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Report Outlines What The Fall Semester At UMass Might Look Like

Officials at UMass Amherst have released a preliminary report, outlining what college life might look like for the fall semester, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues.

The more than 50-page document includes options for having some students return to campus, or continuing with remote learning for nearly all. The report recommends smaller class sizes, a shifted academic calendar, and having students live one to a dorm room in most cases.

Eve Weinbaum is president of the Massachusetts Society of Professors, the faculty union at UMass. She said there's concern about bringing a large number of students back to campus, and about having adequate facilities.

"We're also not convinced that students will follow the guidelines about not leaving campus, going to parties, going home for the weekend — all things they're going to be asked not to do," Weinbaum said. 

Weinbaum, who teaches labor studies, said the hybrid model of combining on-campus and remote instruction is the most challenging and the one that most concerns her colleagues. She said teaching the same course in the classroom and virtually would involve having to engage students in different ways depending on their location.

"From our perspective, if you're teaching to one group of students who is on campus and coming to your office and sitting and having discussions in a classroom, and another group of students who is far away, it's basically like teaching two classes," Weinbaum said.

UMass Chancellor Kumble Subbaswammy said in a message to the campus community that it's likely the majority of juniors, seniors and graduate students would continue the practice of living off-campus, and will have leases to do so this fall.

"These students will also be screened for the novel coronavirus, and are expected to follow public health guidelines both on and off campus," Subbaswammy said. "They are reminded the Student Code applies to them as well: 'The University reserves the right to take action based on any student conduct, regardless of location.'"

The chancellor said a decision on the fall semester will be reached by the end of June, and that as of now, "we expect to return to normal campus operations in Spring 2021."

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