Dear UMass Dartmouth Community,
I would like to provide some updates on UMass Dartmouth’s plan for the spring 2021 semester. I first want to thank people across campus who have been hard at work analyzing how our fall 2020 plan can be adapted for this upcoming spring. Due to our robust testing and contact tracing program and your willingness to abide by health and safety protocols, I believe we can make incremental steps towards having more students, faculty, and staff living and learning on our campus. Let me explain what this means for you.
Our decision to hold labs, clinicals, and studios face-to-face while moving lecture-based courses to remote learning was necessary to reduce the number of people on our campus. With our testing and contact tracing program in place and other lessons learned from the fall semester, we will be offering a modest number of additional courses face-to-face this spring in order to ensure students can persist and make timely progress towards the completion of their studies. Planned Spring semester course offerings are now available in COIN.
Importantly, the University has decided to make no changes to its academic calendar. The first day of classes is Tuesday, January 19, 2021, and spring recess is currently scheduled to begin on Friday, March 5, 2021. UMass Law classes begin on January 4, 2021.
While some institutions have decided to cancel their spring recess, we recognize that the pandemic and its aftermath have a significant impact on the stress levels and mental health of our students, staff, and faculty. This decision to retain spring recess reflects our desire to balance the risks associated with potential travel and the mental health needs of our community. Accordingly, the University strongly discourages making plans to travel out of state during the spring recess period and will abide by and enforce state travel quarantine policies. You can review the University’s Travel Guidelines on our COVID page. We have been able to minimize the risks of COVID-19 on campus this fall by working together and following safety protocols. We need everyone to continue to make safe choices for this plan to work.
This past summer, the demand to live on campus was high. Yet, due to the need to de-densify, we reduced the number of residential students. Again, with lessons learned this semester and the proven capabilities of our testing program and other safety policies, we believe we can invite more students to live on campus safely.
Next week, the Office of Housing & Residential Education will email all current students to ask about their interest in living on campus in spring 2021. Once students have selected their spring 2021 courses, there will be another communication in mid-November that will provide information on the housing application process. We anticipate most students will continue to reside in single rooms with upper-class students having the option to select into apartments with ‘family’ or ‘neighborhood’ grouping. Policies implemented at the start of the Fall 2020 semester will remain in place regarding the assignment of bathroom and laundry facilities, guest policies, and enhanced cleaning protocols. Please note that current residential students who plan to continue to live on campus this spring will be considered first before spaces are made available to other students.
The University understands the decisions regarding winter and spring athletics are of great importance to our student-athletes and the campus community. As we review playing opportunities for the remainder of the 2020-21 winter season, we remain in constant communication with the Little East and Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic conferences and anticipate a status update in the coming weeks. Discussion on the status of spring sports and the exploration of playing opportunities for fall programs is ongoing. Once decisions are finalized, we will communicate the University’s plan to allow student-athletes the time and flexibility they need to formulate their personal decisions.
With the decision to increase our residential student population and offer more face-to-face courses, the University will need to be adequately staffed on campus. Decisions regarding those positions that require on-campus functions and those that will continue to operate remotely are currently being planned by supervisors and Human Resources. We will continue to encourage employees that can effectively complete their duties from home without adversely impacting face-to-face classes or student life to do so. More information regarding any changes will be available soon.
In closing, please know that this is not back to normal. Far from it, but it is progress toward our ‘next normal’. We expect to see continued increases in positive case rates across the country and Commonwealth heading into this winter. Should local conditions considerably worsen, we will once again be nimble and alter our plans in the service of the public health. I believe we have put in the work to make our campus safe and have altered our behaviors to protect each other to ensure that we afford students with opportunities to reach their educational ambitions. I want to again thank you for your hard work, patience, and sense of community.
Mark Preble, SPHR, SHRM-SCP
Chief Operating Officer and Acting Chancellor