UMass Amherst Lockdown Taking Mental, Financial Toll On Students

Feb 16, 2021

A sharp rise in COVID-19 cases at UMass Amherst has left students stuck in place after the university ordered a two-week lockdown.

The lockdown requires students to shelter in their dorms except to get food and attend essential appointments and also bans all student gatherings and outdoor exercise through next Sunday.

For a first-person account of how students are handling this, WBUR’s Morning Edition spoke with Sara McKenna, a UMass senior and secretary of University Policy with UMass Amherst’s Student Government Association.

Students are allowed to go to the COVID-19 testing site at UMass Amherst's Mullins Center, but the university is warning of possible sanctions for those who continue working off-campus jobs.
Hoang 'Leon' Nguyen / The Republican /

As UMass Amherst tries to beat back a major COVID-19 outbreak, some students are frustrated by at least one new restriction.

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

UMass Amherst students were ordered to sequester this week after a spike of COVID-19 cases on campus. As of Friday morning, there were more than 600 active cases.

Cases Of COVID-19 Continue To Rise At UMass Amherst

Feb 11, 2021
The UMass Amherst campus.
Rhobite / Creative Commons

UMass Amherst now has 541 active COVID-19 cases amid a major outbreak that prompted the near-shutdown of campus.

A sign upon entering Amherst, Massachusetts.
Hoang 'Leon' Nguyen / Masslive /

Updated at 5:44 p.m. 

The town of Amherst, Massachusetts, will keep in place capacity limits and a business curfew — both of which were set to loosen on Monday — as part of efforts to contain a COVID-19 outbreak at its flagship University of Massachusetts campus.

The UMass Amherst campus.
Mark Bonica / Creative Commons /

UMass Amherst is announcing new restrictions on students due to a rise in COVID-19 cases.

An aerial view of the Massachusetts State House in Boston in June, 2017.
AbhiSuryawanshi / Creative Commons

The legislative session on Beacon Hill is drawing to a conclusion — and it is a time of transition. Some representatives, such as Aaron Vega of Holyoke, who represents the 5th Hampden District, are serving their final days in the House. A group of newcomers, including Jake Oliveira of Ludlow, who will represent the 7th Hampden District, will be sworn in next week.

Some Additional Students To Return To UMass Amherst In Spring

Oct 23, 2020
The campus of UMass Amherst.
Hoang 'Leon' Nguyen / The Republican /

UMass Amherst plans to expand its campus population in the spring, announcing Friday that first-year and transfer students will be invited to campus next semester after learning remotely throughout the fall.

Town Hall in Amherst, Massachusetts.
John Phelan / Creative Commons /

With Amherst, Massachusetts, in the state’s COVID-19 red zone, the town manager says the numbers don’t reflect nuances in the population. 

COVID-19 testing at the Mullins Center at UMass Amherst.
Daily Hampshire Gazette /

UMass Amherst will likely do considerably more COVID-19 testing of students and staff than originally announced — at a considerable cost.

Alex Morse (center), the mayor of Holyoke, Massachusetts, before a debate in August 2020 against his opponent in the Democratic primary, U.S. Rep Richard Neal.
Don Treeger / The Republican/ / photos

Three weeks after signing on to a letter that shook up a congressional race in perhaps unexpected ways, leaders of the College Democrats at UMass Amherst are apologizing to Alex Morse.

A UMass Amherst staffer works inside the closed Berkshire Dining Commons in the Southwest Residential Area on August 27, 2020.
Kevin Gutting / Daily Hampshire Gazette /

UMass Amherst will place about 780 staff on "indefinite furlough” as it deals with a budget deficit caused by COVID-19 and efforts to stop its spread.

Ann Becker of UMass gives direction on how to administer a COVID-19 test at the Mullins Center.
Adam Frenier / NEPM

Carly O'Connell is excited to go back to UMass as a sophomore in legal studies. She'll be among about a thousand students allowed to live on campus — some are taking hands-on classes, and others, like O’Connell, got special permission for personal reasons.

A "Welcome Back Students" sign hangs outside an Amherst, Mass., store August 6, 2020. It was the same day UMass told thousands of students because of COVID-19 developments, they would not be able to live on campus as planned.
Jill Kaufman / NEPM

Hundreds of resident assistants at UMass Amherst were expected to move into dorms this week. But UMass revised its COVID-19 policy late last week. It allows only a fraction of students to live on campus this fall, including far fewer paid RAs. 

Alex Morse in Holyoke, Massachusetts, in 2015.
Creative Commons

The Massachusetts Nurses Association says it will continue to support Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse's campaign for Congress in the state's 1st District.

UMass Amherst football players.
UMass Amherst

The University of Massachusetts is canceling its 2020 football season, officials announced Tuesday.

Mayor Alex Morse of Holyoke, Massachusetts, speaks to reporters during the launch of his congressional campaign on July 22, 2019.
Jerrey Roberts / Daily Hampshire Gazette /

Alex Morse says he is staying in the race for Congress. In a statement posted to social media Sunday night, the mayor of Holyoke, Massachusetts, defended himself against allegations he engaged in inappropriate behavior involving college students, while again apologizing for "making some students feel uncomfortable."

Alex Morse in Holyoke, Massachusetts, in 2015.
Creative Commons

Updated at 3:56 p.m.

Calling the allegations "serious and deeply concerning," UMass Amherst said Saturday it was investigating whether Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse violated university policy or federal law during his time teaching on campus.

This comes after the Massachusetts Daily Collegian reported that the College Democrats of Massachusetts wrote the mayor a letter accusing him of using his “position of power for romantic or sexual gain.” 

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

Updated 4:25 p.m.

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

The UMass Amherst campus.
Mark Bonica / Creative Commons /

At UMass Amherst, prospective first-year students will have the option not to submit scores from tests like the SAT for the next three years when they apply to the university.

The UMass Amherst campus.
Rhobite / Creative Commons

The town manager for Amherst warns that the influx of UMass students in the fall could spread COVID-19 in a town that, up until now, has had relatively few cases. He's asking the university to change its reopening plan to avoid making things worse.

New ICE Policy Rattles Massachusetts Higher Ed Landscape

Jul 7, 2020
The UMass Amherst campus.
Mark Bonica / Creative Commons /

A new federal immigration policy ordering international students to leave the country if their colleges or universities offer online-only classes this fall has prompted an outcry from educators and campus officials in Massachusetts, who slammed the move as "cruel" and likely to cause massive economic damage.

UMass Amherst To Students: Come Back, Or Stay Home

Jun 29, 2020
The campus of UMass Amherst.
Hoang 'Leon' Nguyen / The Republican /

UMass Amherst plans to hold classes remotely this fall and start classes in August. But it will also allow students to move back in, provided they comply with what school officials describe as "exacting" health and safety standards.

The UMass Amherst campus.
Rhobite / Creative Commons

Colleges and universities across western Massachusetts are considering how to hold classes this fall, and whether in-person learning is a feasible idea amid the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Rana Zoe Mungin, a former UMass grad student and teacher in New York City, died of COVID-19.
Courtesy of Mia Mungin

A former UMass grad student died last week from complications of COVID-19 at the age of 30. Her friends believe racial bias played a role in her death. And, they say, it’s something she experienced during her years in Amherst.

They’ve been stolen, confiscated by federal agents, and flown in secretly from China. N95 masks are in such short supply amid the coronavirus outbreak that hospitals are now sanitizing and reusing face coverings they once tossed in the trash after a single use.

But how many times can a mask be cleaned and reused — and still be safe?

Graduates from UMass Amherst in 2019 line up for commencement exercises. Most May 2020 commencement events in the U.S. were canceled or postponed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Office of News and Media Relations / UMass Amherst

Updated at 3:05 p.m. 

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, college students all over the country were sent home to finish up the school year and it soon became clear that graduation ceremonies would be canceled. 

Whether or not college students head back to campus this fall is very much an open question. So universities around the state are preparing for a range of “virtual semester” scenarios.

Among them, the University of Massachusetts, with its 75,000 students and 18,000 workers.

Marty Meehan, president of the UMass system, joined WBUR’s Morning Edition to discuss the school’s strategy for the future. Below is a transcript of the conversation, lightly edited.

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

College students around the country are finishing the semester in a much different place than they started — many back with their families, in their hometowns — as classes continue online.

In western Massachusetts, North Hadley Congregational Church, like other houses of worship, is trying to keep people connected.
Jill Kaufman / NEPR

As people of Jewish faith observe Passover this week on Zoom, for Christians it is Holy Week, ending with Easter Sunday. Music is at the core of many religious rituals.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, congregants at one western Massachusetts church haven’t been singing in the same room over the past few weeks. But their voices are still being heard in unison.