On Thursday, Oct. 29, Chancellor Marcelo Suárez-Orozco sent out an email to the campus community stating that the majority of courses will be held remotely once again during the Spring 2021 Semester.
According to the Chancellor, the university formed a planning committee to assess the COVID-19 situation, and recommend a course of action for the Spring Semester. The planning committee was made up of UMass Boston staff and faculty.
Four listening sessions were held, one of which was geared towards students, and another that was geared towards the UMass Boston community in general that students were able to attend.
“It should be noted . . . that little has changed about the rationale that supported our decision to operate primarily remote in the fall semester,” wrote Chancellor Suárez-Orozco in his Spring Semester Plan email.
“Our students and staff continue to live and work in high risk surrounding communities,” continued the Chancellor. “Many of our students live in multigenerational homes. And the public health metrics have not improved—in fact, they are moving in the wrong direction, with cases and positivity rates rising, particularly in Boston.”
The Chancellor announced that only about two percent of courses will take place on campus, and those courses are likely to be nursing courses, lab-based courses, or other hands-on classes.
Chancellor Suárez-Orozco noted that only “essential” or “time-sensitive” activities would occur on campus. He also announced that the Residence Halls will remain open for the Spring Semester, but with a reduced number of people living there.
UMass Boston students have expressed opinions regarding the decision for the university to continue with a remote modality for the Spring Semester via a voluntary survey posted on social media. The sentiment regarding the decision is largely negative.
The survey asked students what their feelings were regarding the announcement that the UMass Boston Spring 2021 Semester will be remote.
“I’m disappointed, but I think it was a responsible decision for the school to make,” responded sophomore Fiona Broadie.
“It’s not very cash money of them,” wrote sophomore Ben Lieberman. He included two sad face emojis in his response.
“I am extremely disappointed and sadden[ed] that we are online for another semester,” wrote an anonymous sophomore. “I wish there was an alternative plan because this is not creating an education for students, but ruining it instead.”
The survey also asked students if there was anything regarding the announcement of another remote semester that they wished the administration knew or would consider.
“Let us learn instead of keeping up with assignments on Zoom,” wrote Freshman Aaryan Patel.
“I wish they would consider a hybrid plan or some other plan that didn’t require fully remote learning,” wrote the same anonymous sophomore.
“They should consider student’s mental health in isolation with an unusual amount of screen time,” responded Broadie.
The email that Chancellor Suárez-Orozco sent out makes mention of the toll a remote semester may take on a student’s mental health. The Chancellor wrote of changes to come next semester that will “increase engagement and enhance the remote experience for our campus.”
Some of these changes include opening limited space on campus for students who need internet access or a quiet study space, and the approval for four winter sports teams to resume with limited activities.
Other measures that were already in place for the current remote semester will be continued for the remote Spring Semester. These include resources, tools and training for faculty to improve remote learning, continuing Zoom licenses for all, the student laptop loaner program, the staff “Get IT” program, and a continued effort to support student engagement through programs such as Beacon 2020, Resources4U, RESPOND, and the Sankofa Conversational Series on Structural Racism.
Chancellor Suárez-Orozco wrote also that the university will be expanding its COVID-19 surveillance testing program, and reviewing the options for the Class of 2021 Commencement, as well as how to celebrate the Class of 2020 graduates.
“Make no mistake about it, we would much prefer to be together on campus and regret to announce the continuation of Beacon life in a remote modality,” wrote Chancellor Suárez-Orozco. “But we feel this is the most prudent decision to protect the health of our community and our city.”