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Letter from the President on Plans for Spring 2021

The spring semester will include even more Covid-19 testing as well as additional opportunities for safe, in-person instruction and socializing

As we come to the end of a successful, although very different, fall semester, I’m eager to share more information about Hampshire’s spring semester. I am impressed by how diligently our community has cared for one another and grateful that we’ve had the opportunity to spend time together. We learned a great deal, and I look forward to a spring semester that is improved as we apply lessons from the fall.

The spring semester calendar has not changed. Classes begin at Hampshire on February 2 and end on April 29, with the progress and review period concluding on May 11. Continuing students will arrive on campus January 30-31. There will not be a spring break, as we expect students to limit travel from arrival at campus until leaving at the end of the semester.

The College faculty are committed to continual educational experimentation—that’s why they choose to teach at Hampshire. That dedication to innovation helped us make the abrupt transition to remote learning last spring and then to plan the shift to hybrid instruction in the fall. We are confident that the academic experience in the spring will continue to improve, as professors now have experience designing courses that blend in-person and remote learning, and will enter the spring semester with more confidence that the approach they select can be sustained. During the spring, approximately 65% of Hampshire courses will include a meaningful in-person component. The form of delivery for all classes is listed on TheHub, and we anticipate minimal changes to those approaches.

The fall made clear how important it is to provide more structured social opportunities on campus. Balancing social well-being with physical health and safety is essential. We expanded activities and programming on campus as the semester developed this fall, adding more in-person and hybrid events as we better understood how to gather safely. We expanded access to informal indoor spaces as the weather cooled, extending hours in the Kern Center and opening more classroom space for student usage. We will continue to increase those locations for the spring semester so students have places to study and gather in small groups, safely and comfortably. We are planning a robust range of in-person activities available throughout the semester in the spring.

While many colleges and universities around the nation struggled to contain Covid-19, the combination of surveillance testing, single rooms, limited density in housing areas, our rural location, and, most importantly, thoughtful adherence to behavioral expectations of the Community Care Agreement allowed Hampshire to sustain a residential environment. We will continue and improve these safety measures for the spring:

  • Our asymptomatic Covid-19 testing program will be expanded. All students on campus will be tested every week, as will employees who are in regular contact with students.
  • Every student will be tested upon arrival and expected to avoid any close contacts until receiving a negative test result.
  • Symptomatic testing will continue to be available to students through Health Services.
  • No off-campus guests will be permitted in student residences.
  • Students are expected to limit off-campus travel, only leaving for essential needs, such as medical appointments, paid work and academic internships, family emergencies, and groceries.
  • Every student will be vaccinated for the flu, as required by Massachusetts law.
  • Ample isolation and quarantine housing will be available.
  • We will continue to uphold the Community Care Agreement.
  • Students who do not follow essential health and safety guidelines may be asked to leave campus.

We regularly evaluate the situation in Amherst and in Hampshire County, and will consider changes in our policies if conditions warrant.

Finally, during the winter break, campus activity will be minimal. We scheduled a long break to limit contacts during the coldest part of the year, and are asking employees to work remotely as much as possible. That means that the campus is not open to students during this period. We added an intensive, fully remote January Term, offering six classes that begin meeting January 4 and conclude January 22. These courses are included in regular tuition and are taught by regular Hampshire faculty.

I recognize how disruptive Covid-19 has been, and how the changes it demands pose challenges to everyone, but especially to students as they strive to maintain progress on their academic work. I hope we all continue to demonstrate the creativity, resilience, and compassion that has so clearly characterized our community since the pandemic began. I am confident we will continue to support one another in the spring and succeed together.

Thank you for patience and your collaboration. And please stay safe.

Ed Wingenbach
President

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