) for fall 2020 in “day” classes (students in Online and Continuing Education are ineligible under federal guidelines). Funds can be used to assist students with the cost of food, housing, health care, childcare, remote-learning technology, and other resources.
For those individuals who will be on campus, we will utilize strict testing, quarantine, and isolation protocols, as well as the now-familiar requirements for face coverings, social distancing, and daily personal health assessments. As always, we will monitor conditions and follow the guidance of the CDC, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, and local public health officials in determining whether additional adjustments are necessary.
I want to thank everyone, and especially the members of the various Pandemic Emergency Response Teams (PERT) who created a comprehensive and innovative plan to resume face-to-face learning. Overcoming the challenges brought about by COVID-19 has highlighted our resiliency, and I do not doubt that this experience will make us better in the future. For many, including myself, the pandemic has served to remind us of the importance of our mission and our ability to make a difference in the world.
To our students, fall 2020 at UMass Dartmouth will be different from what you might have expected, but please be assured that the education we are offering remains excellent and that faculty, administration, and staff are committed to helping you achieve the goals you have set for yourselves. Although many of your classes and much of your campus experiences may be remote this fall, faculty and staff will continue to support you academically and emotionally, while the University will continue to keep all members of our community healthy and safe.
There are sure to be many questions and we are here to answer them. We will be hosting Town Halls to discuss these updates tomorrow, Tuesday, August 11. You should have already received an email invitation. Additionally, if you have questions, please reach out via email.
I miss the vibrancy of our campus. I miss seeing everyone on the pathways that crisscross the quad and in line to get coffee. It is important that even if we do not see each other in person, we are still a community. Community is what has mattered most this year. Whether it is following safety precautions not just to protect yourself but to protect those around you or jumping on video chats with friends and family to lift each other’s spirits is evidence of how strong our community is. We must continue focusing on community and our relationships to get through this together.
Thank you for your continued patience, cooperation, and hard work as we continue to prepare for the fall semester and advance our educational mission during these trying times.
Chief Operating Officer and Acting Chancellor