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UMass Amherst Uninvites Most Students Planning To Live On Campus This Fall

The campus of UMass Amherst.
Hoang 'Leon' Nguyen
The Republican / masslive.com
The campus of UMass Amherst.

Updated 4:25 p.m.

UMass Amherst has reversed its plans to allow students to decide whether to return to campus housing.

In a public letter, the chancellor said that due to the "worsening conditions of the COVID-19 pandemic nationally," the school will only allow students enrolled in the limited number of in-person classes to stay on campus. From the letter:

While we remain committed to our previously announced instructional plan, regrettably, we are reversing our previously announced offer to provide on-campus housing for students whose coursework is entirely remote. Only students who are enrolled in essential face-to-face classes, including laboratory, studio and capstone courses, which have been designated in SPIRE, will be accommodated in campus residence halls and be granted access to campus facilities and dining this fall. All other students, whose courses do not require a physical presence on campus, should plan to engage in their studies remotely, from home. In the interest of public health, we also strongly urge our off-campus students whose coursework is remote to refrain from returning to the Amherst area for the fall semester, for they, too, will not have campus facilities at their disposal. Research laboratories, many of which resumed operation in the spring, will remain open.

A spokesman said that would be only about 700 students, instead of the 7,000 estimated a couple weeks ago.

A UMass Amherst spokesman said the estimated number of students who will live in residence halls is 740 under the new restrictions. That's compared to the roughly 7,000 that school officials a couple weeks ago estimated would live on campus.

The chancellor's letter said the decision was "informed by the health and safety concerns expressed by our faculty and staff and by the citizens and leadership in our host community, Amherst." From the letter:

Officials decided In addition, we determined that the risk of a mid-semester closing of the campus is real, and that making the decision not to bring students back to campus is preferable to sending everyone home in the event of an uncontrolled outbreak.

Most classes at UMass are being offered online.

Derek Gilmore, a sophomore who lives outside of Boston, said — financially — it may be better to live at home. But he was looking forward to getting back on campus and having some independence. The university just this week gave him a move-in date.

"It doesn't make sense to me that we had our move-in reservaton, like, literally the day before they canceled housing for almost everbyody," Gilmore said. "And cases are going up in Massachusetts, but I feel like that knew that was going to happen in the fall. So something isn't really adding up for me."

The acceleration of the COVID-19 pandemic within the United States has prompted other Massachusetts schools to rethink their fall plans as well.

Northampton's Smith College, which had been planning for on-campus instruction, announced Wednesday it would instead offer all fall courses remotely

Williams College, in Williamstown, on Thursday issued a strict set of rules under which students will be quarantined in their dorms until receiving two negative COVID-19 tests and unable to leave campus, including for shopping trips, through at least September.

Mount Holyoke College on Friday announced it would not bring students back to campus in the fall, with President Sonya Stephens writing that "the current path of COVID-19 in the United States, and its devastating consequences, present too great a risk to our reopening plan."

Sam Hudzik and Jill Kaufman contributed to this report, which includes information from State House News Service.

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