Dear Faculty and Staff,
I write to let you know that the university plans to work towards full reopening for the fall 2021 semester, and to share with you the message that our students will receive later today (below). This is not a decision that was made lightly, and in consultation with the university’s leadership team, it seemed important to share this intention now, so that we have ample time to prepare for reopening.
I want to thank all of you who have worked so hard over the past year to adapt nimbly to the changing conditions of the pandemic, continue to deliver an outstanding education to our students, and keep our campus community safe by following public health protocols. I hope you feel justifiably proud of this success amid very challenging circumstances.
As much as I know we all look forward to being together again, we need to be very thoughtful in our planning for the fall semester, and we cannot assume that we’ll be able to resume all our activities exactly as they were before the pandemic. That’s why I’ve asked the university’s implementation group to consult with the campus community and begin preparing a detailed plan for our reopening that we can share later this spring. Of course, we will all need to be part of the planning process, anticipating challenges and strategizing about possible solutions. When the implementation group, your Dean or unit head reaches out for your input, thank you for sharing your best ideas and suggestions.
I look forward to updating you on our plans later this semester, and to having our campus community together again in the fall.
Mark A. Fuller, PhD
I am writing with some long-awaited, exciting news! UMass Dartmouth anticipates resuming on-campus, in-person classes for the fall 2021 semester. That means we intend to welcome all students back to campus, including to our residence halls, and will be planning for activities, programs, events and services that create a vibrant student life experience while remaining vigilant in our alignment with public health guidance and safety practices.
We are sharing our intentions with you to allow you and your families to better plan for the fall semester, even as we continue to finalize the details of our implementation plan. We know many of you would like to live on campus if the majority (or all) of your courses will be held in person – with this information, you should be comfortable participating in the room selection process after spring break with the knowledge that we intend to resume on-campus, in-person classes in fall 2021.
Our optimism about fall 2021 stems from UMass Dartmouth’s proven success in keeping the campus community safe and healthy over the past year, combined with the progress being made in state and national vaccination efforts. When the pandemic struck last March, we carefully analyzed and adapted our campus operations to ensure that we adhered to, and more often, surpassed, all health and safety guidelines. This academic year, we have successfully hosted a modest number of students living on campus with some labs and courses held in person.
We remain grateful to all of you, and our faculty and staff who have been so diligent in following safety protocols including wearing masks, social distancing, washing hands frequently, and routine testing. Our on-campus COVID Testing Center, which has conducted more than 26,000 tests since August 2020, has been a crucial component of our success. As a result of our surveillance testing and contact tracing program and everyone’s compliance with health protocols, our campus positivity rate has remained much lower than our region’s and the state’s average throughout the pandemic. Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker honored our Testing Center and testing program staff with the prestigious Manuel Carballo Governor’s Award for Excellence in Public Service.
UMass Dartmouth will continue to follow Massachusetts health and safety guidelines and monitor and adjust to evolving public health conditions. We know that you may have questions about the fall, and we will provide more information about the university’s detailed plans and what reopening means for athletics, events, student clubs and organizations, and other considerations we know are important to you as soon as possible. Until then, if you have questions about what our campus reopening means for your particular situation, please direct them as follows:
Athletics and Recreation: firstname.lastname@example.org
Dining/Meal Plans: email@example.com
Health Immunizations/Services: firstname.lastname@example.org
Student Activities, Organizations and Events: email@example.com
If you are unsure to whom to direct your inquiry, please send it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will be happy to connect with you the best person to assist you.
I hope you are as enthused about this news as I am – campus is not the same without all of you here with us and I cannot wait for your safe return in fall 2021! Please continue to take care of yourself and each other. You matter and we care!
Shannon M. Finning, Ph.D.
Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs