Dear students, families, faculty and staff,
As we write this letter, South Hadley is seeing a renewal of late summer weather and we are reminded of just how much we miss being in person on our beautiful campus with a bustling cohort of students and colleagues. At the same time, we reflect on all we have accomplished as a community these last several months and are particularly grateful to our students, faculty and staff who have exhibited incredible persistence, resiliency and creativity during moments of great uncertainty and challenge this year.
As promised in the October 28 communication from President Stephens, we write today with additional information about the spring 2021 semester. Our goal is to supplement — not repeat — the information that has already been shared, and to draw your attention to an updated web presence with additional details. The table of contents will help you find specific information quickly. Be sure to review all of the information carefully. Please note that most of the information in this letter and on the Opening the Gates website is relevant for our undergraduate students; graduate students should visit the graduate student section of the website for curated information.
Academics and modules
We have now completed our first FIT module and, as one might expect following our unexpected shift to an online module-based course delivery, experiences were varied across our faculty and students. One sentiment appears to be universal, however: Zoom burnout is real!
Studying — and teaching — remotely during a pandemic is exceptionally challenging. The difficulties of balancing the curricular and cocurricular and the general fatigue and anxiety that most of us are experiencing are not unique to Mount Holyoke, and we expected there would be a learning curve for all associated with these new forms of course delivery. We also know that it is challenging for students to balance full-time school with responsibilities at home and work.
As we continue in this journey together, faculty will continue to work diligently to provide students with the most rigorous and accessible college experience possible during this difficult time, and our student support teams are in place and ready to help. Students should reach out to their faculty advisers and class deans with any unanswered questions or concerns regarding their studies.
As in the fall, and based on the learning goals for their courses, faculty will make a determination about the mode of delivery for their classes, while ensuring that all coursework and instruction is available remotely for any student enrolled. While we anticipate that the majority of courses will continue to be delivered remotely, many faculty are excited by the prospect of hosting some in-person activities on campus in the coming semester.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has not yet released guidance for the spring 2021 semester. If the guidance remains the same as it was for fall 2020, F-1 students will be able to study remotely from within the U.S. or from home. However, new students (those entering the U.S. on initial attendance I-20 forms) will not be able to study remotely in the U.S. and will have to remain home. These students will be able to take classes remotely from home. If USCIS requires new international students to register for in-person classes, Mount Holyoke will have courses available. New international students should be in touch with the McCulloch Center with specific questions and for additional information.
Cocurricular activities and events
Residential students can anticipate having the opportunity for engaging in-person, small-group activities that enrich the experience for everyone on campus. There will be some resident access to indoor and, weather permitting, outdoor fitness facilities and recreational activities. Students should plan to continue participating in cocurricular and social events and activities offered online as well.
Large in-person, on-campus events are generally cancelled. Decisions regarding Commencement and Reunion 2021 will be announced at a later date.
Living and working on campus
Our campus operations plan relies on three primary mitigation strategies: reduced density on campus and in the residence halls, compliance with safety protocols, and frequent testing with quick turnaround and accuracy.
Earlier this month, students were invited to share their plans for living on campus for spring 2021. To date, about 50% of eligible students have indicated they plan to reside on campus in the spring. While this number may change a bit prior to the final housing withdrawal deadline of January 4, 2021, we are confident that our campus facilities — along with well-developed pandemic mitigation strategies — will result in a successful expansion of campus residency this spring.
As a reminder to students who plan to reside on campus, the experience will be vastly different. As President Stephens said in her previous letter, only resident students and employees whose work must be conducted on campus will have access. Students will not be able to host visitors at any time. Please review the safe on-campus living and housing information for more details on campus occupancy and access, the student community compact, COVID-19 testing and more.
While many of our dedicated faculty and staff will continue to work remotely in the spring to assist with supporting mitigation strategies related to campus density, those whose work must be conducted on campus are supported by rigorous testing and safety measures.
We know students and employees alike are wondering whether we will need to shift our plans, as was the case in the fall. While we cannot say with 100% certainty that we will not need to make adjustments large and small, it is our sincere hope and intention to maintain our core academic and campus residency plans for spring, unless or until extraordinary circumstances beyond our control require otherwise.
We came to our spring decisions with increased experience in managing these conditions over recent months, a deeper understanding of how Mount Holyoke’s campus operations can adapt with extraordinary health and safety guidelines in place, and clear evidence that good practices have been shown to reduce risk. Should any significant changes be required we will continue to aim to communicate them as quickly as possible.
Key dates for students
A list of important dates for students can be found on Opening the Gates. Some dates include:
- Friday, November 20: Deadline to request additional student financial aid due to COVID-19 hardship
- Monday, November 30: Online registration for spring semester begins
- Thursday, December 31, 2020: Influenza vaccine deadline for on-campus students
- Monday, January 4, 2021: Withdraw from housing without financial penalty deadline
- Tuesday, January 19, 2021: Spring 2021 classes begin (Mod 1)
Again, we invite you to review the spring 2021 information thoroughly and utilize the contact information provided in each section should you have specific questions. You can also email firstname.lastname@example.org for assistance navigating the website or determining contact information for your questions.
We are incredibly optimistic about our spring 2021 plans. This is a remarkable community, and we thank each and every member for the concern and care that you continue to show for one another and for Mount Holyoke.
Interim Dean of Faculty and Vice President of Academic Affairs
Marcella Runell Hall
Vice President of Student Life and Dean of Students